Is being holy even possible?

People are people—and all of them have their faults and weaknesses. Period. This is true for everyone. And yet faithful, believing Christians are also described as the “communion of saints”, or “the community of the saints”. How do these disparate concepts fit together?

The Apostles’ Creed (also known as the Apostolicum) is an early church creed. It speaks of the Trinity of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in reference to the Holy Spirit, it states: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal ([catholic] church, the communion of saints …”

The “communion of saints” is also the “community of believers” because both of these belong together: name and actions. It is around this concept that the sermons in the New Apostolic Sunday divine services in the month of September revolve. The “community of believers”—this is not some reference to other people. This is addressed to me. For example, in his epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Paul refers to the new man. Here he is talking about the believing Christian who has resolved to follow Jesus Christ. For such an individual, the Son of God is the standard, the beginning and the end—in short, his very direction and orientation. It is His messenger he desires to be. And if Jesus Christ says that His kingdom is not of this world, then He also wants followers who today strive for the everlasting kingdom, and who do not allow themselves to be bound by the daily cares of earthly life.

Not just a name, but a mission

Now the very justified question that arises here is: are we really a community of believers? Do we actually live that way? After all, being holy in this sense is not merely an honorary title, not merely a laurel on which we can afford to rest. Nor is it an excessive demand, or a requirement to put on airs that are not our own. It is a mission that is to be filled with life: “I believe in …” (Apostolicum).

This community of believers can only exist as a group. The saints of God are not soloists, loners, or individual masterpieces. They can only be holy together, because there is only one thing that unites them: through Jesus Christ—not through their own individual efforts—they have been “washed, … sanctified, [and] justified” (1 Corinthians 6: 11). The promise that God’s grace will always be greater than all human sin applies to these holy sinners. Those who take this seriously will remember to structure their personal lives—and their lives in community—in a responsible manner. “We believe in …” (Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople).

A community of prayer

How is this supposed to work? The early Christians in Jerusalem already had a corresponding motto: “And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2: 42). These are special characteristics that distinguish the community of believers.

Let us examine our prayer. Is it empty? Is it purely formal? No. It is more than that: it distinguishes the fellowship of all Christians. In it, their devotion to God—their desire to speak to God and to hear Him—becomes clear. Prayer—whether spoken publicly in church or privately—is always comprised of thanks, praise, and worship. Our worship of God includes our concern for salvation and the well-being of others, as well as the preservation of the creation. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice” (Psalm 95: 6–7). In antiquity, the act of bowing down, or falling to one’s knees, was considered a sign of reverence and respect. God is the ruler to whom all honour and praise is due.

A sacramental community

Let us examine the way we partake of Holy Communion. Is it merely a habit, or part of the liturgy? No! It is more: it unites us and brings us together, and it is essential for salvation. We receive the gift and promise of God in faith—and it is in this way that it takes effect within us as a sacrament. Partaking in Holy Communion characterises our profession of the Lord: those who celebrate it thereby proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ, namely His sacrificial death, His resurrection, and His return—before one another and before the world: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11: 26).

Equipped with this profession, faith and hope come into being in the life of the Christian. Because God fulfils His promises, Christians have an “anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6: 28– 20) for their future hope.

The original standard for our faith

The early church creeds—the Apostolicum and the creed of Nicaea-Constantinople (see the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, CNAC Appendix) are the original standards by which Christians can measure their practice of faith. The essential content of this will be developed in the Sunday divine services of the month of September.


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Peter Johanning
Divine service