Friday, March 21, 2014
The Ninth Article of the Creed.
In one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The ninth article of the Creed speaks about the Church of Christ, which Jesus Christ founded on earth for the sanctification of sinful people and for their reconciliation with God.
The Church is called a union of all Orthodox Christians, living and dead, for He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38), united among themselves in faith and Christian love, by its hierarchy and by its sacraments.
Each individual Orthodox Christian is a member or a part of the Church. When we say that we believe in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Church is understood to include all people who confess one and the same Orthodox Faith. It does not only mean the building where we go to pray to God and which is also called the church of God. Jesus Christ entrusted the visible construction and government of the Church to the Apostles, and then to their successors, the bishops, and through them He invisibly rules the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the true Head of the Church, and no other head of the Christian Church exists or ever will. Jesus Christ is Head, and the Church is the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23).
The holy Apostle Paul says, For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13). Thus, ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (I Cor. 12:27). He (Jesus Christ) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (the Church) (Eph. 4:11-12).
Jesus Christ said that His Church is invincible and will endure forever. I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:20).
The truth of God, His teaching, is preserved in the one Church of Christ, ...the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Jesus Christ said, But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26) that the Holy Spirit may abide with you forever (John 14:16).
He who obeys the Church, obeys Christ Himself, and he who does not obey, but rejects her, rejects also the Lord Himself. If one does not obey the Church, let him be to you like as a heathen man, and a publican, said the Lord Himself (Matt. 18:17).
The Church of Christ is one, because it is one spiritual body, has one head, Christ, and is inspired by one Spirit (cf. Eph. 4:4-6). It has one goal, the sanctification of people, and everywhere the same teachings of God, and the same sacraments. Therefore, the Church cannot fall into ruin or become divided. Heretics may fall from Her or become separated from Her; they then cease to be members of the Church. The Church by their action does not cease to be united. The Church obliges all of us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:5).
The existence of geographical divisions of the Orthodox Church, such as Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Russia and others, does not violate the unity of the Church of Christ at all. For they all are revealed to be members of one body, One Universal Church of Christ. They all confess the same faith, and have prayers and sacraments in common.
The Church of Christ is Holy, because it is sanctified by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, through His suffering, with His divine teachings and with the Holy Sacraments established by Him, in which the Grace of the Holy Spirit is given to the faithful. Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify it... (Eph. 5:25-26).
The sanctity of the Church is not violated by Christians when they sin because they can always cleanse themselves through the Mystery of Repentance. If someone remains unrepentant, then he visibly or invisibly withdraws from the Church.
The Church of Christ is Catholic. Catholicity is the unity of all believing Orthodox Christians, united in truth by the love of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church is bound neither by natural boundaries nor time nor by people, and it consists of all true believers everywhere. Therefore it is also called universal.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ is furthermore called Apostolic, because the Lord spread it and strengthened it through the holy Apostles. The word Apostolic is essential because the Church uninterruptedly and without change has preserved the Apostolic teaching and the succession of the gift of the Holy Spirit through holy ordination.
The highest visible authority in the Church belongs to the Ecumenical Council. Primacy in the Ecumenical Church is composed of the patriarchs, then of lesser prelates — metropolitans, archbishops and bishops. Local councils, if their decisions are in agreement with the spirit of Orthodoxy as revealed in the past, also have authority.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is furthermore called Orthodox (from the Greek, ortho, correct, straight, true, and doxa, glory, worship, in the sense also of dogma, piety, teaching), because, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, It unchanging, correctly and gloriously keeps the teachings of Jesus Christ — so that we may glorify God in a way that pleases Him.