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I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church

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I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He 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, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the holy catholic Church.

I believe in the holy catholic church. All good Baptists should also believe in the holy catholic church. Now, before you break out the tar and feathers, or before the deacons convene a secret meeting to discuss my theology, or before you begin to wonder if your pastor is really committed to the distinctives of Baptist doctrine and theology, let me explain. I know many of you are troubled by the word “catholic” because you think it has something to do with the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our Roman Catholic friends believe that this phrase of the Apostles’ Creed refers to them. With all due respect to the Roman Catholic, they are in error. They believe that they are the one true church and that all believers outside of their fellowship are wayward brothers. As a people called Baptist, we are in sharp disagreement with them on this issue. There are several reasons:

  • The basic form of the Apostles’ Creed was being used by Christians within 100 years of Christ’s death and resurrection. This was about 350 years before the beginnings of the Roman Catholic Church as we know it today that began to be developed under the leadership of Pope Leo 1st. It was Leo who first began to assert the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome over all the churches.
  • The Apostles’ Creed recites that we believe in the holy— lower case-“c”—catholic church not the Holy Roman upper case “C”atholic Church.
  • When we repeat I believe in the holy catholic church, we mean that we believe in the worldwide fellowship of true believers. The word catholic simply means universal. To believe in the holy catholic church simply means to embrace all true believers everywhere as brothers in Christ, regardless of their denominational affiliation.

The 19th century biblical commentator, Matthew Henry, once said, “When we take God for our God, we take His people for our people.” Do you believe that? If so, then you can confess with a good conscience I believe in the holy catholic Church. It was that sense of Christian unity that inspired Timothy Dwight to write: “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.”(Hymn 354).

In order to xplain this particular I Believe”of the Apostles’ Creed, I’ve chosen Matthew 16:13-18 as my text: Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."(Matthew 16:13-18, ESV) This text teaches us two fundamental truths about the church.


          1. Jesus informs Peter—and the other disciples—that He is going to build His Church
              1. it will not be built upon Peter, but upon the faith of men like Peter
              2. in verse 18, Jesus is using a play on words
                  1. the name Peter, comes from the Greek word Petros, and means a small stone
                  2. Jesus then says, upon this rock, using the Greek word petra which means a foundation boulder or even bedrock
              3. Christ is the foundation of His Church and the Head of His Church and it is a mistake to think that either of those roles belong to the Apostle Peter
          2. the church will not be built upon Peter, but upon the solid rock of faith in a living Savior and Lord
              1. Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost
                  1. when the sinner comes to Jesus in repentance and faith, we are then adopted into the Family of God
                  2. it’s a family made up of all true believers in all places regardless of the denominational label they may associate with
          3. the humanity of the Church is expressed in a number of ways


          1. in the New Testament the Greek word ekklesia is the most common word that we translate church
          2. the word literally means to call out of for the express reason of joining a purposeful assembly
              1. it implies a physical assembly of God’s people together
                • Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us 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.” NIV
              2. folks, I’ve got to be honest with you, I’ve never figured out how so many professing Christians have a faith that they believe will get ‘em to heaven when they die, but it won’t get ‘em to church on Sunday
                  1. there is something wrong with that kind of faith—it’s not a biblical faith!
                    • ILLUS A Christian outside of church is like an athlete without a team, or a conductor without orchestra, or a teacher without a class.
          3. the purposeful assembly God has called us to be a part of is His Church
              1. our purpose as a congregation has been clearly defined in what we’ve come to call The Great Commission
              2. in it Jesus give His Church their purpose statement
                  1. we are to make disciples
                  2. once we make them we are to baptize them and bring them into the worshiping life of the church
                  3. once we bring them into the life of the church we are to teach them everything that Jesus taught us
          4. being part of the ekklesia means that every one of you has a purpose in this purposeful assembly
              1. God does not call us into His church to “sit and soak”
                  1. being a Christian is more than merely listening to sermons—He wants us to be living sermons —that’s your purpose!
              2. the church is intended to be a vibrant, redeeming community of compassion, service, love, and worship
                  1. it is not a fraternity for fans of the faith


    • "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV)
          1. in the Old Testament, access to God’s presence was the exclusive privilege of priests
              1. it still is
          2. the difference is that believers are made priests unto God and enjoy direct access to God the Father through Christ’s death and resurrection
            • Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” NIV
          3. the Apostle Peter called the Church “a holy priesthood” and tell us that our responsibility is offering “spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”
              1. what are spiritual sacrifices?
                  1. Hebrews 13:15 says that lips full of thanksgiving and praise to God are spiritual offerings
                  2. Romans 12:1 tells us that our body, offered as living sacrifice to God, is a spiritual offering
                  3. Matthew 5:23 tells us that financial gifts to be used in the church, when given in the right spirit, are spiritual offerings
                  4. Acts 10:4 tells us that our gifts to and prayers for the poor are spiritual offerings
                  5. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that living a life of love is a spiritual offering
                  6. Philippians 4:18 tells us that any gift that meets the need of a fellow believer is a spiritual offering


          1. from a human viewpoint, the church is a local body of people spiritually united in fellowship by the common experience of faith in Jesus Christ
            • ILLUS. The British author, C.S. Lewis once wrote: “The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion. Some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted in the Epistles. So we must be regular practicing members of the church. Of course we differ in temperament. Some (like you-and me) find it more natural to approach God in solitude; but we must go to church as well. For the church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities, but the Body of Christ, in which all members, however different (and he rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences."
          2. fellowship is the lifeblood of the church
            • 1 John 1:1-4 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.” NIV
              1. for the early Christians, koinonia was not the frilly "fellowship" of church-sponsored, biweekly bowling parties
              2. it was not tea, cookies, and sophisticated small talk in Fellowship Hall after the sermon
              3. it was an almost unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ's body
          3. that’s what the fellowship of the saints is all about
              1. the church is a human institution
                  1. that means that we are called out of the world and into faith, and that faith makes us a kingdom of priests to God, and puts us into fellowship with other believers


          1. notice in our text for this morning that Jesus said, “I will build my church”
            • ILLUS. Charles Colson has written: “Biblically the church is an organism not an organization. It is a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.”
          2. the church is a human institution in that it is made up of people
              1. but it is a supernatural institution because it is made up of people who have received the Spirit of the living God into their lives
          3. the Church exists because the Father willed it, Christ established it, and the Holy Spirit indwells it
          4. in the pages of the New Testament several figures are used to describe the supernatural nature of the Church


          1. marriage is a figure used to depict the relationship between God and the nation of Israel in the Old Testament
            • Isaiah 54:5-6 “For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.” NIV
          2. on several occasions in the Gospels, Jesus told parables comparing His followers to a bride waiting for her bridegroom’s coming
              1. Jesus is that Bridegroom!
              2. the apostles Paul and John also describe the church as the Bride of Christ
                • “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:22-32, NIV)
                • “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:9, NIV
          3. there are at least two predominant doctrines in the idea that the church is the Bride of Christ
              1. FIRST, Christ is Head of His Church
                  1. now, I believe that humanly and spiritually, husbands and wives are equal before God
                  2. but functionally God has assigned the husband the responsibility of leading the home, and loving his wife as Christ loved the church, and bringing his children up in the faith
                  3. just as the husband is to be the leader of his household—guiding the affairs of the home—so Christ is the leader of his church
                  4. this imagery is intended to impress upon us our Lord’s interest in and activity in the affairs of the church
              2. SECOND, Christ Died for His Church
                  1. the Ephesian passage teaches us that men ought to love their wives to the point of dying for them
                  2. this is exactly what Jesus did
                    • ILLUS. When two people have been married for a long time, there is almost a mystical relationship between them. They often instinctively know what each other is thinking or feeling. A simple look or touch communicates volumes. Sometimes we associate a couple so closely that we cannot conceive of one without the other.
                  3. this is the kind of relationship that exists between Christ and His church
          4. what does this relation mean for us practically?
              1. if Christ is our Head and we are His Bride then we ought to live lives so that we may present ourselves before Him without spot or beamish
                  1. as such the church must strive for holiness, because the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, is holy and deserves a holy bride
                  2. Baptists need to rediscover holiness
                  3. the cause of Christ is truly advanced, not by filling up our churches with people, but by or people being filled with Christ
              2. if Christ is our Head, then that means His will is preeminent in the church
                  1. it is His will and His desire for the Bride that matters—not yours or mine
                  2. Jesus Christ has sole authority over His church . . .
                      1. not a Pontiff,
                      2. not an Elder,
                      3. not an Apostle,
                      4. not a Pastor,
                      5. not a Priest,
                      6. not even a bunch of Baptists in business meeting


          1. the term Body of Christ is used to describe another aspect of the church
              1. it was the Apostle Paul’s favorite analogy for the Church
                • 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” KJV
          2. like the analogy of the church as the Bride of Christ, so too this analogy reminds us of the supernatural dimension of the church
                  1. just as Jesus was the incarnation—the infleshing—of God on earth, so the church is the incarnation of Jesus in our world today
              1. it is through His Body the Church, that God seeks to accomplish His will and to advance His Kingdom in this world
              2. what does this relation mean for us practically?
                  1. FIRST, it means that God is present in a supernatural way when His people gather together in one place
                    • Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” KJV
                  2. SECOND, it means that God Himself—through His Holy Spirit that indwells every believer—empowers His Church to accomplish His will
              3. by God’s design, not even the smallest or most insignificant part of the body is unessential
                • ILLUS. One of Aesop’s Fables is entitled The Fable of the Belly. Aesop writes: “One day it occurred to the members of the body that they were doing all the work and that the belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting and after a long discussion decided to strike work until the belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for a day or two the hands refused to take the food, the mouth refused to receive it and the teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two members began to find that they themselves were not in very active condition. The hands could hardly move, the mouth was all parched and dry, while the legs were unable to support the rest. Thus they found that even the belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the body and that all must work together or the body would go to pieces.”
                  1. listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it:
                    • 1 Corinthians 12:17-18 “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” KJV
                  2. each person in the Body of Christ has been put there by God and has been given spiritual gifts, and abilities that are essential to the life of the total body


          1. the Apostle Paul writes that the great mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in you”
            • Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” KJV
              1. if Christ lives in me, and if He live in you, then He lives in His church because the Church is us!
              2. this makes the church Divine in nature
          2. supernaturally, God indwells each believer through His Holy Spirit
              1. He indwells me at the same time He indwells you
              2. I don’t understand it, but I accept by faith that my God is big enough to live in the hearts and lives of all believers in the world at the same time
                  1. the Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle that we are all “partakers of the divine nature”
          3. it is this divine presence within us that draws us together as God’s people into fellowship and love
          4. what does this relation mean for us practically?
              1. it means that no believer is to be outside the scope of our love and fellowship
                • ILLUS. Several years ago an interesting event took place just before worship was to begin at Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue, New York City. A man wearing a large hat was discovered sitting in the front row. An usher walked over to the man, leaned in, and discreetly asked him to remove his hat. The man replied that he would not. The head usher was then summoned, and made the same request, and received the same answer. They weren’t sure what to do so they asked the parish president of the women’s ministry to assist. She had the same dismal result. Finally, with only a few minutes remaining before the opening hymn, the senior warden of the parish was summoned. He tiptoed up beside the man and tried to seize the hat, but the man nimbly dodged, and there was no time for further attempts. As the opening hymn began and the procession entered the church, the man stood, removed his hat and did not put it on again. At the conclusion of the service, four frustrated people waited for the man at the rear of the church. The senior warden approached him and said, "Sir, about the hat: perhaps you don't understand, but in the Episcopal church men do not wear hats at worship." The man replied, "Oh, but I do understand. I've been an Episcopalian all my life. As a matter of fact, I've been coming to this church regularly for two years and I've never met a soul. But this morning I've met an usher, the head usher, the president of the church women, and the senior warden."
              2. let it never be said of this Church that we neglect the fellowship of the Spirit that binds us together
                • 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, . . . “ KJV

We live in a day where many believe that the church has lost its relevancy. There are millions of Americans who claim that their faith in Christ is very important to them, but who do not go to church because they believe it has little impact on their day-to-day lives and conduct. Elton Trueblood, in his book The Company of the Committed, wrote that the greatest single weakness of the contemporary church is “that millions of supposed members are not really involved at all and, what is worse, do not think it is strange that they are not.” He also wrote, “There is no real chance of victory in a campaign if ninety per cent of the soldiers are untrained, and uninvolved, but that is exactly where we stand now.”

The church was founded by Jesus Christ himself 2,000 years ago. In that time, the church has suffered internal turmoil, insufferable persecution, misunderstanding, and, in some cases, serious moral and spiritual setbacks. Still, the church has endured exactly as Jesus promised.

We’ve seen numerous divisions. Still, the church has endured exactly as Jesus promised.

We’ve witnessed dilution of our Witness, encroaching worldliness, and mushrooming materialism in the lives of God’s people. Still, the church has endured exactly as Jesus promised.

We’ve endured the assault of rival claims in Eastern faiths such as Zen, Hinduism and New Age humanistic philosophies. Still, the church has endured exactly as Jesus promised.

I believe in the holy catholic church.

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