February 2, 2023 – This I Believe – The holy catholic church

Today we will continue looking at 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 rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again 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.

Ok, every time I teach on the Creed, this is the number one question I get. What about the holy catholic church? Honestly, of all the questions we may have about the church, this is the easiest.

This Creed is really old, one of the oldest we have. In the time we have been saying this Creed, the understanding of the word “catholic” has changed for many people. We hear the word catholic today, and we think of the Roman Catholic Church. We think of another tradition, or shall we say denomination. That is not what this is talking about.

When the Creed was formed, the word catholic was used, and it means “universal.” The catholic (with a little c) refers to the nature of the church. It is open to all who desire to be a part, regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, income, or any other division. The church is catholic, meaning the church is open to all who wish to be a part. The church crosses borders, notations, and all other such things.

It is catholic in that it crosses the line between life and death. We are the church militant in that we are still at work on the earth; those who have died are part of the church triumphant; they have received their victory.

It is catholic in that transcends denominations. Methodists and Baptists and Pentecostals and Catholics and Anglicans and Non-Denominational folks are all part of the catholic church.

The catholic church is the universal church made up of all believers who have placed their faith in Jesus and made Him the Lord of their lives. It is bigger than any one believer or any one church. It’s all of us.

The word catholic didn’t really take on denominational connections until the 1500s when the Protestant reformation started. For the first 1000 years of the church, there was one church – and it was catholic. Then there was a split in 1000, and there was the western church – catholic and the eastern church – orthodox. But that was it.

Then Luther and the Protestants, and we have thousands of denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church. But the word catholic in the Creed is not talking about that. It’s talking about that universal church that we are all members of.

So, regardless of your denomination, we are all part of the church catholic. We are all part of Christ’s church.

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