Holy, catholic and apostolic?


I used the following Venn diagram in Sunday’s sermon to illustrate 1 Peter 1:13 to 2:11 and what happens to churches when they let go of one of the three functions of church, to be holy, catholic and apostolic.

Holy – like God in his excellencies and purity
1 Peter 1:15-16 as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Catholic – generously loving because of Christ

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth (humbly submitting to the death of Christ that ransoms sinners v18 and repenting of sin) for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.

Apostolic – sent to proclaim
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

Holy, catholic and apostolic?

Here’s what happens when one function is missing.

The warm holy huddle – holy (relative to the world) and catholic
In this church everyone loves each other and is easy to love because they have taken to heart the call to be holy. There is no mess, no difficult relationships, no desire for changing the status quo because everyone likes things just the way they are. With no vision for the world outside (the lost, the hopeless, the despairing, the evil, people under wrath) the church fails to be apostolic.

The warring holy warriors – holy and apostolic.
Watch out here come the holy warriors. On the war path against sin and evil, they seek to transform the world through conquest but lack love for anyone who differs from their vision of holiness. When the cross is absent catholicity is absent. The weak, the struggling, the new and the young feel left out and lost because they are not able to keep up with the standards of holiness set by this church.

The worldly love club – catholic and apostolic.
Everyone at this church is loved and the church seeks to reach out into the community. The love of this church family overlooks every sin and evil. The church moto is “Join us, you don’t have to change because we are just like you.” The church members really are just like the people around them. There is no distinction between world and church because the holiness of God is overlooked and so people are not called to a life of holiness in Christ.

Winning ways of God church – holy, catholic and apostolic.
Every member is confident in Christ, knowing that they have purified themselves by trusting in his death for their sins. They love one another with catholic generosity, nurturing the weak, the young and the struggling because all are equally redeemed and purified by Christ. And the church sees its purpose as apostolic, not keeping the gospel under wraps but making it known in the culture around the church.

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One Response to Holy, catholic and apostolic?

  1. Timothy Yau says:

    What about the the ‘one’ dimension?

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