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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
“The Holy Catholic Church”

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Matthew 16:13–20

From the Confessions: The Apostles’ Creed

“The holy catholic Church.”

Pulling It Together

We confess three things in this phrase. Let us consider them in reverse order. First, we confess that God has constructed himself a Church. Jesus told Peter that he would build his Church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Mark 16:18). Despite everything the devil has thrown against and continues to throw against the Church, it still stands and will remain until that Day when everything is transformed. God's people will assemble in worship, fellowship, and study, and there is nothing that the devil can do to put an end to the Church that Jesus has built.

We confess a catholic Church. Used in the creed, catholic means general or universal, especially in the sense of a people who hold to orthodox or correct doctrine. When saying the creed, we claim that there is a such a Church, free from heresy and in possession of a faith that stretches back to the time of Christ and his Apostles.

We also confess that this Church Christ built is holy. Now, take one look around you on Sunday mornings and you might beg to differ. That perspective, however, would hardly be from God's viewpoint. The Father looks through the lens of a cross, an empty tomb, an ascended Savior. He sees the catholic Church as being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. The Church is holy because of her Savior, not because of her deeds, or lack thereof.

Luther liked to say that we believe in the “holy Christian Church.” He thought it said as much as universal without being confusing. The hymnal of my boyhood (Service Book and Hymnal, 1958) had us saying “holy Christian Church.” These days, some of us say “catholic” again, instead of "Christian." Regardless, all Christians, whether Lutheran or otherwise, ought to confess with joy what Christ has done by building himself a Body that is righteous, right teaching, holy, and lasting.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for calling people from all parts of the earth, and from the past, present, and future to be the Church of your promise. Amen. 

Introduce young students to the Church through this five-week series titled Welcome to Church. Click here for the Table of Contents and a sample session.

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