Friday, September 23, 2011

Diversity of Congregations Part 1

"After having thus clearly grasped the nature of the Church, in its bearing upon the re-creation both of our human race and of the Cosmos as a whole, let us now turn our attention to its form of manifestation, here on earth. As such it displays, unto us, different local congregations of believers, groups of confessors, living in some ecclesiastical union, in obedience to the ordinances of Christ Himself. The Church on earth is not an institution for the dispensation of grace, as if it were a dispensary of spiritual medicines. There is no mystical, spiritual order gifted with mystical powers to operate with a magical influence upon laymen. There are only regenerated and confessing individuals, who, in accordance with the Scriptural command, and under the influence of the sociological element of all religion, have formed a society, and are endeavoring to live together in subordination to Christ as their King. This, alone, is the Church on earth,- not the building,- not the institution,- not the spiritual order. For Calvin, the Church is found in the confessing individuals themselves,- not in each individual separately, but in all of them taken together, and united, not as they themselves see fit, but according to the ordinances of Christ. In the Church on earth, the universal priesthood of believers must be realized. Do not misunderstand me. I do not say: The Church consists of pious persons united in groups for religious purposes. That, in itself, would have nothing in common with the Church. The real, heavenly, invisible Church must manifest itself in the earthly Church. If not, you will have a society, but no church. Now the real essential Church is and remains the body of Christ, of which regenerate persons are members. Therefore the Church on earth consists only of those who have been incorporated into Christ, who bow before Him, live in His Word, and adhere to His ordinances; and for this reason the Church on earth has to preach the Word, to administer the sacraments, and to exercise discipline, and in everything to stand before the face of God" (Lectures on Calvinism, pp. 62-3).

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