Summary: When we speak of Catholicity, we speak of that which the One church [Where the WORD is preached, and where the sacraments are administered] has in common
We have said that every orthodox church regards the marks of the church to be four: The church is One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic. When we speak of Catholicity, we speak of that which the One church [Where the WORD is preached, and where the sacraments are administered] has in common. The WORD to be preached, of course, is the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
It will not do to begin by making sweeping statements. We begin, rather, with a statement of awe and mystery:
THE CHURCH ISSUES IN THE UNFATHOMABLE GLORY OF GOD
11:33 - Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How UNSEARCHABLE are His judgments and UNFATHOMABLE His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen
Before we make any pronouncements on what the church world wide is, or what we believe it ought to be, we need to begin with the mercies of God! We are all created in God's image, and are the objects of His love. We are made to love and adore and fellowship with Him. If our worship, and if the church are connected with Him, they carry with them truth and beauty and life beyond the narrow scope of our understanding. Romans 12:1,2 is very practical and straightforward. It is familiar territory to evangelical Christians. We like to jump in right here, at the practical side, and go for the decision. "Just do it!" And any way we can get people to meet God is great!
But remember, Romans 12:1 has a "therefore" in it. And the "therefore" points back to the doxology of praise in Romans 11:33-36. Paul comes to the end of a doctrinal passage, a great treatise on grace and salvation and he breaks into this hymn of praise, and THEN he says, "Because of all this great love of a great God, give yourself to HIM; become part of His Body, the Church!"
One of the most important, if not the most important quality of the true catholic church is humility before the wonder God's love, the wonder of being invited into God's inner circle, into God's very Presence. The WONDER! The WONDER of it all! What the text calls our "spiritual service of worship" all springs out of the mercies of God! This is beautiful truth beyond our comprehension!
The preaching of the Word and the Sacraments represent two places where the Living Word makes contact with us, two sides of the same great truth. Preaching is logical and presses for decision. Sacraments are visual or representative, and speak of the unspeakable and mysterious. Across the centuries churches have tended to emphasize one aspect over the other.
Sons and daughters of the church who have been exposed only to narrowly held segments of God's truth (on either side) may tend to rebel when they begin to see the truth of the wider whole. Then, unless they are careful, they re-act humanly, and swing far over to other emphases. We do not know and certainly do not own the whole orb of truth. "(Don't) think more highly of (yourselves) than you ought" (12:3) This can be applied to churches, too! The fact is that we CANNOT own it all, and we do not NEED to own it all. But Catholic is that which the One church has in common; that which is common to all churches that are true churches. How does the Reformation formula apply to the whole church (including our own)?
THE ENTIRE CHURCH IS CALLED TO SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your SPIRITUAL SERVICE OF WORSHIP. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is. that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We do not have a monopoly on worship; and neither does any other segment of the church! The entire church catholic worships. The call to "spiritual service" is not limited to evangelical young people at a youth camp; it is not a call just to Mother Teresa in Calcutta— it is a call to the entire church of Jesus Christ everywhere.
But there seem to be so many different ways of worship! Some seem so emotional! Some seem so dead and dry and formal! What is genuine "spiritual service?" What constitutes the church? Before we look at the forms we have to consider the content. Jesus Himself said, in Matthew 18:20: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst!" Whatever our definitions, Jesus is the Living Word!