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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Church
For Paul also predicts that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, that he will rule and bear office in the Church (2 Thess 2:4). But the Church is not only the fellowship of outward objects and rites, like other governments. It is chiefly a fellowship of faith and of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts. Nevertheless, this fellowship has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This Church alone is called the Body of Christ, which Christ renews, sanctifies, and governs by his Spirit, as Paul testifies, saying, “He has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22-23). Hence, those in whom Christ does not act are not members of Christ. Our adversaries also acknowledge that the wicked are dead members of the Church.
Pulling It Together
We deplore the condition of some church bodies, that they have abandoned the Word of God for culturally correct beliefs. Yet, we should not complain overly much since we know that God is sovereign. We should expect apostasy of all kinds, for these things are but the foreshadowing of a larger evil, when the one who rules the Church will be the very embodiment of evil. While we should even be able to predict these outward defections of faith, we ought to also give thanks to God that he is always refining and sanctifying the true Church, the Church of his Spirit. These members of the Body of Christ have enlightened eyes of the heart (Eph 1:18), are growing in faith and love (2 Thess 1:3), and enjoy certain hope in a rich and glorious inheritance among the saints. Indeed, this hope of glory (Col 1:27) is already realized as Christ within and among us through faith—the truest measure of the members of Christ.
Prayer: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Amen.
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