Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Who Is the Church?


When the church gathered in council at Nicea in 381 AD in order to discern a single creed from various creeds that she had received from the apostles and the fathers, she selected four words to describe herself: “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. "

These were, and continue to be, the defining marks of the church- sort of!  These definitions have needed redefinition throughout western history in order to allow each group to see itself within this description.

Hence, in our study we will consider the authors’ intentions when they wrote this creed, and then ask the question, “who is the church?”

The Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the all Protestants answer this question differently, our goal is to answer it historically; or, who was the creed referring to?

The Church Present In The New Testament

Begun in Jerusalem with Christ’s Apostles (Apostolic)

  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Mat 16: 18

Built up by God the Holy Spirit (God Dwelt- Holy)

  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9: 31

Re-centered in Antioch in Syria (exists in “Sees”)

  And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11: 26

Expanded by apostolic missionaries (Missional)

  Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.  Acts 13:1-5

Subject to apostolic appointment (Episcopal Succession)

  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Then they passed through Pisidia (Galatia) and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. Acts 14: 23-26

Doctrinally under Episcopal concilliarity (Concilliar),

   The Jerusalem council; Acts 15: 6-21

Directed by a universal Episcopal rule (Canon Law),

   Canon law; Acts 15: 22-34

Doctrinally corrected by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

  When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church… Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus… but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Acts 18: 22-26

Doctrinally Preserved by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20: 28-32

In the New Testament the true church is:

ÿ       Begun in Jerusalem with Christ’s Apostles (Apostolic),

ÿ       Built up by God the Holy Spirit (God Dwelt- Holy),

ÿ       Re-centered in Antioch in Syria (exists in “Sees”),

ÿ       Expanded by apostolic missionaries (Missional),

ÿ       Subject to apostolic appointment (Episcopal Succesion),

ÿ       Doctrinally under Episcopal concilliarity (Concilliar),

ÿ       Directed by a universal Episcopal rule (Canon Law),

ÿ       Doctrinally corrected by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

ÿ       Doctrinally Preserved by Holy Tradition (Paradosis)

Who does this describe?


  1. These are the notes for a class and not the whole story, nevertheless, the point made by the New Testament on the church easily comes accross.