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The Catholicity of the Church

When the Apostle's Creed refers to the "holy catholic church," it is not referring to Roman Catholicism. Rome claims to be the holy catholic church, but is, in fact, neither holy, nor catholic, nor the church of Jesus Christ, but the false church.

The word "catholic" means "universal" and is a proper description of the true church of Christ. We ought not abandon the word to Romanism.

That the church is universal is clear from many passages of Scripture. Revelation is describing the catholic church in 7:9. There we read of a multitude that no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues standing before the throne.

Properly interpreted, Galatians 3:28 is also speaking of that catholicity. It is not denying the headship of the man over the woman (I Cor. 11 and Eph. 5) or differences of gifts given to Christians. Instead it is saying that all are equal as Christians by virtue of the fact that they are in Christ Jesus. They are all Abraham's children.

Let there be, therefore, no prejudice or bigotry in the church of Christ - no rejection of others because of their skin color, language, nationality, or customs. These things make NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL.

The idea that one language is better suited to express the Christian faith than another, or that people of some races do not make very good Christians, denies the catholicity of the church. So is the notion that one country or people represent in some special sense the kingdom of God, as Dispensationalism and British Israelitism teach.

But the catholicity of the church does not only mean that people from every nation are gathered into the church by the power of God's sovereign grace (for it is grace alone that makes a difference). It also means that God gathers His church through all ages.

The catholicity of the church, therefore, assures us that we shall be with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in God's heavenly kingdom (Matt. 8:11). It allows believers now living to be referred to in Revelation 6:11 as the fellow-servants and brethren of the martyrs.

Lastly, the catholicity of the church means that all kinds of people belong to the church. Rich and poor, great and small, young and old, master and servant, male and female - the church has room for them all.

This is what the Word is thinking of in I Timothy 2 when it commands us to pray for "all" men. The word "all" does not mean "all without exception." It would be impossible anyway to pray for all in that sense. Rather the word refers to "all kinds" as the reference to rulers shows. We are to pray for "all kinds" of men because God wills to save "all kinds" and Christ has died for "all kinds" (not all without exception).

James has this same aspect of the catholicity of the church in mind when he blames Christians for showing favor to the rich and despising the poor (2:1-9). We do similarly when we despise other Christians for their outward condition.

Believing in the catholicity of the church, then, we believe "that the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Rom. 10:12-13).

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 6
  • Issue: 6
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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