THE APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Crucified, dead and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven,
and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;
“God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”
In the beautiful text of the Apostles’ Creed we come to the church; not a clapboard steeple, new multi-purpose building, or a towering cathedral. We are talking about the living, breathing Body of Christ Jesus our Lord. We do not actually go to church. We are the church. If you are Christian – a follower of Christ – then you and I together make up the “holy catholic Church.”
In the original Greek language, “holy” means that which has been consecrated, or set apart, and declared acceptable to God. Look around you on Sunday morning. These are holy people. Not because they wear the right clothes or say the right things, not even because they serve or usher to teach or sing. They are holy because as Hebrews 13:12 says, “Jesus… [made] the people holy through His own blood.” His blood alone has the cleansing power that makes us acceptable to God – that makes us holy. A congregation of people who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ makes up a holy church.
And why are we claiming to believe in the Roman Catholic Church when we are not Catholics? This is not speaking of denomination, but of universality. The “catholic” church is the universal church – the world-wide body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers in Florida, believers in China, believers in Australia, believers in North Dakota, and believers in Haiti – all make up the universal catholic Church.
We have already established that the church is not the buildings, but the people. The church is defined in two distinct ways: as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. The church is the Body of Christ in the world today. As Jesus walked on earth, He reached out His hands to bless and heal. Now He reaches out to the world through the hands of His church. In His words to the disciples Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:11). How is that possible? Jesus could only be in one place at a time, but when He returned to His Father in heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to fill every believer and to enable us to do as He did. Now, with Spirit-filled believers scattered all around the globe, the work of Jesus is multiplied thousands of times over.
When we say that the church is the Bride of Christ, we can look to a couple of specific Scriptures for support. Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2). Paul’s promise still stands as we wait for that glorious day when our bridegroom will come and take us home. A little Bible lesson here may help. In John 14:2-3, Jesus tells his disciples that He is going back to the Father to prepare a place for them, that they may be with Him. The disciples would have understood that Jesus was referring to the Jewish traditions for betrothal and marriage. The prospective groom’s father would approach the father of a young woman and make the arrangements for their children to be married. The groom would then return home and begin building an addition onto his father’s home for him and his bride. Meanwhile, the bride is busy with her own preparations, making her bridal clothes and other necessary things for setting up her own home. Only when the groom’s father was satisfied with the finished work would he allow his son to go get his bride. The groom and his friends would make a noisy party through the streets as they went to the home of the bride. She had no advance warning, so she had to be ready at all times to be swept away to her own wedding and her new home. This is the picture behind Revelation 19:7: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” Do you see the beauty in the church being called the Bride of Christ? He has gone to prepare a place for His bride, and when His Father deems the home ready, Jesus will come back for His beloved and we will be whisked away to heaven.
The church is to be making preparations for that glorious day when the bride comes face-to-face with her adoring Bridegroom. Listen to John’s description of her: “[She] shone with the glory of God, and [her] brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel.” (Revelation 21:11) Oh, how we need to be ready for the Bridegroom’s return!
Jesus loves the church, because she is his hands and feet in this world, and because she is the bride that He longs to bring home. You and I are the church. We are the Body and the Bride. If the church is to be ready for her glorious wedding day – it is up to you and me. Are you anticipating the return of your Bridegroom?
Father in heaven, as my Jesus prepares a place for His bride, help me to work with a heart full of love, and my eyes on the skies, watching for His return. Amen.