(This is part fifteen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
“I believe in the communion of the saints.”
There are two important ideas in this little line: communion and sainthood. Both of these ideas stem from one of my favorite parts of the Gospel, and that is reconciliation. Sin is the great divider that separates us from God but it also drives a wedge into human relationships. Because of sin our relationships with God and with one another are broken. When Christ died on the cross He reconciled us to God and to one another; thus we are able to enjoy the communion of the saints. That being said, I’ll just break this down into two simple questions.
What is sainthood? The Roman Catholic tradition for sainthood is not what we’re talking about here. According to Roman Catholic tradition:
In official [Catholic] procedures there are three steps to sainthood: one becomes Venerable, Blessed and then a Saint. Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized as having lived heroic virtues. To be recognized as a blessed, and therefore beatified, in addition to personal attributes of charity and heroic virtue, one miracle, acquired through the individual’s intercession, is required. Canonization requires two, though a Pope may waive these requirements.
But the Bible actually paints a different picture for sainthood. I could blatantly rip it off, but instead I’ll share a link to an article that does an excellent job of explaining the Biblical teachings about being a saint. Three important things to take away from that article:
- “The idea of the word “saint” is a group of people [the Church] set apart for the Lord and His kingdom.”
- “Scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints…and at the same time are called to be saints.”
- “Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. This is the Biblical description and calling of the saints.”
Therefore, the only person who can declare someone a saint is Jesus. All Christians are saints because of their connection to Jesus Christ. That brings us to our second question…
What is communion? I would dare say that Communion is largely misunderstood in the modern Church. If you don’t believe me, explain why this video is so funny!
While communion may seem pretty simple, unleavened bread and wine, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.Communion is a time when believers remember the sacrifice that Christ has made on their behalf. But it’s also a time to contemplate the benefits of such a sacrifice; specifically, reconciliation with God and with one another. The Church is intended to be Christ’s Body here on earth; thus we are united with Christ but also with one another. In Romans 12, Paul describes the Church as a body; in a physical body all the members are organically connected, in the Church all the members are spiritually connected. Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians 11:33 Paul is stressing the unity of mind that Christians should have when they come together for Communion.
In this line of the Apostles’ Creed, two things are being stressed. First is the fact that Christ declares His followers to be saints. Second is the fact that we are reconciled to God and to one another; there is beautiful unity achieved as a result of Christ’s finished work.
I’ve shared communion with saints literally all around the world, from Knoxville, TN to probably a dozen different churches in Alaska and even in Japan. I’ve shared communion and worshiped Jesus with a great church in Portland, OR that Connie and I plan on attending as soon as we get down there. I’ve even worshiped and shared communion with the saints in Afghanistan (where I met some amazingly passionate Christians, Danny & Andrea Avery) and I’ve had the privilege of worshiping with the saints in the United Arab Emirates. It’s been an amazing privilege to see that no matter where I go there is always a group of people there who I can connect with. The Church truly is a world-wide Body that spans entire continents and is bonded by the blood of Christ.
For me, this line most vividly reminds me of one of the most beautiful worship experiences I’ve ever encountered. Last year I had the privilege of visiting the Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi. There were people from over 60 different nations all gathered together to worship Jesus. And it wasn’t like there was a section for white people, a section for Asians, a section for blacks; no, we were all sitting completely mixed together as a diverse, but unified group. It was beautiful! It was the communion of the saints.