Holy and Catholic

Jon Brown

READ : Ephesians 1:15-23

. . . the fullness of him who fills all in all. (v. 23)

Why do we say, “I believe in the holy catholic church?” That’s the question I often hear on a Sunday morning after we have recited our creed. Usually the question is asked with some sense of concern and even a bit of frustration. Ironically no one has ever asked me why we refer to the church as “holy.” At any rate, I take the question as my opportunity to affirm what Christians have affirmed for centuries, “I believe in the holy catholic church.”

We don’t believe the church is more virtuous, morally superior, or more physically pure. Holy means the church has been set apart by God to participate in the redemptive purposes God is bringing about in the world. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, means “called out ones.” The very word church suggests we have been set apart to participate in God’s work in the world.

And we believe the church is catholic. Not Roman Catholic, but catholic as in “universal.” The Heidelberg Catechism explains it better than I can, “We believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith” (Question and Answer 54).


Thank you for your worldwide church. Amen.