Published 6th October 2018
By John Aldworth

Quotation from the Apostles’ Creed:

      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

Do you believe in the ‘holy catholic church’? Countless millions around the world say they do at every service they attend, reciting this phrase as part of the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, or other creeds derived from them. What’s more, stating one’s faith in the Creed and its statements is required of every candidate for baptism in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and other churches. Oddly in such churches no one is required to state their faith in the Bible - the only true doctrinal foundation - as a prerequisite for baptism.

In scripture no ‘church’ on earth is ever described as ‘holy’, nor said to be ‘catholic’, so there is no evidence from the word of God to support the ‘holy catholic church’ concept.  Indeed the word ‘church’ was used only twice by the Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:18 and 18:17) when ministering on earth and in neither case did He call it ‘holy’ or ‘catholic’. What’s more the Apostle John, a saintly man if ever there was one, admitted that ‘if we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar and his word is not in us’ (1 John 1:10) and the Apostle Paul declared that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’. That being the case the ‘catholic church’ on earth must be composed entirely of sinners; in which case it is hard to see how it can be called holy.

For the record then, I do not believe in the ‘holy catholic church’ as an earthly institution. Nor do I believe in the ‘communion of saints’ as mentioned in the creed, since that is held, at least by Catholics and Anglicans, to mean praying to and hearing from dead saints despite the Bible forbidding such necromancy. Nor do I agree that recitation of such creeds, even by catechism, will ‘save’ a person, as is commonly taught. God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only Saviour and it is only through a full submission to Him that a person can be saved.  You see, to ‘repent’ is to ‘submit’ fully to Christ as Saviour and Lord. No pope, priest, parson or church of any sort can be an intermediary between a person and God. This is because God has ordained only one mediator between Himself and men and women, ‘the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5). Neither creed nor prayer recitations, priest, nor pastor can take his place.

Now granted, any denomination, assembly or organisation of men may claim the title ‘Christian’ but it is a far cry from that for it to be truly called ‘holy’. Quite simply, the record of all humanly-organised churches in the world since the day of the apostles belies it. All too often murder, rape, child abuse, condemnation of sinners, religious practices and rituals in place of faith have been their hallmark and it is still so today. Recently it was reported that in one North American Roman Catholic diocese alone more than 300 priests have sexually abused children and, to make it worse, the ‘church’ covered it up in every case. Was it ‘holy’ in doing so? And it’s not just illicit sex that is a besetting sin in such religious institutions. ‘Churches’ of all shapes and sizes resort to often dishonest means to extract, if not extort, money from the adherents they ‘lord it over’.

Worse still, without exception these man-founded, self-proclaimed ‘Christian’ religious entities deny vital truths about God, salvation, and what the true ‘church’ really is, as found in the Bible, holding stubbornly to their traditions and erroneous Bible interpretations instead. For example, it is asserted by the Roman Catholic Church and its offshoots that they are a continuation of the ‘early church’ of the Acts period. But that cannot be true for many reasons. One is that nowhere in scripture is an apostle found commissioning a disciple to take his place and thus continue the ‘apostolic tradition’.

Why you ask?  Because to be an apostle one must have witnessed the Lord’s resurrection (Acts 1:22-26) and also have been chosen and commissioned by the Lord for the task. Thus Matthias was numbered ‘with the eleven’ because he had been with Jesus from the baptism of John through to the resurrection. Paul qualifies as an apostle because he was personally apprehended and commissioned as such by the Lord from heaven when He arrested him on the road to Damascus. What’s more, Paul makes plain in 1 Cor. 15:8 that he was the ‘last’ to see the Lord after his resurrection. Nobody has seen Him since and thus nobody else has been made an apostle.

The point is that, if scripture is carefully studied, the ‘church’ is found to comprise only those specially commissioned by the Lord and in whom He out-positioned Himself, ordaining them to continue the work He had begun on earth. This outpouring of Christ into his commissioned apostles was so real Paul could say, ‘It is no longer I that liveth but Christ that liveth in me’, and that God ‘revealed his Son in me’ (Gal. 1:15 and 2:20). But today who can honestly say the same? Answer: No one. Paul also made plain that when the dispensations changed dispensing of the gospel of the grace of God to the nations was a task given to him, and to him alone, (Eph. 3:1-4). Nobody else need apply for his job or pretend to take his place.

The upshot is that today there are no apostles; neither are there Christ appointed, fully Christ-indwelt, ministers of any sort. Indeed In the current dispensation of the grace of God there are no divinely empowered prophets, pastors, evangelists or teachers such as there were in the Pentecostal dispensation recorded in the Book of Acts.  Now it is a case of ‘unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ’ (Eph.4:7) which puts us all level on the same page.  Consequently there is no ‘church’ as such in operation today, given that ecclesia, Greek word translated ‘church’ means only those in whom Christ out positioned Himself and specially commissioned. There are none such today.

Admittedly, in Eph. 4:11 we are told that God ‘gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers’ but that took place in Acts period and their ministration continued for a short while during the transition from the Pentecostal administration to the dispensation of grace. Certainly, no valid, God-given prophecy has been uttered or recorded since the death of the apostles (John, the Apostle beloved by the Lord, is believed to have died in 90 AD if not before). Nor has anyone since the end of the Acts period exhibited the ‘full signs’ (Rom. 15:19, 2 Cor. 12:12) of an apostle. For Paul these signs, including his power to heal, stopped when he had to leave Trophimus ‘sick at Miletum’ (2 Tim. 4:20).

So, if the Roman Catholic Church is ‘holy’, that is ‘set apart for God’ as the Lord’s apostles, including Paul, were, then it too should be able to exhibit such signs and healings, but it cannot and does not. And please don’t try to kid me; oil injected through hidden channels into the eyes of stone statues of ‘Our Lady’ to make them weep does not qualify as a genuine God-given sign.  

Neither today is there any inherited or derived ‘apostolic authority’ for a church or any person to teach or proclaim as infallible their interpretation of scripture. This is proof in and of itself that as far as proclamation of the truth is concerned only those apostles and prophets in which Christ ‘out-positioned’ Himself in the Acts period, and the subsequent transitional period as the Pentecostal dispensation was phased out and the dispensation of grace came in, were qualified to speak on God’s behalf.

Today by contrast we are bound by the word of God as written in the scriptures. The Reformers had it right when they stipulated ‘Sola scriptura’, ‘only by the scripture’. Paul was mandated by God to make this clear, stating in Eph. 3: 3-4 that it is only when we ‘read’ what he has ‘written’ that we can come understand ‘his knowledge in the mystery (secret) of Christ’. Thus the scriptures, preserved by God from all attempts to eradicate them, are now the only guide to truth, salvation and future destiny.

This, again, is because no such thing as the continuing ‘church’ of the Book of Acts, exists on earth today. Nor, for that matter, does the ‘church which is the body of Christ’ mentioned in Eph. 22-23. It has yet to be summoned into being. So let’s forget the claims that there exists a ‘mystical body of Christ’ which could be called the ‘Holy Catholic Church’. No scripture relevant to our time can be found to support the notion.

However, when the ‘church which is his body’ (Eph. 1:22-23) is called into being at the appearing of Christ at the dawning of his kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1), it will be found to be both the incoming Government of God on earth and also ‘holy’. This is because those appointed to ‘reign with Christ’ (2 Tim. 1:12) will have proved their subjection to Him by suffering with Him and also will have been ‘sanctified’, that is ‘made holy’, i.e. made clean, by the ‘washing of the water of the word’ (Eph. 5:26-27). Please note again that this church is future, not a present reality, as indicated by use of the word ‘might’.

Yes, we are members of his body, ‘of his flesh and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:30) but this body and indeed Christ Himself, and we who believe his message through the Apostle Paul with Him, have yet to ‘appear’ (Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 4:1). Col. 3:3-4 clearly states that at present we are ‘dead and our life is hid with Christ in God’. When the Lord appears in his full glory, then, and only then, shall we appear with Him in glory (i.e. holiness).

The church then in scripture (Greek: ecclesia) is composed only of those specially appointed, commissioned and indwelt by Christ Himself, who have been washed in the word and await their appearing in Christ when he fully unveils Himself in the glory of his kingdom, as He takes up his rule over earth and summons those He counts worthy to join Him. Any claim by any man-organised, man-maintained religious entity now existing on earth to call itself this ‘church’ is accordingly null and void.  


The end