Advent Series: Nicene Creed – The Church (5)

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

We close this year’s Advent series with the final article of the Nicene Creed.

While the previous three articles focused on the divine persons of the Trinity, the final article focuses on the Church and the benefits granted to those in Christ.

The first statement of the article is essentially a statement of the “who” of these benefits. It affirms that there is one Church. This universal Church is marked by four characteristics:

  • One – It is a single entity, not a collection of many entities. Although it is true that there are many local churches, these local churches are not utterly independent, and are interconnected and interdependent on the rest of Christ’s body.
  • Holy – It is a sanctified and set apart Church. It is Christ’s body, and to say that Christ’s body is unholy is impious blasphemy.
  • Catholic – It is universal. It is not restricted by geographic or temporal boundaries. The Church that Athanasius was a part of in 4th Century Alexandria, is the same Church that Martin Luther was a part of in 16th Century Germany, is the same Church that I am a part of in 21st Century New Hampshire.
  • Apostolic – It is founded on the teaching and lineage that Christ gave to the Church through his apostles.

After defining what the Church is, the creed then proceeds to explain what the benefits are for those who are in Christ.

  • One Baptism – The baptism of one part of the Church is the same baptism given in another part of the Church, and movement from one place to another does not require rebaptism.[1]
  • For the Remission of Sins – this baptism is not merely a baptism of membership or association, but is a baptism which is intimately related to the forgiveness of sins. [2]
  • I look for the resurrection of the dead – Christians are to have hope in a future bodily resurrection.
  • and the life of the world to come – Christians affirm that Christ will reign in a renewed earth upon which he will bodily dwell, eternally, with his people.

[1] Various kinds of Christians would practice what might be called “rebaptism.” However, this is not because they are saying a previous baptism is different from their own, but typically because they do not recognize that a previous rite was in fact baptism.

[2] Exactly how baptism relates to the forgiveness of sins is a hotly debated topic within Christianity. It is likely that the original writers of the Creed had in mind a form of baptismal regeneration.

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