The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints
Acts 15: 22–35
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the brothers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
The other identifier in the Creed is the word “catholic.” This does not mean Roman Catholic. It means whole or universal. To say we believe in “the holy catholic Church” means we believe the Church of Jesus Christ is fundamentally one church in its essence. In the text above, we witness a potentially massive divide get mended through apostolic wisdom. Their decision not to require circumcision of the Gentiles paved the way for the body of Christ to develop as a universal fellowship.
The ecumenical creeds (Apostles and Nicene) play an essential role in preserving the catholicity of the Church. The creeds define the center of the Christian faith, the place of agreement and unity among all Christians in all times at all places. At the same time, the creeds outline the circumference, or boundaries, of the faith. It creates a generous space where a lot of doctrinal distinctions can be carved out and around which there may be significant disagreement. Wesley’s followers have long employed the phrase, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity,” with respect to the Church and particularly as it related to the Methodist movement.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
—1 Corinthians 1:10
Express your questions, doubts, curiosities, and conundrums.
Write any fresh affirmation stirring in your heart and mind from today.
Now affirm the Apostles’ Creed aloud:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord . . .
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