The church's holiness & catholicity (Nicene Creed #10)
We come now to the church's holiness and catholicity.
As noted by Thomas F. Torrance in The Trinitarian Faith, though holiness is God's will for the church...
...[it] does not derive from any moral goodness or purity of its members, but from the holiness of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The holiness of the Church is thus objectively grounded in the utterly transcendent holiness, glory and purity of God's being (pp280-281).God comes among his people, the church, and in doing so sanctifies them - or as T.F. says, "implicates them" in God's own holiness. Coming among them as a holy God would annihilate his people, except that he comes with grace and mercy, and, ultimately, he comes through the incarnation of his Son. In Jesus Christ, God takes our diseased humanity into himself where it is sanctified (made holy). T.F. comments:
Since the Church was brought into being through [the Son of God's] assumption of our fallen and enslaved humanity into himself, the self-sanctification of Christ as the Holy One in its midst brings the holiness of the Holy Spirit to bear upon it in conviction and judgment of its unrighteousness, but nevertheless in such a way that the Church is justified in Christ and made holy with his holiness (pp281-282).Thus the holiness of the church (its righteousness and sanctification) is not its own, but is derived from Christ, "who is Righteousness in his own being" (p282).
Jesus then presents his sanctified humanity to the world through his body, the church:
Through the self-sanctification of Christ in its midst and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon it, the Church has been chosen by God and set apart as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...[it is thus] the unique place where God is immediately present to us through the Holy Spirit in his very own being as God (p282).Catholicity
In saying that the church is "catholic" the Creed is saying that it is "universal" or "all inclusive":
The Catholic Church is to be understood as embracing all dimensions of the people of God and their existence throughout space and time, for by the very nature of its unique foundation of Christ upon his apostles, and in virtue of the faith once and for all delivered to it by the apostles, the Church must ever be one and the same in all ages and places (p283).The Creed thus correlates the catholicity of the Church with its apostolic faith, which is the basis for the church's one doctrine. The church's catholicity is also correlated with the "universal range of the incarnation and atonement" - for the Son of God "died and rose again for all people irrespective of who they are" (p284). T.F. comments further:
The oneness of the Church arises out of the interlocking of the incarnation and the atonement... the indivisibility of the Person and work of Christ as the one Mediator between God and man. This one Church is intrinsically catholic because it is the one Body of Christ in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in whom all things visible and invisible are gathered up and reconciled to God, and because as the Body of such a Christ the Church is itself the fullness of him who fills all things.
The catholicity of the Church, then, refers to the intensive wholeness and fullness of the Church in Christ, to the coordination of the Church, everywhere, in every place, and throughout all space and time, with the wholeness and fullness of Christ himself (p285).When we next return to this series on the Creed, we'll discuss the apostolicity of the church.