Ninth article: I believe in the holy, catholic Church - 22 February 2018

Hennie Symington

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

What is church? The church is the assembly of God’s people, saved by Christ and called by him to gather together and partake of the kingdom in a very special way. The first gathering of God’s people occurred on Mount Sinai when the Lord spoke through Moses in Deuteronomy 5:22. This was a momentous gathering for the people of God for it was assembled by God himself. This so-called gathering, was instituted in the New Testament also as a gathering called together by God. The word ecclesia,is more than a congregation. It means that God himself convenes the congregation assigning to it a new calling, namely to proclaim the work of God.

Who is part of this church? Ourselves and all who believe. In 1 Peter 2:4-5 we read: "Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house …"

Why holy? It is important to remember that the church was instituted by God himself and, as such, is the domain of God. We are called to be “holy because I am holy” as we read in 1 Peter.Therefore, it is expected of the church (as the gathering of believers) to act likewise.

Why Catholic? Of course, the Roman Catholic Church subscribes to the Apostle’s Creed, but here the word catholic is used in a broader sense. Essentially it describes the character of the Church in its variety of peoples, worship styles, customs, languages and much more. The best example of this can probably be found in international congregations all over the globe embracing the customs and worship styles in mutually beneficial ways of being part of the gathering of God’s people following Christ’s injunction to “… Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Acts 1:8

What does Paul say? At first Paul referred to the church mainly as separate congregations e.g. “the congregation of Thessalonica”. However, as time passed, Paul began to speak of “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), acknowledging the wider more inclusive character of the infant church growing steadily throughout the Levant and further afield.

Prayer: Lord, we cannot but rejoice in the height, the breadth and the infinite variety of your church on earth. We pray that you will unite us not only through our diverse traditions and worship styles, but through your abiding love for your children all over the world. Amen

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