Possibly thirty years ago, a lady in our church said to me … “Don’t you ever tell my son there is no Father Christmas or Easter Bunny!” The myth behind these two characters for children is that the one brings Presents at Christmastime and the other brings Easter Eggs on Easter Sunday. Theologically and doctrinally, this was very sad because children are most impressionable when so young … and like it or not, whether they continue to believe in these two characters or not, this is the start of infusing some sort of mythology into their minds.
Another sad reality is when parents (and other children) speak to children about spooks (ghosts). It is true that the word “ghost” was used for “spirit” many years ago, but the usage I am referring to is of a ghost in the sense of fear. It is also true that the Holy Spirit used to be known as the Holy Ghost. Maybe this was popularized through comic strip cartoons, but damage is done because the ideas placed into the mind linger in some and I would suggest make those children vulnerable to the realm of the mystic.
However, the Holy Spirit is the One who bring presents and gifts to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where He is not visible, His workings are. The Apostles Creed is all about “I believe”. Although we believe in the Holy Spirit, who He is and what He has and does do, there are blessings flowing from His ministry. As we come to the end of the Creed we say …
I believe in the Holy Spirit; Christ’s holy universal church; the fellowship of Christians; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
1) The Holy Spirit is the Caretaker of Christ’s Holy Universal Church. Before we dig into the meaning of each word, let us ask some questions …
(1) What is the Church? In the Latin the word Church is “ecclesia” and in Greek it is “ekklesia”. The word is comprised of two segments. The first is the preposition “ek” meaning “out of”. The second is the verb “kaleo”, meaning “to call” or better, “to call out”. Look at these two examples of the word “Church” (ekklesia).
1Co 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours.
It is the church of God who are sanctified and called.
1Th 1:1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church is the Church “in” God. Literally, the word “Church” as used in the New Testament is a people who have been called out of paganism into union with the true God. Further they are a people called out of their homes, businesses, careers, etc. … called away from those in the world to be God’s people gathered in one place for the purpose of worshipping and glorifying God as they are instructed in the ways of God. Mostly we incorrectly speak of “Church” as a building but “Church” is a people. When you say you are going to Church you are saying I am going to meet the people of God where we will worship Him together.
(2) “What makes the Church, a Church?” If the Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation, regeneration and sanctification, then He is the One who brings the set apart people of God together as the Church. He is the One who makes all believers members of Christ’s Holy Universal Church. By His presence and protection, He keeps the Church of Christ. Each local Church has people in it who are not saved. They might be baptized, confirmed, members and fulfilling duties … but not all are regenerate. We often speak of the “Invisible Church”. When we do we are referring to the “True Church” on earth, made up of regenerate souls from all local churches across the planet.
2) The Church is Holy. These people are separated to God and for God. They are God’s people … they are holy set apart for the purposes of God. They are a people who are different from the world because they have been separated from the world to be God’s own. This means that their existence is dependent upon faith and this faith is build up and purified through the study of the Word of God, which instructs in pure doctrine. The concept of “holy” is not only separated to God but it is separated from the world. The separation is guided by the Word of God.
3) The Church is universal. In years gone by we used the term “catholic”. This term implies geographical extensions throughout the world as the Gospel of God makes in roads into every ethnicity. The problem however is that the Church of Rome started calling herself the Roman Catholic Church … meaning the worldwide Church of God and by implication, she was the only true Church. Wise Reformed Theologians from various Protestant Churches changed the wording to “universal”, which in essence separates any notion that Reformed, Protestant Churches have a connection with the Church of Rome. By “universal” we are saying that our Church in itself is not the only Church. Other Churches also have the Truth, the Bible and the Gospel. They too enjoy the presence of saved souls and they also, wherever they might be found on earth are part of the “Invisible Church” of Jesus.
4) Although we have considered this … the Church is the Church of God. It does not belong to the pastor, the Church Council (eldership) or certain members … it belongs to God. Too often people with in Churches, including pastor and leaders think the Church is theirs. They run the Church they way that suits them. They have constitutions that are confusing, with little guidance from Scripture. Yet we read:
Ac 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
(1) The Church is God’s Church. He (as in Triune) bought the Church (Body of Believers) with His own Blood. God owns the Church not any man (pastor or Church leader … not even the one who planted / started the Church).
(2) True pastors are appointed by the Holy Spirit to oversee, take care of, teach and equip the Church that belongs to God.
Father, thank You that the True Church is your possession, blood purchased. Help us as believers to remember that we participate in Your Church, not our Church. Amen.