From the Word: 25 Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 to present to himself a glorious church, without stain or blemish or any such thing, so that she would be holy and unblemished. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
From the Confessions: The Chief Articles of Faith in the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Church
Lutherans also teach that the one holy Church will continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.
For there to be true unity in the Church, it is enough to agree on the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions like rites or ceremonies, that are institutions of men, should be the same everywhere. For Paul teaches, “One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all,” etc. (Eph 4:5-6).
Pulling It Together
The Lutherans may have seemed suspect to the Church in Rome because of their belief in justification by faith alone. Perhaps they were perceived as a group intent on destroying the Church. It was quite the opposite. Still, it begs the question: How would one go about destroying what Christ said he would build (Matt 16:18)? The Church has never been in our hands. We should rather think that because of Christ's word, the Church will “continue forever”—in spite of us. So, it becomes important for us to understand what the Church truly is.
Building on the confession of “the communion of saints” in the creed, and that God imputes righteousness through faith (Article IV), Melancthon is emboldened to state that the Church is a “congregation of saints.” The Church is that assembly of all those whom Christ has made righteousness through his grace alone. Again, the Church is not in our hands. He makes his people saints without their assistance. But Church is not merely an assembly. Though we may do other things under the banner of “The Church,” we are not really the Church unless two things occur. The gospel must be correctly taught to the congregation of saints and the sacraments must be rightly administered. We confess that where these two “outward marks” are faithfully observed is the holy, catholic Church.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making me one with you in your Body, the Church. Amen.
Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Faces, focuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.
Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series