By Ps Ho Wei Liang
This part of the Apostles Creed, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,” states our belief in the third Person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. Reference to the Holy Spirit here affirms our belief in the triune God—God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit makes God real to us. None of us was present when God created the world, nor when Christ was born. Nevertheless, Christ is real to us even as He applies to us all the benefits of salvation. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, no one could become a believer: there would be no conviction of sin (John 16:7-15) and no spiritual birth (John 3:6-8). Correspondingly, there would not have been “the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins” (as well as “the resurrection of the body, and the Life everlasting”).
It is the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ, making us members of his body, which is “the holy catholic Church” (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:17-23). It is holy because it belongs to the One who is holy and is set apart by Him for His purposes. It is catholic because Christ’s Gospel which births the Church is universally valid and relevant—for every person of every race, gender and age, across all time and space. Despite the presence of different churches and denominations, the Church is one because all genuine Christian churches are based and founded on the one and only foundation of Jesus Christ.
Communion is the old English word for “fellowship”—and that identifies a key role of the Church. The Westminster Confession says that every saint is “bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion,” hence setting forth that every Christian is under obligation to seek the spiritual and temporal welfare of others.
Finally, in “the forgiveness of sins,” the Creed compresses its understanding of what Christ achieved on the cross. It encapsulates the motifs of forgiveness, reconciliation, salvation and redemption found in the New Testament’s rich understanding about what transpired between God, Christ and humanity in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Let us be reminded through these words every time we recite the Apostles Creed, praising God for the work of the Holy Spirit through whom these blessings are lavished on us.