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Friday, June 8, 2018

The Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints

The Holy Catholic Church and the Communion of Saints
In these last few blogs we have been discussing basic Christian beliefs as they are expressed in the Apostles’ Creed. Today we will discuss one of our main Christian beliefs – the holy catholic church and the communion of saints.  Here below is another copy of the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed               
I believe in God, the Father Almighty
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried:
He descended to the dead.
On the third day He arose again:
He ascended into heaven,
And is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
And will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body.
And the life everlasting. Amen.
The definition of the “church” has nothing to do with a church building!  The Biblical definition of the “church” is the community or group of believers in Christ as the Son of God and Savior.  Jesus said this: “Where two or three of you come together in My Name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) The church is not a building with a group of religious people in it.  Gods’ Spirit is alive and moving in the church (the group of believers who are open to Him.) Scripture also says that the church is the bride of Christ.  The mystical body of Christ.  And the church belongs to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:27, Revelations 21:9-10, Matthew 18:20) Ephesians 5:32)  
The Apostles’ Creed calls the church “holy”.  Many people don’t view the church as holy.  Many folks stay away from church because they think the church is full of hypocrites and judgmental people. And they are sometimes right about that. The word “holy” in the Bible doesn’t mean perfect.  The word “holy” means “belonging to God” or “set apart for” God.  Christians are not perfect people, they are broken and sinful people who are slowly being made well.  But they are “set apart for God.”
And the Apostles’ Creed calls the church “catholic”.  This does not refer just to the Roman Catholic Church, but to all Christian churches as well.  The word “catholic” means “universal”, or “everywhere”.  It was a reminder of the church’s unity.  Every group of Christian believers around the world are bound together in Christ.  Despite differences in nationality or language or customs, all Christian church groups all over the world are part of the one universal Church.  All are part of the body of Christ.  Scripture says: “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jew or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) 
Jesus prayed that God would make His followers one, as He and the Father are one. (John 17)
Jesus calls His followers to love one another, forgive one another and not judge one another.  Even though we don’t live up to what Christ has called us to be, we are all part of one universal Church! Since the church belongs to the Lord, the job of every local church is to pray and discern what Christs’ will is for that church and then to do it. 
The Bible tells us: “Let us believers not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25) We need each other to grow spiritually.  We need to care for other believers and we also need to be cared for by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need other “saints” to encourage and challenge us.  We all need to work for the good of one another and for the good of our communities.  We are all called to spread the gospel of Christ to the world.  (Matthew 28:18-20) Scripture says: “Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:2)
The church that loves Christ is not a human invention.  The Christian church is founded by God, not by humans. And the church needs you as much as you need the church.  Scripture says: “You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27)   God has a place for you and a mission for you to fulfill in His church.   Jesus said: “As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you.” ((John 20:21) Right after Jesus said that, “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22) The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is all important to the church in fulfilling her mission in the world.     
The church has a mission.  And we as Christian are to be part of that mission.  Jesus told His followers: “You are the light of the world.  A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden …Let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14,16) The “light” is Jesus, but since we belong to Him, we have His light within us.  And we are to let His light shine out of us and not cover it up. We are His hands and feet.  The church is the continuing presence of Christ in the world.  We are to help push back the darkness.  We are to spread the light or gospel of Christ.
When the Apostles’ Creed speaks of “the communion of saints” it is important to know that the word “saints” in the Bible means “all Christians”.  The Catholic Church refers to a “saint” as a Christian who has been canonized after death.  But in the New Testament the word “saint” means a believer in Christ as Savior and Lord.  It means “One who belongs to God”. Most Christians are very ordinary people who have yielded their lives to God. 
The Bible teaches us that we sinful Christians are in the process of being transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  (2 Corinthians 3:18) When we pass from this life to the next, the Holy Spirit will finally complete the work of sanctifying us.  In heaven we will be what God intended us to be.  And when we see our loved ones in heaven, they also will be what God intended them to be.  Scripture says that after death we will be changed and covered in Christ’s righteousness and we will not sin any more in heaven.  All of us will be perfected in love. 
When Jesus came He called out His disciples to form a community, or a family, chosen to love and follow Him and continue His work in the world.  We are not called out by God to be individual stars or to be competitive and shine on our own. God’s church is not a “competition” of saints, but it is a “communion” of saints. We are bound together as members of God’s family – the church. Those believers who have gone before us to heaven and we who are still living on earth.  We, the church, are all part of the mystical body of Christ.  I believe in the holy, catholic church and the communion of saints!   
Most of the ideas in this blog were taken from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Creed, What Christians Believe and Why” Chapter 4, “The Church and the Communion of Saints”.










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