We’re blogging our way through the “Apostles Creed”, one of the earliest statements of core doctrines developed by the early Church.
The next phrase in the Apostles Creed at first glance might seem to be a bit out of place. Throughout the Creed, we have been talking about subjects that are clearly supernatural, which we have to accept on faith – that there is a God, that he is most fully revealed to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and rose from the grave, and now lives within us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Now we are told to believe in the “holy Christian Church”. And perhaps you might be tempted to think, “Well, what is it that I have to believe about the church? What’s so supernatural about the church? I see them scattered on every street corner.”
Some people think of church as an unnecessary part of being a Christian. I hear the sentiment expressed often by people that they feel closest to God while walking through the woods, or gazing up at the stars. But as soon as you bring other people into the picture, all those religious feelings start to fade. It’s like when you’re trying to enjoy a romantic mood with your spouse or date, and suddenly the in-laws come to the front door, or your little brother barges into the room. People ruin the moment. And many feel that way about the Church. That it spoils an otherwise good thing.
The Church exists for our good, for our growth, for our encouragement, as we pilgrimage together toward eternal life.
Clearly though for all its flaws and wrinkles, we ought not see the church this way. When Christians confess, “I believe in the holy, Christian church,” they are saying that there is something supernatural about it. That there is something of eternal value in the community of people who are drawn together because of their allegiance to Jesus Christ.
When you take all that Scripture has to teach about the Church, you begin to realize that it exists, not as an afterthought to God’s mind – “Oh we don’t want them to get too close to heaven while they’re on earth so let’s give them the church to slow them down a bit” – but it exists as a gift from God to his people. The Church exists for our good, for our growth, for our encouragement, as we pilgrimage together toward eternal life.
Jesus assumed that his followers would live together, and worship together, and work together in community, so much so that one’s closeness to Jesus is actually dependent on how close we are to one another. Our Lord expects us to make “church” something more than a place we go on Easter or Christmas.