Scott Swain on the Four Marks of the True Church

The church is the crowning achievement in the work of salvation, planned by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and brought into reality by the Spirit (Eph 1:3–14). The Father’s “plan for the fullness of time” is to sum up all things in heaven and earth under the headship of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10). This plan is realized, in part, in a covenant community, that is the body, building, and bride of Jesus Christ, its head (Eph 1:22–23; 2:20; 5:23). In this covenant community, the grace, purchased by Christ the Redeemer (Eph 1:7) is poured out by Christ, the ruler in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:22–23; 5:18) to the glory of God the Father: “to him be glory in the church, and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:21).

According to common Christian confession, the defining features or “marks” of this covenant community, are unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. These four marks are vital indicators of the church’s, being and well-being. Not only do they indicate the identity of the true church, distinguishing it from others falsely, claiming these marks, but “there is one body and one spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in all” (Eph 4:4–6). These four marks also indicate the vocation of the church. Under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and endowed with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, the church is called to pursue unity and holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.

Scott R. Swain | “Retrieving Catholicity: A Reformed Perspective” | Modern Reformation | 31.6 (Nov/Dec 2022), 27


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