One holy, catholic and apostolic church…how?

Devotional thought of the day:
It is a line from our creeds, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”  Many believers – even a majority say such a phrase at least once a week, as we are gathered together by God, in His presence, in His Name.

Yet do we desire that which we state we believe in, that which the Holy Spirit creates as He calls and gathers us and sets us apart as His people.  For the church is simply that – in Greek – “the called”, or “the chosen”.    And many of us desire that the church be one, whether it is the church across the world and across all denominational boundaries, the church as in our particular denomination/synod/sect, or whether it is the church as in our own local expression of the church – the congregation – those gathered together in one place, where God put His name – so they can pray and know they are forgiven, and that those who don’t know God can pray, and they can know He is.

When the creed was composed, the idea of “one church” was obvious – both the word “one” and the word “catholic” testify to the church. But our forefathers in the faith were quite wise in adding the other words, “holy” and “apostolic”.  For there we find some of the things which express our unity together.

Holy is much misunderstood these days – as if someone who is “holy” is a goody-two shoes, the person who never makes an error in morality, never doubts, always is serving others – an ideal saint.  But if you look in history, saints were pedestal people  (well – except for the Stylites…but that’s another story) They were common people often, who had to deal with anxieties, who had to deal with family issues, and financial struggles, who were challenged by their governments, and somehow – realize that the answer was not within themselves, but found in realizing that God was God, and God loved them.  Their trust in God and HIs promises, was the the foundation of their strength, they would become attune to the direction of God, and while they would still sin like the rest of us, they could be assured that even there God was working.

The work of making them holy – wasn’t their discipline, it was and is the Spirit working in them, sanctifying them – making them saints.  Setting them apart for God’s work, no matter whether the work is baking bread (like the lay-brother who wrote “practicing the presence of God – or the new baker whose work with provide for and subsidize a new seminary in the Sudan) or whether it is preaching and leading others deeper into dependence on God as priests and pastors and missionaries and Sunday School teachers.

And that brings us to the other word – we are an apostolic gathering of people. The question I’ve asked – is tha apostolic as in hearing the apostles teaching, or is it apostolic as in the idea that we – like the many people talked about as apostles in the New Testament (besides the 12 ) are sent into the word, to reflect the glory of God, and be His ambassadors to bring hope to the world.  I tend to think it is both, but more the latter.  And that is where the church is seen by the world, as it brings hope for healing -healing of relationships, healing from the damage of sin, healing of families, as we realize that Christ is healing us.

one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church – the body of Christ that is set apart to be salt and light in the world.

When you see it occur, you know it, and it is truly amazing….. God’s people, knowing the glory of His love and mercy and peace… and their reflection of that – drawing people into that very glory.

May we cry, “Lord have mercy” and find that He has…together.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on August 17, 2012, in Devotions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Excellent post, Dustin. A topic not often addressed today. I often ask people “Are you glad to be part of the Church catholic?” Most look shocked that would even ask such a question.

    Dustin wrote: “ is that apostolic as in hearing the apostles teaching, or is it apostolic as in the idea that we – like the many people talked about as apostles in the New Testament (besides the 12 ) are sent into the word, to reflect the glory of God, and be His ambassadors to bring hope to the world.”

    Actually, it starts and ends with the first; so that what is implied in the second is always grounded in the first, namely that apostolic witness. I think ties in with what the church went through to determine canonicity. “Is this text apostolic?” So in the Church, unity grows outward from “Is this church apostolic?”These developments of Scripture as canon and the creeds go hand-in-hand.

  2. I would agree, but I hesitate on saying that the second is the emphasis when ”apostolic” used in the creeds. To me, the balance of the two is necessary: the witness that establishes and confirms the faithis the witness of the apostles, the later Christian who speaks that apostolic word to others can only do so based on the first part.

    BTW, I think Luther’s emphasis on the spoken Word as priority over the written Word lends credence to this balance.

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