In the Apostles’ Creed we confess that we believe “a holy catholic church.” Catholic here means universal or worldwide. But what does it mean to say that we believe a holy catholic church? Notice that it doesn’t say “we believe in the holy catholic church.” The Creed doesn’t call the Church a Savior or the object of our faith. Instead, we confess that we believe there is such a thing as a holy catholic church that belongs to Jesus. Dutch Reformed pastor-theologian Herman Witsius (d. 1708) wrote some helpful comments on this:
When we affirm, therefore, that we believe the Church, we profess, that there has existed from the beginning of time, still exists, and will continue to the end of the world to exist, a society of men chosen by God to salvation, called by the Gospel and the Spirit, professing faith and piety with the mouth, and practicing them in the conduct. We declare, also, that neither the machinations of the world that lieth in wickedness, nor the gates of hell, shall ever prevail against this society.
For it is utterly impossible that the decree of God should fail;
that the promises of God should come to nought;
that the word of salvation should be preached in vain;
that the prophecies respecting the perpetuity of Christ’s kingdom should fall to the ground;
or that Christ should lose the reward of his labor, and become a Master without disciples,
a King without subjects,
a Bridegroom without a bride,
a Head without a body.
(Witsius cites 2 Tim. 2.19, Mt. 16.18, Is. 55.10-11, Ps. 45.6, Dan. 2.44, Lk 1.33, and Is 54.5-6)