by Laura Springer, M.Div.
What does it mean to be church? Last month, we looked at the first two answers given by the church fathers in the Nicene Creed. First, the church is one because of her One Head, Jesus Christ. Second, the church is holy because she is composed only of those who trust Jesus. She is holy because he is holy. This month we look at the final two answers: catholic and apostolic.
Catholic: When we say the church is catholic or universal, what do we mean? Before answering that question, let us clearly understand what it does not mean: it does not mean that every human is part of the church and therefore going to heaven. Holiness teaches us that, union with Christ is the qualification for membership in the body of Christ; only those in union with Christ are in the church. Catholicity teaches us that all those who trust Christ are in the church. Therefore, the church proclaims the gospel to all who will listen, in all places and cultures. Her mission covers the globe and penetrates her own community. Each local congregation proclaims this message alongside and in partnership with other local congregations, because all who trust Christ are members of the one church.
Apostolicity: Apostolicity can be thought of as alignment, making sure we are going in the same direction as God. By the Holy Spirit, the apostles translated into text their knowledge and experience of the message and mission of Jesus. This Text carries authority because these particular apostles were commissioned by Jesus and guided by the Holy Spirit. This Text is the definer of one, holy, and catholic, and is over history, culture, and experience. The church is apostolic in as much as she listens to, submits to, and proclaims the message and mission of Jesus.