We Believe in the Holy Catholic Church (Continued)
Sunday, April 26, 2009 -
“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker 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, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
Last week we studied the Biblical picture of the church as the body of Christ. We saw the two key senses in which Paul applies this image in 1 Corinthians 12:12-18 and Ephesians 4:15-16, noting the difference of emphasis in those two passages. In the Corinthian passage Paul stress the mutual interdependence of the member in the body. In the Ephesians passage Paul stresses the absolute headship of Jesus Christ as the Lord over all the member of the body. Today we continue with point number four:
4) THE VARIED MINISTRIES OF THE CHURCH AND THE NEED FOR BALANCE BETWEEN THEM ALL
While it is true that there are many member in the church and each has a vital role to play in its health and growth, there are three ministries that are central to any healthy church:
a) The church must teach and defend apostolic faith - This pattern is laid down right at the beginning of the life of the New Testament church: Acts 2:42 - “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
These things together make up what the creed calls the “communion of the saints.” But the very first thing on the list is the apostolic teaching. The communion of the saints isn’t just friendship. It’s a vital sharing of a love for the truth. A group doesn’t become a church just because they use a church building (all sorts of secular groups meet in church halls across this country every week). The church is first of all committed to proclaiming and guarding the doctrines of the New Testament.
My advice is the same to all who ask. Don’t stay in any church that doesn’t systematically teach the faith of the New Testament.
b) The church must be committed to ministering to the Lord in worship - Ephesians 1:11-12 - “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
Everything God does He does to glorify Himself. To the extent the church shares His mind and heart, she will extol that glory in everything she does. Worship isn’t something done as pre-amble to another activity. Prayer, praise, and worship are all corporate activities of the church that welcome and invite His presence and power among us.
c) The church must be committed to reaching the world with the gospel - Matthew 28:19 - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit....”
Again, this ties in with the first priority of proclaiming and defending apostolic truth. The church isn’t commanded to make converts. She is commanded to make disciples. We are and must be a proselytizing faith. Whenever anyone gives you the impression that this is a dirty concept they are only showing they don’t understand the very core of Jesus’ heart and life.
d) These three key ministries must be held in proper balance. In a church that only teaches doctrine people will soon end up with much knowledge in their heads but little outreach or expression of the joy of the Lord in their lives. A church that emphasizes only worship and praise and blessings can become ingrown and shallow in their appreciation of both the knowledge of the Scriptures and the peril of those still lost. And a church that only emphasizes reaching the lost can become so engrossed in increasing numbers that it fails to stress holiness and separation from the world. This may be a fairly accurate picture of the state of the contemporary church today. Relevance is always only a hair-line breadth away from compromise.
A healthy Spirit-filled and Spirit-led church will grow in all three areas at equally and at once. In this way she will be the holy, universal church, growing in devotion and ministry to one another and following Jesus as Lord over all. He will build His church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it.