Saturday, October 17, 2015

One Holy Apostolic Church

One holy apostolic church

The church has historically had creeds or confessions that they repeat.  Baptists early on decided not to use them in their churches because, from what I understand, they seemed too much like state churches and they wanted to be people of the book rather than what they saw as manmade creeds.  However, Baptists have always been conscious of them and used them for doctrinal bases.  The two basic ones are the Apostles Creed, which is dated to 390 A.D.  We said this at First Pres but I had skipped “catholic” church and my husband skipped “descended into hell” because some Baptists don’t believe that (it’s complicated—he descended into Hades, not hell as it is now). 

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,,was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Nicene Creed 325.  More associated with Catholics but doesn’t have any in it we would disagree with except in the last paragraph.  It is more specific.
I 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 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 sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
I think the value of reading and knowing these creeds is that it connects us with the church 1900 years ago, and that is the point of this lesson.  We tend to think of the church as the group of people we see on Sunday, that are co-members with us at Brainerd, and that is the church but not the whole church.  Just like my hand is my body it is not the whole body, and I think every time we come together we should be mindful and remember the church in other parts of the world and the historical church. 

This has to do with unity.  Unity is not the same as uniformity.  From the very beginning the church struggled with diversity.  As soon as the first Gentile became a Christian without being a Jewish convert, they had to deal with diversity.  At first, the apostles had to get it into their head that a Gentile could come directly to Christ without the Jewish laws, circumcision, etc.  We don’t have a problem with that today, of course, since we are primarily Gentiles anyway, but we do have a problem with accepting worship with people different from us.  I remember when I went to New City Fellowship.  It’s a great church but because it is more diverse they didn’t start on time.  I didn’t like that because I am so white. 
Diversity deals with  race, background (slaves), gender, etc. We still do, although I think we are trying harder than in my past.  I have often heard the phrase, “The most segregated hour of the week is 11:00 a.m on Sunday.”  I think that misses the point somewhat, because the very fact that people all over the world gather on Sunday mornings to worship shows something, that we are a universal church, not a racial one.  Should we have more black and Latino people in our churches?  Of course, but, why don’t we?   
We also have freedom to be diverse in cultural ways.  The diversity of human experience and how it is shown in the church is a testimony to God’s creativity. 
The unity that the church has is unity of purpose, unity of doctrine, unity of brotherhood (which is a reality, not something we have to create by human methods), unity of future, unity of Lordship. 

I do not feel adequate to speak on this subject, the holiness of God and how it is to be reflected in the everyday lives of the church.  Humans are so dishonest and hypocritical about holiness.  I am learning about this everyday, how I see others are a middle class white woman does rather than how God does.  Holiness is so perfect and absolute that it is easy to just dismiss it and say, “We will be holy in heaven, so let’s just do the best we can here and not worry about holiness.”  Or we see it as piousness, fakeness, a certain lifestyle, not doing certain things.  Human beings are experts in trying to make the outside look good when the inside is a mess.
Holiness is reflecting God’s nature, and it’s through the Holy Spirit’s power, nothing we can do on our own.  He has already made us able to do so.  Holiness is also about “whole-ness.”  Sin fragments us personally and separates us from others. 
The holiness of God we should be concerned about is internally aligning our purposes with his.  My favorite verse on holiness is I John 3.

APOSTOLIC.  Jesus did not write any books.  He did not dictate any books or writing.  He gave that job to his apostles, the sent ones:  Matthew, John, Peter, Paul, and those they taught and entrusted in the years after his death.  One way we know a book is real scripture, or CANONICAL, is that it was written in the age of the apostles (before they all died, about 90 A.D.).  These fake gospels that are New Age were written in 200 A.D. or later (the ones that say Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children). 
So, in historical Christianity the apostles play a huge role.  When I went to Europe, I noticed that the artwork in older churches was based on the apostles, not Mary.  The worship of Mary came around 1100 A.D., but before that the artwork shows the 12 apostles.
Today when we hear the apostolic church, the term is a little confusing.  In fact, I was surprised it was even used in this lesson, but it’s a teaching moment for us.  Some Pentecostal groups use the name apostolic because they want to emphasize that they use the spiritual gifts of healing and tongues and handling snakes, like they believe the original apostles do.  Catholic and Orthodox churches use the term because they believe that the leaders of the church come down from apostolic succession.  For example, the Pope is a direct descendant of Peter, the first pope, in terms of “laying on of hands.” Evangelicals use the term to mean that we preach and teach the same doctrine.  It doesn’t have to do with spiritual gifts (in fact, we tend to say those gifts in the books of Acts have gone away) or with laying on of hands consecutively (which would be impossible to prove historically for 1900 years).

Jude:  contend for the faith once delivered to the saint.  What is the faith, and how do we contend for it?  Here it is the whole counsel of God, the doctrines.  But contend?  What does it mean and how do we do that?
This is an intellectual more than practical lesson, so what are the takeaways.
1.     God sees his church in the big picture as well as us as individuals.  Two thousand years and millions upon millions of believers.  We have a great heritage.
2.     That is comforting.  We are not alone.  We have a great cloud of witnesses in the Heavens watching us run the race.  (Hebrews 12:2). 
3.     Unity with each other in this church is not something we have to make happen.  It’s just something we have to live, overlooking minute and unimportant differences that we make into insurmountable ones. 
4.     Holiness is not impossible.  But it is more than just not doing certain things.  It is reflecting God’s nature, and that is more than just abstaining. 

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