Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


I Believe What I Believe

I Believe in One Holy Church & The Communion of Saints

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(11/15) How many of you can identify with Linus? I have used that line a lot. Sorry, but I have. There have been several books of similar titles.

• By Dan Kimball, called, They Love Jesus Just Not the Church.

• By Steve McCrannie called, Love Jesus, Hate Church.

In all fairness, I have not read either one, so I don’t really know what the content of either one is about. The titles may really be catch phrases to show us how to be different. I don’t know. But there are a lot of people who claim that sentiment. I love Jesus, it’s the Church I can’t stand. Yet the Apostle’s Creed, says, I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.

Let’s jump right in and deal with the word, Catholic. Many people have a problem with that because they immediately think of the Roman Catholic church and many people have a problem with that. The English word Catholic comes from the Greek word, Katholikos and means according to the whole, or universal. Everybody understand this. This means that we believe in just one Church and it is not bound by time, denomination, nationality, race, gender, or borders. Let’s tear this phrase down and look at it. I Believe in One Holy Church. Let’s notice 3 things in this first phrase.

1. I Believe in the Church. Most of you are familiar with Matthew 16:13-18

"13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." I believe the Rock is the confession of Jesus as Lord and Messiah.

The word Church is Ecclesia and means a called out company. Our Lord is referring to a company, a community of people that He would call to follow Him. This community would consist of those who confess Jesus as Savior, and Lord; the Son of God incarnate, as Peter has just done.

This Community of Christ Followers is not identified by a building, or a label, but by their love for one another and their unity and devotion to the cause of Jesus. (John 13:34-35; 17:13-23). You must understand this. (Repeat this)

There are many other descriptive titles or names for the church, but it is still the church. We are called the Bride of Christ, A Temple, a Flock of Sheep, Children of God and more.

2. The Church is Special to Jesus.

First, the Church is Jesus’ bride. His love. His idea. His delight.

Second, it is His means of continuing His life, His love, and His ministry.

Thirdly, He would be with and in His Church.

Fourth, He has declared it to be Holy. The word Holy

means set apart, as special. This is implied in the very word for church, Ecclesia, a Called out Company. Listen to how Peter describes us in 1 Peter 2:9-10, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. And Paul says in Ephesians 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,"

Peter and Paul both have said, God chose us. Now how that works with my freedom to choose, I don’t know, but what I do know is that God said He wanted me and He wanted you to be part of His family and He calls us holy or special to Him. Now stay with me and we will come back to this in a moment. Okay?

3. There is Just One Church. I know that we refer to the Roman Catholic

Church, the Orthodox Church, the Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Brethren, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Non-Denominational Churches (and there are a lot more), but the honest truth is, there is just one church. This does not mean that every church member or leader is really a part of the church. There are church congregations and leaders who have never been born again, never confessed Jesus as Lord and do not embrace His teachings. We would always say that there are professors who are not possessor’s. But there is just one church.

I remember as a young Christian that every fundamental church practiced separatism. We believed we should not join in anything ecumenical. How sad. This Community of Christ Followers is to be identified by their love for one another and their unity and devotion to the cause of Jesus. (John 13:34-35; 17:13-23).

That one church is made up of every person chosen by God and who confesses Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah and Lord. Bam! We may congregate in different buildings, in different cities, in different countries, in different time periods, but we are all one. We may prefer different styles of meetings and music, but we are all one. We are connected to the Apostles in the past, the persecuted Christians in the present, the Chinese, Latino, African, Russian, and Indian Christians in the present, and we will be connected to those who haven’t even been born yet, but will be and will confess Jesus as Lord and Messiah until He returns. Paul says this in Ephesians 4:1-6.

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, impartial as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Let’s look at the next line, I Believe in the Communion of Saints. These two lines go together, because this line defines in two words the purpose of the Church. Listen. If you are listening say, Amen!

The Church was never meant to be a club; it was meant to be a community. Did you hear that? It is a Community of redeemed sinners. I say again, It is a community of saved sinners. But the Creed calls us Saints. That’s because the word Saint means one who has been set apart as special. We may all know a person that we would say is a Saint because they are patient or kind or generous, but the truth is God says that all His children are saints (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:1). We are all special to Him. All of us have been declared righteous because of our faith in Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church may define a Saint as someone that has performed two miracles and intercedes for Christians in Heaven, but God says we who confess Jesus as Lord and receive His grace are saints.

The church is a body of special people. No halos or lights over their heads, just a bunch of sinners who have been forgiven and who have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. We have to stop thinking of the church as a bunch of people who are better than everyone else, we are not. That’s why people call us hypocrites. They think we are supposed to be better than everybody else and perhaps we should be. But truth is, we are a community of forgiven sinners, that are growing to become more like Jesus.

There are two old sayings that are true about us.

1. Christians are not perfect - Just forgiven

2. Christians are not sin-less – but they should sin less. Because Jesus has conquered the devil and because the Holy Spirit resides in us to help us know and do what is right.

The Old Comedian Groucho Marx once said, "I wouldn’t want to be join a club that would have me as a member." Maybe that is how people feel about the church. But that is exactly what the church is for- To add more saved sinners to its membership. Matthew 9:10-13 says this, Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Did you hear that, we are a congregation of sick sinners who are on the road to recovery and healing.

The church has its problems that’s for sure.

• Sometimes we do act better or holier than others

• Sometimes as separate congregations we feel superior to other congregations

• Sometimes we neglect the needs of each other and don’t share the love

• Sometimes we neglect the needs of the community or world around us

• Sometimes we are just don’t seriously consider making disciples and telling people about Jesus.

• Sometimes we bicker about non essentials and turn people off to Jesus (Rom. 14)

• Many times we act like a club that meets once a week and then disconnect from each other. But this line of the Creed tells us what we are supposed to be.

The word Communion is koinonea and means to have or share in common. It always carries the idea of togetherness for the mutual good. It was used of marriage in the Greek culture. It is used of a partnership, such as the Johnson Brothers and the Sons of Zebedee’s fishing business. They were partners.

Koinonea is often translated as Fellowship. John said (1 John 1:3), that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Luke described the first church in Acts 2:42 as, "they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

A. We who have confessed Jesus as our Savior and Lord are saints because we are special to God. And together we are a community. Think of some the things that we all share in Common

• We all acknowledge Jesus as the head of the Church and we are part His body. He is our authority. Col. 1:18 says, "And He is the head of the body, the church…" He said, "I will build my church," in Matt. 16:18. In a church struggle a few years ago, some said, "This is our church." And I replied, "No, this is Jesus’ church. He is the head." We take our orders from Him.

• We share a Common experience. Doesn’t matter what your age, ethnic background, financial status, or education, we all became part of His body the same way. We heard the truth of the Gospel, acknowledged our need, repented of our sins and received the forgiveness and grace of Jesus.

• We share the same Holy Spirit. The same one who raised Jesus from the dead, came upon the church at Pentecost, resides in each of us.

• We all have the same marching orders.

1. Love God

2. Love each other

3. Make Disciples

• We all have a Gift to share. Listen to Peter (1 Peter 4:8-11), "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

And again Paul, For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: (Romans 12:3-6)

• We all have the same Father in heaven

• We all have the same destination – A Home Jesus is preparing for us in the Father’s House.

B. Those are some of things we share in common, but the church is also to be a community that shares in things with each other. The church was intended to be a body that shares life together. Listen to Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Isaiah tells us of our Father, when He says, in all their affliction He was afflicted (Isa. 63:9). And the Messiah bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (53:4). Jesus purposely took on our skin to feel what we feel so He could minister to us (Heb. 2:17-18). We are to do the same thing with each other. To become a family that shares each other’s joys and heartaches. To laugh together and to weep together. To pray together and to worship together. We are to come alongside of each other to strengthen, encourage and help each other. Listen to what Solomon says in Eccl 4:9-10. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.

C. And then the community or communion of saints means we should share things with one another. I am talking sharing, not communism. But what identified the first church? They shared their stuff. They identified needs and did what they could to meet those needs (Acts 2, 4). Paul tells us, 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Eph. 4:28) and again, "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Farmers in Israel were not to harvest all of their crops but were to leave some for the poor to harvest. (Lev. 19:9-10). The Author of Hebrews (13:16) says, "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

In Acts 11:29, the church in Antioch sent relief for the struggling church in Jerusalem because of a famine. Paul did the same thing in one of his missionary trips. You can read about his appeal to give to Jerusalem in 2 Cor. 8-9. William Barclay has said that, "this caring and sharing has always been the mark of the Church when it was truly Christian," (The Apostles Creed, page 247, Westminster John Knox Press)

D. Our Sacrament or Ordinance of sharing the Lord’s Supper we call Communion. Look at 1 Cor. 10:16-17, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread."

Let me say this to you

If you assemble with Christians and say, "I don’t get anything out of this," you are missing the point. If you assemble with a group of Christians and say, "they have nothing to offer me or my family," you are also missing the point. You are simply a consumer with a get for me mentality. Church is about sharing and giving. The Church is to be Jesus to each other. We are to love and share with each other as Jesus has loved us. And as we do, the world will see that this bunch of people may be called saints because we have been forgiven and set apart by God, but we are just sinners saved by grace who share life with each other. Here again, is the importance of spending time with a small group, a life group of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25) Listen, what our Lord Jesus was to one little country, we are to be to the whole world. He spent His 3 years of ministry in a small group as he ministered to the masses. He wants to minister to each of us and minister to the world through us. But you have to believe in one Holy Church and the Communion of Saints. If it is broken or off course we have to work to adjust it, fix, and be the body of Christ.

But, if you aren’t sharing life with a community of believers, you are not fulfilling the purpose that You were redeemed for. The Lord who chose you and redeemed you and gifted you and given you the hope you that have, did so, so you could share life with others. You need to be part of a life group of sinners who have been saved by grace and do life together. Let me close by sharing an example that Paul shared with us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5, We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Let’s pray about it.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman