In my last post I wrote up a reflection I had on the Nicene Creed and I’ve been continuing to have a think about what it is I believe and attempting to put this in writing. I’ve since gone away and had a go at writing up my views on the church as it stands. Particularly as I’ve had a number of people get in contact with me recently asking to know my beliefs on this subject.
I’ve produced twelve paragraphs attempting to be a similar ‘cribsheet’ for this subject covering things like polity, sacraments, membership. I’ve also created a pdf with footnotes to scripture and writings from church history that have influenced me in a particular area. Some passages are unashamedly lifted or paraphrased from these church history texts and scripture passages.
In it’s own way it builds upon the Reflection to elaborate on some of the points mentioned whilst trying to be somewhat brief in it’s own right. This is just a first draft so if anyone see’s anything they want to pushback on or query please do not hesitate.
The body of Christ, the Church, is known as the bride of God. Christ himself said of marriage: ‘the two shall become one flesh.’ If Christ and the Church are one flesh then there is one body, one head, one bridegroom, and one bride. One body made up of different members.
This holy and mystical body of Christ occupies the sum of God’s people among the living and the dead. All are alive in Christ the King who surely lives having been raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. The Church in this life wages spiritual warfare against the powers and principalities of this world in his name. Those in the Church who have fallen asleep enjoy paradise in anticipation of the resurrection, triumphant having ceased from their labour.
In this life there is also another sense in which the church is known and that is in the gathering of all who are baptised in Christ who have not openly denied Christ nor been cast out from the congregation. In this the righteous may at times be mixed with the condemned. Yet only the righteous may approach the Father by virtue of faith.
Faith is only possible by the grace of Christ and nothing proceeds external to his authority. Yet man is not fated but each by free choice acts rightly or sins. Sin having no origin in divine will but in the heart of created beings. The Lord first calls man to Him, and while still in ignorance, draws him towards salvation, he is the Protector and Saviour. When man is already striving, he is wont to bring help, and to receive and defend those who fly to Him for refuge, he is the Sponsor and Refuge. Possessing foreknowledge of all events both actual and potential he is the Lord of all who regenerates the church by his Holy Spirit.
The Church is made righteous by trusting in the work and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, that is by faith. This faith comes by hearing, man being reconciled to God not by human effort but by freely bestowed divine grace. In response to God’s grace man ceases to bear the image of Adam but is transformed, in time, into the image of Christ.
True faith leads to repentance without which there is no reconciliation. This is to forsake the old life and to begin to live life under the authority of the Lord. This allegiance to the Lord and his Kingdom is demonstrated by deeds. That a changed mind leads to a changed life that is led in opposition to the powers and principalities of this world.
All people enter the Church through baptism in faith and are joined to the body of Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a solemn indelible oath, the descending into the water, calling upon the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and sincere repentance of sin. Without this there remains nothing but the weeping and gnashing of teeth. For all are invited to the marriage feast of the lamb but only those adorned in righteousness are chosen.
The church reaffirms its union with Christ through Baptism in the Lord’s Supper where, by faith, the believer rightfully participates in the Lord’s heavenly flesh and blood in the consumption of bread and wine. In this the church partakes of Christ himself and the coming together of all things in him. The consumption of which, without faith, brings judgement on the unrepentant who are not enabled to participate in the heavenly body of Christ.
As the Father nurtures and disciplines those he loves the church is called to be the medium by which the Christian is edified, disciplined, and reaches the fullness of maturity. As man is called to be holy as the Father is holy the Church is called to the same ends through teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
The church in all places is to appoint virtuous men to be overseers from amongst the people to administer it’s doctrine, sacraments, and ordering. Alongside them are those men called to be elders who will assist in the facilitation of the same. Deacons and their like are to be appointed by the elders and overseers from the people to assist in the maintenance of the life of the church.
The conduct of the Church is to be subject to the holy scriptures which contain all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man. Holy Scripture is the revelation of the Holy Spirit to man through the apostles and prophets. In this the church is to be called both catholic and apostolic not according to ancestry but according to it’s maintenance of this universal and unchanging faith once and for all handed down to the saints. Holy Scripture is to be understood as those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
As the Church is subject to Holy Scripture in all things it is to love the precepts of the Lord. Precepts such that even that which is not explicitly commanded, but born out in heavenly wisdom, against that of the world, is to be a guide for it’s manner of faith, form, and function. No part of life is to be divided from any other but all of it is to be patterned according to the Holy Wisdom of God. The church is at liberty in this regard to guide it’s people in forms of common life that baptise and quicken the cultures of this world drawing peoples of all tribes and tongues to Christ.
If you want a read of the scripture references or the statements, paraphrases or passages mentioned you can download a PDF using the link below.
You can also download my reflection on the creed available here.