Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Koodosh E'tho - Sanctification of the Church
Featuring The Kingdom of God, The Holy Church
Volume 6 No. 381 October 28, 2016
III. Featured: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Four Marks of The True Church Founded by Jesus Christ
Jesus said his Church would be "the light of the world." He then noted that "a city set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matt. 5:14). This means his Church is a visible organization. It must have characteristics that clearly identify it and that distinguish it from other churches.

Jesus promised, "I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). This means that his Church will never be destroyed and will never fall away from him. His Church will survive until his return.

The faith and doctrine of the church is described in the Nicene Creed. After describing the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), Nicene Creed describes the church as follows:

And in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church;
and we confess one Baptism for the remission of sins;
and look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the new life in the world to come.

So, the Church founded by Jesus, has four chief marks or qualities. It must be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. (Nicene Creed)

Let us take a look at what that means.

The Church Is One (Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 10:17, 12:13)

Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches. The Bible says the Church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23–32).

His Church also teaches just one set of doctrines, which must be the same as those taught by the apostles (Jude 3). This is the unity of belief to which Scripture calls us (Phil. 1:27, 2:2).

The Church Is Holy (Eph. 5:25–27, Rev. 19:7–8)

By his grace, Jesus makes the Church holy, just as he is holy. This doesn't mean that each member is always holy. Jesus said there would be both good and bad members in the Church (John 6:70), and not all the members would go to heaven (Matt. 7:21–23).

But the Church itself is holy because it is the source of holiness and is the guardian of the special means of grace Jesus established, the sacraments (cf. Eph. 5:26).

The Church Is Catholic [Universal] (Matt. 28:19–20, Rev. 5:9–10)

Jesus' Church is called catholic (meaning, "universal" in Greek) because it is his gift to all people. He told his apostles to go throughout the world and make disciples of "all nations" (Matt. 28:19–20).

For 2,000 years the Church has carried out this mission, preaching the good news that Christ died for all men and that he wants all of us to be members of his universal family (Gal. 3:28).

The Church Is Apostolic (Eph. 2:19–20)

The Church Jesus founded is apostolic because he appointed the apostles to be the first leaders of the Church, and their successors were to be its future leaders. The apostles were the first bishops, and, since the first century, there has been an unbroken line of bishops faithfully handing on what the apostles taught the first Christians in Scripture and oral Tradition (2 Tim. 2:2).

These beliefs include the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist/Qurbana, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the forgiveness of sins through a priest, baptismal regeneration, and much more - even the doctrine of apostolic succession itself.

The Structure of The Church

Jesus chose the apostles to be the earthly leaders of the Church. He gave them his own authority to teach and to govern - not as dictators, but as loving pastors and fathers. That is why Orthodox and Catholics call their spiritual leaders "father." In doing so we follow Paul's example: "I became your father in Jesus Christ through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).

The apostles, fulfilling Jesus' will, ordained bishops, priests, and deacons and thus handed on their apostolic ministry to them.

The Patriarch and Bishops

Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles (John 21:15–17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon to Peter, which means "rock" (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matt. 16:18).

In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon's new name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and into English as Peter. Christ gave Peter alone the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19) and promised that Peter's decisions would be binding in heaven. He also gave similar power to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), but only Peter was given the keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus' absence.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the chief shepherd of his Church (John 21:15–17). He gave Peter the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith, ensuring that they taught only what was true (Luke 22:31–32). Peter led the Church in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions (Acts 2:1– 41, 15:7–12).

Adapted from: Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth,
Copyright © 1996, Catholic Answers. All Rights Reserved.

The Two-Faced Church: Both Are Accurate

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"…a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27).

Anyone can criticize the church. It's the most vulnerable institution in the world, the most victimized, and the most vilified.

Criticizing the church is like clubbing baby seals. It has no way of fighting back, but just lays there and takes what you dish out. The difference is that, after the beating, the church stands to her feet and goes on about her business, while you the critic walk away beaming as though you have done something heroic.

You haven't. You have picked on the easiest target in the world.

In this morning's newspaper, some (ahem) rocket scientist wrote a letter to the editor taking on the church for the Spanish Inquisition of the Middle Ages and before that the Crusades. I assume he just discovered these.

No institution on earth has been so targeted for villainy as has the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Satan and his legions persecute it and when that doesn't work, they imitate it in order to make people think the wickedness they're perpetrating is actually done by the people of God.
  • The world at large has never quite known what to do with the church, even while reaping a thousand benefits from its benevolence, but represses and persecutes and harasses and outlaws it.
  • Governments pass laws to fence it in to safe areas, at the same time they enjoy the benefits of peaceful people doing peace-loving work.
  • Even the Lord's people are sometimes their own worst enemies, serving Him half-heartedly and playing at the most serious work on the planet, while offering shoddy soiled offerings of fake righteousness to Him and calling it holy.
  • Perhaps worst of all, the leaders of the church have frequently violated the teachings of the Master and manipulated their congregations for ambition, greed, power, or wickedness.

As a result of all this and more, what was said of the people of God in the First Century can be said of every generation since:

"When (Jesus) saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd"
(Matthew 9:36).

We need to keep reminding ourselves and teaching the Lord's people of the dual nature of the Church. If we miss this or if we focus on one aspect to the neglect of the other, we will err big time and mislead others.

One: The Church of Jesus Christ is magnificent and glorious, a holy thing, and destined to reign with Him in Heaven.

The New Testament calls the church the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the household of faith, the family of God, a holy priesthood, and a hundred other terms.

Jesus said, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

  1. It's His church; He bought it with a price (see Ephesians 5:25 and Acts 20:28);
  2. He builds it. He is both owner and operator. He is the Head of the church and thus the chief decision -maker.
  3. When He owns the church and calls the shots, He guarantees its victory.

Paul calls it "the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15).

Scripture teaches that as the Body of Christ, the church is so identified with Him that whatever anyone does to the church - or those who belong to it - Jesus takes personally.

  • In Acts 9:4-5, Jesus tells Saul of Tarsus that in harassing His people, he is persecuting Jesus Himself.
  • In Matthew 25:40,45, the Lord teaches that by ministering to "the least of these my brethren," we are ministering to Him.
  • In Matthew 10:40, He tells the departing missionary disciples that "whoever receives you receives me." Truly amazing.

Nothing elevates the church more than knowing the incredible value Jesus places on it.

In John's vision of Heaven, he saw the Lord's church, and described it as:

"A great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!'"

When someone asked who these people were, the response was equally as rapturous:

"These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him night and day in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger any more nor thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes"
(Revelation 7).

Surely, the church has a glorious identity and an even more magnificent future.

The Lord has big plans for His people, now and in eternity.

Two: The church is made up of flawed, limited, imperfect people like you and me, can fail big time, and is often a royal mess.

We might have wished the Lord had sought out some counsel before setting up the church in such a vulnerable way, composing it of sinners who are so prone to failure. What was He thinking?!! (smiley -face goes here)

Thank God He did.

Had He built the church only of the perfect, He would have skipped me and I would have missed a lifetime of blessings and of ministry. Thank God "He included me." As He did you.

No scripture says it more pointedly than this line from David: "He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14).

My friend, the Lord is under no illusion about you and me.

He knew He was getting no bargain when he redeemed us.

When we sin, the only one surprised is us.

"God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

God's people are hemmed in by their limitations. Consider that…

  •  "No one has seen God at any time" (John 1:18).
  •  "We see through a glass darkly….we know in part…." (I Corinthians 13:12).
  •  "We do not know how to pray as we should" (Romans 8:26).
  •  "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2).
  •  "In my flesh there dwells no good thing" (Romans 7:18).
  •  "We do not know what a day may bring" (Proverbs 27:1).
  •  "Without (Jesus), you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
  •  "It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

So, take a group of people with such baggage (of sin, guilt, fears) and such severe limitations and throw them into a church with instructions to take the message of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth, and stand back.

  • They will get it right sometimes and just as often, get it wrong.
  • They will squander their resources on themselves sometimes and at other times amaze even Heaven with their generosity and sacrifices.
  •  They will sometimes go to the ends of the earth to spread the word and at other times not rise from the recliner to help a neighbor.

Throughout history, the church has rung up some fairly notable failures. In the Deep South, most churches of the first half of the 19th Century approved slavery. Then, for the rest of that century and the first half of the 20th, the same churches approved segregation and second -class status for African -Americans. (This is not to say all churches failed in this way. After all, Martin Luther King was the product of the church.)

The church has much to be humble about. These days, in the United States, denominations have to guard themselves against becoming identified with one political party or the other. The more liberal denominations want to join themselves in an unholy matrimony to the Democratic Party, while the more conservative denominations shack up with the Republicans.

How does that line go? "The church that weds today's culture will be a widow tomorrow."

The human and frail side of the church's makeup should keep us on our knees and in the Word seeking the Lord's protection and guidance.

The glorious, heavenly nature of the church should keep us looking up, giving our all, and preaching the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must teach both natures of the church.

Teach only the grand and glorious side of the church and we grow disillusioned with the reality we see all around us. Few churches can maintain the glory side of the Lord's work long without descending into self -centeredness, bickering, and arguing. It's a constant struggle to stay on track.

Teach only the frail, human side of the church and we lose all hope, find ourselves joining other organizations which seem nobler and holier, and deserting those who look to the church for light in their darkness, hope in their despair, and salvation in their depths.

Thank God for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is indeed the "pillar and support of the truth."

The Church is a Bride, not a Widow

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.
Rev (12:10)

Then comes the end, when [Christ] hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for "he subjected everything under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25-27)

"He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever."
(Lk 1:55-59)

Earlier this week we meditated on the need to cultivate serenity in the midst of the great cultural battle that is being waged all about us, and in which we are engaged. And one of the sources of that serenity must be the knowledge, revealed by God, that we have the victory.

This does not mean that we sit back and do not engage the fight for truth and God’s Kingdom. But it does mean that we engage the battle with the serene confidence that, even despite setbacks and times of diminishment, the battle is the Lord’s and that he has already won, only the news has not yet leaked out to some.

The Church is a Bride, not a widow. Her spouse Jesus lives, and, as the text above from First Corinthians says, he is putting every enemy under his feet, yes, every authority, sovereignty and power. And indeed the Church, his Bride has thus far outlived everyone of her opponents, from the Judaizers, to Caesar, from Napoleon to the USSR.

Many today shout doom for the Church, declare her outdated, irrelevant, and boldly (and foolishly) declare, like many before, that they will see her buried. "Ah!” they gleefully scoff, "Your day is over!” Yet long after the reductionism, materialism, atheism and confused moral vision of the modern scoffers has run its course, the Church will still be here proposing the Gospel and praising the Lord.

She is a living bride, espoused to the sovereign Lord of History. Persecute her, and she only grows stronger, command her silence, and still she sings with wedded bliss, looking always to her glorious spouse. Yes, she sings:

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

Yes, still she sings:

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
His reign shall know no end, and round His piercèd feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend their fragrance ever sweet.

And even in a time of persecution and seeming decline, we ought never forget that the victory is our in Christ Jesus. The Bride’s victory is well attested by God himself:

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!” Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Rev 20:2-6)

It is done, the victory is certain and it is ours in Christ Jesus.

The Church is a Bride, not a widow, though you might never know it walking into some Catholic parishes where the Mass seems more like a funeral than a wedding. A quick look might yield an impression other than a wedding: sour faced saints, bored believers with a kind of "tedium delirium” look. Yes, "the frozen chosen” look. Where is the joy, the zeal, the happiness of the Bride who is loved, and has been saved by her groom from other bad suitors? Always remember that the Mass is the great wedding feast of the Lamb. And the Church, joyful to be with her victorious groom, rejoices to hear his voice, and share sweet communion with him in the Holy Eucharist.

Yes, a bride, not a widow.

Do you live this way? Are you and I confident even in the midst of conflict and setbacks? Do we engage the battle with a serene confidence that comes from knowing the ultimate victory is ours? Or does anger and vengeance in us bespeak more of a fearful striking out? Do people see a joy and confidence in us that is increasingly unassailable, or are we an easy target to unsettle with fear?

It is a very different thing to engage the battle with joy, confident of the ultimate outcome, than to engage the battle fearful, and insistent on present victory. If present victory is the only measure of success, then the cross, seen only in its present moment, was a failure. But clearly it was not. Thus, we engage the battle, not to win every present fight, but knowing that even momentary losses are often paradoxical victories. Why? Because Jesus is the Lord of History. He can make a way out of no way, and write straight with crooked lines. He can draw life from death, and victory from defeat. He has the power to do whatever he wills. And even as the sinful world laughs, he is treading underfoot all error and sin. The boastful cannot stand their ground before the Lord.

The Church is a Bride, and the joyful mother of us all. Have confidence, and be of good cheer. The world as we know it may be passing away, but the Lord has conquered, and the Church, by his grace and promise, will remain always, and share in the ultimate victory of Jesus, when He, having placed all his enemies under his feet he hands over the Kingdom to his Father.


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