One Holy, Catholic Church


“The church is not where we meet or what we do; it is who we are!”[1]

The Apostles’ Creed (with an assist from the Nicene Creed[2]) lists four characteristics of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. J. I. Packer explains, “In the Scripture… the church is the one worldwide fellowship of believing people whose head is Christ. It is holy because it is consecrated to God…; it is catholic because it embraces all Christians everywhere; and it is apostolic because it seeks to maintain the apostles’ doctrine unmixed.”[3] Let’s flesh those out a bit.

The Church is One

Alister McGrath describes the “oneness” of the church this way, “All Christian churches are based and founded on the one and only foundation of Jesus Christ himself. There is no other foundation on which they can stand. We could say that the Christian church is that body of people that acknowledges Jesus Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18).”[4]

The Church is Holy

We all know that most Christians are far from holy! However, as Donald Cole writes, “The word holy is an Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Latin word sanctified. The root idea is “separation.” … “We believe in the …holy… church” means that we believe the church belongs to God.”[5] So, in that sense we (the church) are holy—set apart for God. 

The Church is Catholic

The word “catholic” refers to the fact that the church is universal—there is one church, of whom all believers—all over the world, and for all time—are members. Michael Bird explains, “The church is not restricted by geography, ethnicity, gender, class, or status. It is a universal assembly that is made up of people from every tribe, language, culture, and place.”[6]

The Church is Apostolic

This statement from the Nicene Creed explains what the teaching and focus of the one, holy, catholic church should be. Donald Cole explains, “the word apostolic refers to Paul’s description of the church as ‘having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Ephesians 2:20).”[7] McGrath adds, “[the church] continues steadfastly in the faith and teaching of the first apostles (Acts 2:42) and gladly accepts the Great Commission entrusted to them (Matthew 28:16-20). The faith and the tasks of the apostles have become ours.”[8]  And Albert Mohler warns, “Where the church fails to declare the truth, it forfeits its status as a true church. When churches capitulate and compromise the truth, they betray their status as part of God’s people.”[9]

One final word. R.C. Sproul reminds us that “Jesus personally guaranteed that the gates of hell will never prevail against the church. He made no guarantee that the gates of hell would not be unleased against it, however.”[10] As you think about that, remember to pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are facing intense persecution because of their faith. 

[1] Michael F. Bird, What Christians Ought to Believe (Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition), p. 194.

[2] This article in the Nicene Creed reads, “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

[3] J.I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, Kindle Edition), p. 122.

[4] Alister McGrath, I Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997), p. 91.

[5] C. Donald Cole, All You Need to Believe (Foundations of the Faith) (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition), p. 117.

[6] Bird, p. 199

[7] Cole, p. 118.

[8] McGrath, p. 93.

[9] R. Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition), p. 153.

f[10] Sproul, p. 184. 

1 Comment

  1. duane skow on October 27, 2020 at 8:24 am

    Do you believe the Roman Catholic Church teaches the truth about salvation ??

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