Happy 500th Anniversary of the Reformation!
Regularly during our public worship services at KCPC, we confess together as a congregation the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is the corporate confession of the church that was formulated from the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 A.D. respectively. The Nicene Creed is a Trinitarian Creed that confesses the one Christian faith revealed from the Father, through the Work of the Son, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:11-22, esp. v. 18). In response to the elder-presbyter asking in the worship service: “Church, what do you believe?” We gladly respond confessionally as a part of our worship of the Triune God:
“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
“And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The third part of the Nicene Creed is focused primarily on the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of Life”. We confess together as a congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ that we believe in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church”. When we confess each of these four attributes as members of Christ’s Church, we confess that we are the recipients of the life-giving and powerful work of the Holy Spirit as He has established, is building, and is filling Christ’s Church to the glory of the Father. Because the Nicene Creed is a Trinitarian Creed, it should be emphasized that this necessarily means it is also a Christocentric (Christ-centered) and thus a Pneumatological Creed (having to with the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit) as well.
One: When we confess that the church is one, we confess that we are part of one church that is the body of Christ (Eph. 4:4, 12, 16), the beloved bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23, 29-32), purchased and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5), to be children of the living God, one family in Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:11-18; 4:4-6; 5:8). Our oneness is what we possess in our union with Jesus Christ by the Spirit, and we ought to seek to realize that union and communion more fully in our day to day Christian lives. When Christ returns this unity will be fully realized and manifested before the world for the glory of the Triune God (Eph. 5:27; Col. 3:4; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 3:14; Rev. 14:12-13). As the Apostle Paul wrote: “Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). For everyone who professes the name of Jesus Christ, and loves the Lord Jesus in sincerity with a faith incorruptible (Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 6:23-24; cf. Titus 1:16), we should consider them part of the one body of Christ, and the one family of God, and pursue and maintain unity with them through loving service, fellowship, and mercy (Rom. 12:11-18; Col. 3:11-15; 5:12-18; 2 Thess. 1:3).
Holy: When we confess that the church is holy, we confess that we are set apart as one body, one bride, one people, one family to be the purchased possession and delight of God our Father (Gen. 17:8; Exodus 19:5; Deut. 14:2; 30:9; Psa. 74:2; Zeph. 1:17; Mal. 3:17; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:13-18; 2:9-11). We are called by our God and Father to “be holy as He is holy” (Lev. 11:44; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:15-16). In Christ, through the Holy Spirit’s bond of union (Eph. 4:1-6; Phil. 2:1-5), we are given perfect righteousness in Him that is received by faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 3:21-26; 4:1-11; 5:18; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9-11). This perfect righteousness that all sinners desperately need to stand before the holy presence of God is imputed as a gift from Christ alone (Psa. 32:2; Rom. 3:24-26; 4:6; 2 Cor. 5:19-21). In Christ, through the Holy Spirit’s bond of union, we also grow up and mature in real righteousness in Him as we walk in the light of His Holy Word, and in the unfathomable love of the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:17-19; 4:13-16). We are sanctified, or grow holy in God’s righteousness, as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling in Him (Phil. 2:12-13). Christ by His Spirit gives us imputed righteousness in our justification, and imparted, or real righteousness progressively in our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:1-8; 2 Pet. 1:3-11).
Catholic: When we confess that the church is catholic, we confess that we are part of one body, one bride, one family that has been called out of darkness and the corruption of sin to be God’s True Israel made up of both Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, and of everyone the Lord by His Spirit calls to Himself from Father Adam to the last person to be saved before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 1:3-6, 13-23; Rom. 5:12, 15, 17; 12:5; 16:25-27; Col. 1:11-12; 3:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:9). We use the term “catholic” as referring to the church as “universal”, not in one place or time, but from all people, and all places, and all times who have called upon the name of Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord alone. We confess that we are part of one family that is made up of every tribe, people, language and nation of believers (Rev. 5:9; 7:4; 13:7). As our early church father Ignatius of Antioch confessed, “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.” This means that where Jesus as Head of His Church is present by His Spirit and His Word, there is the one catholic or universal church (as we see in Revelation with the seven churches, they are all part of one whole, though they are from Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, etc., cf. Revelation 2-3). We are not Roman Catholic, but we are Reformed, and reforming catholics, not sectarians, but the True Israel of God in Christ by His Spirit (Gal. 6:14-16), who though part of a local, faithful congregation of the church is part of the larger whole in Christ Jesus.
Apostolic: When we confess that the church is apostolic, we confess that we are part of Christ’s kingly and priestly architectural work of building His holy temple, founded on the apostolic and prophetic word, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone, filled with the glorious Spirit of God, to the glory of God alone (Acts 2:1-5; Eph. 2:19-22). We are also part of Christ’s authoritative prophetic work of building up His holy temple by His Blessed Vicar on earth, the powerful Spirit of Truth, who leads His people in all truth through the inspired, infallible, final, and completed Word of God (John 7:38-39; 14:17; 15:26; 16:12-15; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8; 2:38; Gal. 3:14; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 John 4:1-5). To be apostolic means to confess that Scripture alone is God’s final authority for our doctrine and life. Tradition is good when it is scriptural (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Th. 2:15; 3:6; but cf. Mark 7:4-8), but “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isa. 8:20), and “Thus says the LORD” and “It is written…” should be the ultimate word and final guide to our doctrine, life and godliness! To be apostolic means to confess that a true apostolic church is not found through apostolic succession of fallible men, but through faithfulness to apostolic truth found in the Holy Scriptures in preaching, teaching, and living. One of the important marks of the true church is the faithful preaching of the Word of God, and where this is found, there you will find the apostolic church of Jesus Christ.
How can we practically live out this confession we make? We can seek to realize our union and communion with Jesus and other Christians by pursuing peace, and being merciful and patient and compassionate with other confessing Christians as Christ has been so graciously kind with us (Col. 3:12-16). We can realize our union and communion with Jesus by the Spirit and know that we have indeed been set apart and justified through faith by His grace, and seek to glorify Christ in increasingly being more holy as He is holy. We can realize our union and communion with Jesus by His Spirit and know that we are privileged to be part of the one true Israel and family of God, and to know that this one family is made up of all kinds of people, at all times, and in all places. We can realize our union and communion with Jesus by the Spirit, by knowing more fully that we are the temple of the Spirit that Christ is building as Architect, and that King Jesus is ruling, reigning, subduing, guarding and defending this glorious temple by the authority of the apostolic word, the very Sword of the Spirit.
Our Lord Jesus promised that He would build His church, His Holy Spiritual temple, and the gates of hell would never prevail against her! This is precisely what we have observed because of His good providence throughout history. We have also experienced this as part of Christ’s power and grace by His Spirit to our congregation and denomination to this day! What a privilege at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century to continue to confess our union with Christ and His Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father as “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” throughout the ages, called to be the children of God, and to shine like the firmament as God’s holy ones in this present age (Dan. 12:3; Phil. 2:14-16). Here we still stand as the one holy catholic and apostolic church. May the LORD direct our hearts to His love and the steadfastness of Christ! (2 Thess. 3:5).
Let us this day rejoice and delight in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit this day because of His faithfulness, and because He rejoices and delights in us!
Let us remember that all grace and goodness and mercy and love is from Him, and through Him, and to Him, to Him alone be the glory, forever and ever! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen!
In Christ’s love,