Summary: The Apostles Creed - The Holy Catholic Church the Communion of Saints
Today I want to talk about the church, but the trouble is the Church can mean so many things. It might mean our church. It might mean the Anglican Church in Australia. It might mean the worldwide Anglican denomination. It might mean all Christians everywhere. The trouble is, when the Bible talks about the church it never quite narrows it down. Certainly most of the letters are written to a geographical Church, but even then it may be that the church was distributed among a number of households. They certainly weren’t churches like we know them today.
The first thing I want to say is that the Church is central to God’s plan for the world. As imperfect as we may be, we are the means by which God has chosen to tell the world about his wonderful gift in Jesus Christ. In Old Testament times it was the nation of Israel that was meant to show the light of God’s salvation to the world. Let me illustrate how it was meant to work. Following the fall, the world is pictured as a dark place. People are unable to find the way to God on their own. That’s because they’re blinded by sin.
So God calls Abraham to come out of the world, to form a nation who would be God’s special people, to show the way of salvation to the world, to shine God’s light into the world
And as time goes on the intention is that people will be drawn to the light, so that God’s kingdom begins to grow, eventually spreading to the ends of the earth.
Well as you know, things didn’t work out that way. The nation of Israel was incapable of fulfilling God’s plan.
In the end their failure was such that they were exiled from the land altogether. And even when they returned to try to start again, they still couldn’t meet the standards that God had for his people.
So what did God do? Well, first he sent his own Son in human form as the representative of the nation. He alone was able to fulfill all that God desired for his people; to meet the standards that God had set for his people. And having lived it out he then chose 12 apostles who would form a new nation for God. Not a physical nation, but a spiritual nation. He gave them the gift of his own Spirit, to purify them and empower them to obey God. And he set them the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. They were to be God’s church, bringing news of salvation to all people. The Church is the new Israel and our task is the same as theirs. It’s to shine as a light in the world to the glory of God. It’s to expand the borders of God’s kingdom until all people everywhere call him their Lord. The Church is to show by its life that God is king. We’re to be like a light, drawing people to God, slowly expanding God’s kingdom until it reaches to the ends of the earth.
But that presents us with a number of problems doesn’t it? Because the church, the visible church at least, is far from perfect. Sometimes our life doesn’t reflect the light of the gospel very well, does it? The reflection gets dimmed by the scratches and dents on the surface of our life. Sometimes our life as a church even leads the gospel into disrepute. For example think of some of the things that are problems for us.
The church is splintered. I remember reading somewhere just how many new churches had formed in the western world over the last century. I can’t remember how many it was, but it was in the thousands. And most of them had come about, not through missionary activity, but by churches splitting over some disagreement, either theological or organisational. The sad reality of the church today is that it’s a splintered church, divided over all sorts of theological and ecclesiastical issues. But it’s a reality that goes against God’s will for the church. Listen to what God says to the Church through Paul in Eph 4: (Eph 4:1-7) "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." God’s desire for the Church is that it be united under Christ. Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another and to be united with each other the way He loved them, the way he was united with the Father. In John 17, he prayed to God that they would be one just as he and the Father are one. Why? So that the world may know that God had sent him and loved them even as He had loved Jesus. So this division in the Church is a stumbling block to the fulfilling of God’s plans for the world, even if there may be times when it’s a necessary evil.