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Catechism Class. Lord’s Day 21A Q54 – The Holy Catholic Church


Lord’s Day 21A Q54 – The Holy Catholic Church

Q.54 What do you believe concerning the holy catholic Christian church? The answer we must give is, I believe that the Son of God,  out of the whole human race,  from the beginning of the world to its end,  gathers, defends, and preserves for himself,  by his Spirit and Word, in the unity of the true faith, a church chosen to everlasting life. And I believe that I am and forever shall remain a living member of it.  There’s a lot in that question and answer, so we’ll make a start by examining the question itself. According to Creed Christ’s Church is holy, it is catholic and it is a church. Simple. Let’s briefly look at each of those words:

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1 Holy. READ Ephesians 5:25  

What do we mean when we say that the church is holy?  The word holy usually translates the Greek word ‘ἅγιος (hagios)’ It’s also translated ‘saint’ when it refers to a Christian believer. Something which is HOLY isSeparated from common use. It is set aside, for the purpose of service for God, rather than man, and it is Pure. (Pure, righteous, ceremonially and/or morally) In the OT, this meant ritual washing and outward cleansing, but that was just a symbol pointing us to the reality of the atonement, where Christ washed away all of my sins in his own blood at the cross.  Revelation 1:5. In Ephesians 5, when Paul is talking about the relationship between married men and women, he encourages men to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves his church. As he does that he gives us a remarkable insight into the nature of the holiness of the church.  He tells us that the church is:-

  • Holy because of Christ! We have no holiness of our own; if we claimed that we had, that would be self-righteousness, not Christianity. Our holiness comes only from Jesus, who gave himself for the church. We are sinners, who know that we are sinners, and depend only in Christ, who loved us, and gave himself for us. Titus 2:13-15  
  • Holy because of the effect of God’s Word upon our hearts and lives.  Paul talks about the ‘washing of water by the word.’ It is through the reading and faithful declaration of the Word of God that the process of being made holy, is worked in our lives, as the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to us.
  • Being prepared by Christ, for the day when he would take her as his bride. On that day the church would be perfect for its separation from sin and sanctification will be complete.  The implication of that is that the church in this world is not perfect, so let us not be too critical of it. 

So, we speak of the church as being HOLY, because the church is separated from the world, called out, and cleansed for God’s purposes and for his glory alone, and being made holy, because the church consists of sinners who are being prepared, being sanctified, made ready for the day when they shall be separate from sin, and fit to be the bride of Christ.  The church is also described as being:

2 Catholic

The word ‘Catholic’ doesn’t mean ‘Roman Catholic.’ The word simply means ‘universal.’ The word catholic in the creeds and confessions simply implies that true believers in Christ are all part of one church in every age and in every nation.  But what do we mean by ‘universal?’  There are people in the visible church who refer to themselves as ‘universalists,’ these are people who believe that Christ’s death on the cross effectively saved every single member of the human race, Christians of course, but non-Christians too, even though they don’t acknowledge Christ as Saviour, will be in heaven, because Christ’s death atones, they say, for every human being’s sin. That is sometimes called ‘universalism.’ But that’s not what the Creed means by ‘Catholic’ – universal. Rather, it means that the true church, the church that God alone sees, (what we might refer to as ‘the visible church’) is made up of every single true believer, from every age.  It is “The whole number of the elect.”  When God looks at his true church, the number of the redeemed, it includes every single believer, from every age, every status, every nation under earth… Revelation 7:9   Lastly, and although this might sound a little obvious, the church is…

3 A Church.

The word church translates the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) – a called out assembly.  God has ‘gathered’ his people, and they have a common bond, they have all tasted his grace. There are two main metaphors used for the church in the New Testament. 

  • The Bride of Christ.  Take time to read the biblical account of how Jesus changed water into wine in John 2. In miraculously providing wine, Jesus was subtly showing his disciples that He was THE BRIDEGROOM. That analogy of Christ as the groom and the church as his bride continues right throughout the NT, until we reach the end of time, when we have in Revelation, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  Revelation 19:9  

Our FEATURED BOOK for this Lord’s Day is “The Beauty and Glory of Christ’s Bride” by Joel Beeke. Order it HERE using this link and support the podcast…

The psalmist, in Psalm 45 depicts this great Marriage Supper of the Lamb in poetic language.   Here’s metrical version:- Psalm 45:10-17

10  O daughter, listen and give ear to me; 
Forget your people and your father’s house. 
11  See how your beauty has enthralled the king; 
Give honour to your lord and royal spouse. 
12  People from Tyre will come with gifts to you, 
And wealthy folk your favour will pursue. 

 13  All glorious is the princess in the court;
Her bridal gown with finest gold is wrought. 
14  She comes before the king in broidered robes; 
To you the maidens in her train are brought. 
15  With joy and gladness they are ushered in; 
They come into the palace of the king. 

16  Your sons will occupy your fathers’ place, 
And you will make them princes in the land.
 17  Through all the generations still to come 
I will ensure your memory will stand; 
And therefore all the nations of the earth 
For evermore will celebrate your worth. 

Sing Psalms

Not only is the church the Bride of Christ, but it is referred to as:

  • The Body of Christ. Colossians 1:18  In this body we all have a part to play, we are all members, and, as we have already seen in a previous lesson, the head of the body is Christ, and just as our head is in glory, in the presence of the Father, so we too will be there.  God knows every single one of his people and he is intimately acquainted with them. Nahum 1:7, 2 Timothy 2:19  

So, we’ve taken a look, a very short and cursory look at the church, which is holy, catholic and a church, a gathered assembly of true believers in Christ.  

© Bob McEvoy 2022

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