The Nicene Creed
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church
It is the greatest scandal of the Christian faith that the Church of Jesus Christ is so divided; indeed, this division has often been the blight of missionary efforts as pagans scratch their heads over the infighting and contradictory claims among the several branches of the Church. At the same time, there have always been heretics in the Church and Paul suggests there always will be (1 Corinthians 11:19). But as far as believers are concerned, our Lord prayed “that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:23). Until that perfect unity is realized, we must content ourselves with a mockery thereof in what theologians refer to as the “invisible” church—as if there were such things as invisible Christians.
Yet, there are marks of the Church of Jesus Christ which the Creed bears out which are not debatable:
1) The Church of Jesus Christ is ONE. The Church is Christ’s body, and our Lord cannot have more than one body. Obviously that body transcends space and even time; that is, more saints are in heaven than are on earth. But the Lord knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19; John 10:14), so that there shall ever be “one flock, one Shepherd” (John 10:16).
2) The Church of Jesus Christ is HOLY. It is made up of those who have been set apart unto our Lord’s service, those for whom the Lord laid down his life (John 10:15), those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
3) The Church of Jesus Christ is CATHOLIC. We do not mean Roman Catholic, but we do mean that the Church of Jesus Christ is that church of believers which has remained true to the apostolic teaching down through the ages in the face of heretics and even persecution. It is closely related to the word, “orthodoxy,” meaning “right worship of doctrine.” To sum: That is catholic and orthodox which the Church has always taught at all times and all places.
4) The Church of Jesus Christ is APOSTOLIC. No church can claim to be true which is not based upon the teaching of the apostles which makeup the New Testament. Today there are people who attempt to drive a wedge between Christ and his apostles, namely because they don’t like some things that Paul said. The Creed makes it clear that the Church is founded upon the teaching of the Apostles who were those especially chosen, taught, and commissioned by our Lord to preach and teach his word. We can allow no daylight between the apostolic doctrine and any one of the New Testament writings since the apostolic doctrine comprises the whole of the New Testament writings—to wit, each and every book was written by an apostle or someone closely related thereto! Thus, orthodoxy and catholicity are intricately tied to apostolicity upon which unity and holiness stand.
Thus, the Church of Jesus Christ is that group of believers crossing over time and space who have been set apart unto him and who strive to conform themselves to the image of His Son as that doctrine and way of life has been revealed in the apostolic writings (i.e., the New Testament), the understanding of which has ever been taught by the Church in all times and places.