The most intelligible expression of the doctrine of the Church is found in the symbolic words of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe … in the holy, catholic Church.…” Such expression in the form of a credo is amply supported by the Holy Scriptures.
1. The Church is a holy fellowship. It is a unique, divinely-created society based on God’s covenant with his people. Israel, chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world,” is the Old Testament Church. Abraham, “called forth” to be the spiritual leader of the Jews, and all the faithful of Israel are fellow “heirs … of the same promise” (Heb. 11:9). Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, fulfills the New Testament Church. He is the New Covenant. Such fulfillment underscores the significance of favorite phrases and terms from the Old Testament in reference to the New Testament Church.
a. St. Paul calls the Church the (true) “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
b. St. Peter calls Christians “the people of God” (1 Pet. 2:10).
c. St. John teaches the broadest fulfillment in his figure of the true vine with a direct allusion to the Church as the new Israel and the successor of the temple. Jesus’ beautiful vine discourse as recorded by St. John and given in the Upper Room (15:1–16) relates Christians to the Church in Christ as branches of the vine, with the warning that separation from the Church is in reality separation from Christ. The same truth is taught by St. Paul in his allegory of the relationship of the body and its member parts (1 Cor. 12:14–31 and Eph. 4:7–14).
d. The word “ecclesia,” most often used in the New Testament for church, is Septuagint Greek from the Hebrew “kahal,” a word that describes the solemn assembly of the people of Israel. The Christian “ecclesia” is a new spiritual ...1
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