Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

v. 12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ”

“The connection between the last verse [v. 11] and this one is this: The formation of the Church and its inherence in Christ as the Body of which He is the Head, is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who, when He baptizes any one into Christ, assigns to him a position in the mystical body as one of its members, and afterwards endows him with the grace by which he will be enabled to fulfill his function, as a member of that body.

Thus, it is in the Body of Christ, i.e., His Church, as it is in the natural human body. The body is one, and yet this very oneness of the human body postulates a variety of members, and the multiplicity of members does not imply a multiplicity of separate organisms or bodies, but one organism only, and as it is with our human mortal bodies, so it is with Christ as the Head of His Body, the Church, with which He is one, so that instead of the Apostle saying the Body of Christ, he actually says “Christ,” Christ and His Body in the Apostle’s eyes forming, as it were, one Personality.

v. 13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”

This means that by the operation of the Spirit in Holy Baptism we are all baptized into, that is, are all made members of, the One Mystical Body. It may be well to consider for a moment the question, Does this refer to the visible Sacrament whereby we are made members of Christ, or does it refer to an invisible baptism by the Spirit, altogether distinct form the outward sacrament, and very seldom simultaneous with it? Now it may be sufficient to answer that the Holy Apostle knows nothing of such a baptism introducing us into an inner body or church apart from the outer. On the contrary, such an idea neutralizes the greater part of his teaching, which is, that all the professing members of the Church should consider themselves as having a real connection with Christ. There is but one Church from his point of view, an outward visible body endowed all of with invisible graces and powers: so that each baptized person, instead of doubting that his baptism brought him into connection with Christ, should have no manner of doubt about it, but be assured that if he does not live as a member of Christ so much the worse for him, and that if he does realize his union with Christ so much the more power has he against sin and on the side of holiness.”

(M. F. Sadler, The First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 205-206)

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Leslie Newbigin in his book The Household of God describes the Church as the visible community of God’s people and repeatedly emphasizes that the Church “is as visible as the Christian man.” This emphasis is a vital one for those of us who have been trained to think of the Church as primarily “invisible.” An “invisible” Church which consists exclusively of the “whole number of the elect” tends to become, over time, the only “real” Church (since only those who are counted in the invisible Church will be infallibly saved). This perfect “invisible” Church makes the imperfect, and sometimes deeply flawed, visible Church on the corner appear as a mere shadow of (if not an outright contradiction to) the real glorious body of Christ. Consequently, we come to view the visible Church is at best a secondary and non-essential element in our salvation (and many even think of the Church as a hindrance to their spirituality). But Newbigin tells us that this is a great mistake. In the Bible, the Church, the body of Christ, is the visible body of men and women who have been called out by God’s grace, marked by baptism, and gathered into worshiping and serving communities. Newbigin observes:

“The whole core of biblical history is the story of the calling of a visible community to be God’s own people. His royal priesthood on earth, the bearer of His light to the nations. . . . There is an actual, visible, earthly company which is addressed as ‘the people of God’, the ‘Body of Christ’. It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community. . . . He committed the entire work of salvation to that community. It was not that a community gathered round an idea, so that the idea was primary and the community secondary. It was a community called together by the deliberate choice of the Lord Himself, and re-created in Him, gradually sought–and is seeking–to make explicit who He is and what He has done. . . . This actual visible community, a company of men and women with ascertainable names and addresses, is the Church of God.” (more…)

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Flannery O’Connor once described the “liberal” mindset (which is of course anything but liberal) to Cecil Dawkins in a letter written in 1958:

The Liberal approach is that man has never fallen, never incurred guilt, and is ultimately perfectible by his own unaided efforts. Therefore, evil in this light is a problem of better housing, sanitation, health, etc. and all mysteries will eventually be cleared up. Judgement is out of place because man is not responsible.

Modern liberalism produces not compassion but sentimentalism, not mercy but cruelty walking around with sandwich boards that say “mercy.” It is a mindset that talks of love and tenderness but ends up loving no one and nothing but death. Its logical end is tyranny and terror. (more…)

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Knowing how enamored I am by disasters of epic proportions and my penchant for crisis management (!), some fanatical fanlings of the TV series “Jericho” have been encouraging me to watch the first season (this was prior to its cancellation, they are much more subdued at present). So I did. I thought it was interesting, fun even, but one thing struck me — this has to be one of the most secular shows I’ve ever seen. We’re supposed to be in a small, Midwestern town, which has a church in which (we assume) people worship, get married, have their funerals, etc. and yet we never ever see or even hear about the minister (except for about 10 seconds when he’s concerned about the church building being damaged). amazing. There has been a nuclear holocaust, thousands have died across the country, there is no communication with the outside world, loved ones are missing, chaos is growing, and yet not a word from the minister? No one wants to talk to him? No prayer meetings? No services calling for public repentance or for God’s help, strength, protection, deliverance, etc? nothing. He is the invisible man (except for the 10 seconds when he is the whining, visible man). wow. I knew the Church was considered to be irrelevant to this culture, but “Jericho” is a stunning reminder of just how irrelevant we are in the eyes of this world.

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In his discussion of the Nicene creed’s statement “one baptism for the remission of sins,” T. F. Torrance explains what it means to be baptized into Christ:

“In baptism we are united to Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a way that we partake of the whole substance of the gospel, for all grace and truth are embodied in him. We may recall the point made by Irenaeus in this connection, when he claimed that the incarnate Son is called and actually is, ‘Salvation, Savior, and Saving Activity‘ and that thus he is ‘salvation made flesh.’ In other words saving grace is not something detached from Christ which can be dispensed at will, but is identical with Christ in the unity of his Person, Word, and Act. It is through the one baptism which we have in common with Christ, or rather which he has in common with us, that we share in all that God has in store for us. Because baptism is one (the baptism with which Christ was baptised for our sakes, and the baptism in which we are given to share in all that he was, is, and will be) to be baptised is much more than to be initiated into the sphere where forgiveness is proclaimed and dispensed in the Church. It is to to be ‘delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ It is to have our frail, transient existence taken up into Christ himself in such a way, that without any loss to our creaturely reality but rather with its perfecting through his Spirit, it is united to God and established in union with his eternal reality.” (The Trinitarian Faith, p. 297)

So. Jesus is Salvation made flesh [all life is in Him and apart from Him there is no salvation; grace and forgiveness are found in Him alone]. The Spirit unites us to Jesus through baptism, uniting us with His body, the Church, which is the kingdom, house and family of God, the community of faith, the assembly of the saints, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. So when Peter says, “baptism now saves us” he is saying “Jesus saves us.” By baptism the Spirit of Jesus unites us to the Church. The Church is the body of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is Salvation made flesh.

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