In 325 AD the Church met at the Council of Nicea to address many things concerning the proper doctrine of Christ and the proper doctrine of the Church.
The result of the council is summarized very clearly and concisely in a creed they wrote called the ‘Nicene Creed.’ The first sentence of the last paragraph of this creed reads as follows: “And we believe in One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church…”
These four marks of the Church: One, Holy, catholic, and Apostolic define what the Church of Christ is in every age and every generation. Throughout the next weeks on the blog I’ll look at each of these four marks with an aim to understand what the Church is to be today. Our focus now is in on the first mark of the Church: unity, or to use the words of the Nicene creed – the Church is ONE.
Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop gave an example in their book ‘The Compelling Community’ about a Harvard professor named Bill Anderson. Dr. Anderson teaches a class called ‘The Madness of Crowds’ which aims to teach the concept of ‘mass psychology.’ In this class he examines the nature of New England witch hunts, urban legends, and financial panics. His entire life was devoted to teaching this subject. But one day, to further his study, Professor Anderson decided to visit a church. He was not prepared for what he encountered. In his own words he said this, “It was striking from the first moments I came through the door. It was clear that something special was going on. The relationships seemed not so much unnatural as highly uncommon. So I was introduced to the idea of a healthy church – a concept that had before eluded me.”
The power of this congregation’s corporate witness provoked this Harvard professor, it undermined and confused his conceptions of Christianity, more so, this moment began the process that would eventually lead to Bill Anderson’s new life in Christ.
But let’s ask the question: where did the corporate witness in this congregation come from?
Did it come from the music?
Did it come from the pastor’s personality?
Did it come from the coffee served there?
No, all of these are not enough and fall short. Where did it come from then? Well, when you and I became Christians we underwent a complete identity shift. We were blind (John 3:3), lost (Luke 15), and dead in sin (Eph. 2) but now we’re new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), children of God (1 John 3:1-2), and united to Christ (Rom. 6:1-8). Now being a Christian is more fundamental to our identity than the family we come from, the ethnicity we represent, the job we labor in, it is even more important than our nationality and personality.
The unity we share with other Christians is greater than any other bond we have in this world. This means where Christians exist, diversity exists, but the stunning thing about the witness of a healthy church is that in the midst of diversity, there is unity. Therefore, our unity is a visible display of the invisible gospel.