Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is the Church?

(I'm not saying this picture is accurate, just that it shows some of the various groups that would call themselves "The Church")

After reading Horton's post linked below, I thought again of the profit that comes from being refreshed about the nature of "The Church". The Westminster Confession of Faith does a tremendous job capturing the bible's teaching on this important question in the 25th Chapter-

CHAP. XXV. - Of the Church.

1. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

2. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

3. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

4. This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

5. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.

6. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.


Rick Calohan said...

Interesting how the WCF points out “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel” yet there are disagreements among those listed in the above chart which I know is not an all inclusive or exclusive chart as to the “the church”

Considering how Rome views itself as the “One True Church” and Pope as the titular head of “the Church” and how the Confession used to include much stronger language at the Pope i.e. “anti-Christ”

Here is what I think is different based on my knowledge of non-reformed churches and as the PCA points out in our statement of beliefs.

• We believe that all are sinners and totally unable to save themselves from God’s displeasure, except by His mercy.
• We believe that salvation is by God alone as He sovereignly chooses those He will save. We believe His choice is based on His grace, not on any human individual merit, or foreseen faith.
• We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who through His perfect life and sacrificial death atoned for the sins of all who will trust in Him, alone, for salvation.
• We believe that God is gracious and faithful to His people not simply as individuals but as families in successive generations according to His Covenant promises.

The non-Reformed churches to my knowledge do not.

So even among those churches that claim to be Christians there is not unity nor do I think there will ever be among the visible church regardless of any ecumenical documents, decrees, or councils until the Lord returns.

Woody Woodward said...

What was the “Great Schism” of 1504?

Rick Calohan said...

When the Eastern Orthodox Church broke from Rome in 1054.

Woody Woodward said...

Thanks Rick, you always seem to have the right on answers! What a joy to call you friend!