“The Holy Catholic Church”


The Church is those people who congregate—assemble, come together—around Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. The Church’s holiness and catholicity (universality) come from the one Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ. That is to say, the holiness of the Church is God’s own holiness shared with us all through our common spiritual union with Christ. We belong to God the Father, and he belongs to us, because the Son has anointed us with his Spirit. The Church is the burning bush, baptized with the purifying fire of God’s love to be the meeting place between God and humanity in the wilderness of this world. The Church is the temple filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 2 & 3), the body (Eph. 4) and bride (Eph. 5) of Christ.

Maybe it seems strange that the Church is the object of our confession here, but truly it is a matter for our faith. We must believe that the Church is what God says it is. The Church is the materialization of salvation in the world; it is the accomplishment of Jesus Christ, the fruit of his labors. The Church is the result and vehicle of the Gospel; it is evidence of God’s work, the witness testifying to this world what God we find revealed in Jesus Christ. This may not be an intuitive conclusion to reach, judging by the appearance of the Church in its concrete, local expressions. The Church, in itself, has always been ugly—just read the New Testament letters! But we believe the Church is not merely in itself, but in Christ, and so beautified and glorified in God’s presence. By faith we extol the beauty of God’s handiwork rather than bemoan the Church’s blemishes.

The Church is where we find our place in God’s work, it is where we belong simply because God has arranged it. It is where God sets his Table and invites sinners to eat together, even though we don’t deserve the privilege. It is the place where people come to know the surprising welcome of forgiveness. It is the primary place where the disintegrated world is being knit back together in love, where relationships are reestablished because of Jesus Christ. It is not an abstract, theoretical knowledge of God we find in the Church, but a true, relational knowledge in community with real people gathered because of Jesus. Our commitment to one another in the Church mirrors our devotion to Jesus himself. There are many impulses natural to sinners that would drive us apart from God and from one another. But if Jesus was reason enough to bring us together in the first place, he will be reason enough to keep us together now and always.

What role does the Church have in your spirituality? How does the Church factor into your proclamation of the Gospel, the accomplishments of Christ? How is “the holy catholic Church” distinct from “the Roman Catholic Church”? What does the Bible say makes a congregation a true Church? Why should you go to Church? What does membership in the Church mean? For what reasons, if any, should you leave a particular Church and go to another? How do the holiness and catholicity (universality) of the Church impact your life? How does the Church shape your expectation and hope for the future of all reality? Where do you see the Image of God in the Church? When is it difficult to see the Image of God in the Church, and what should you do when that is the case?


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