Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So powerful is participation in mother church...

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 1 - The True Church with which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity

1-4 - The Holy Catholic Church, our mother
1.We partake of Christ's benefits by faith. But "we need outward helps" because of "our ignorance and sloth." So He gives the church: preachers preaching - Eph 4:11 - and sacraments to foster faith and draw near to God. "Satan, in the papacy, has polluted everything god had appointed for our salvation." If God is your father, the Church is your mother - Gal 4:26. We may not tear these two asunder - Mark 10:9.

2. The phrase from the Creed, "I believe the holy catholic church" refers to the visible church, and also to all God's elect. We should not say we believe IN the church, as we only believe IN God. "Because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of His church, whose foundation is His secret election." The church is called catholic and universal because there is only one church, there can't be more, or Christ is torn apart - 1 Cor 1:13; Eph 1:22-23; 4:16; Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 10:17; 12:12, 27. "Let us know that Christ's death is fruitful, and that God miraculously keeps His church as in hiding places." See 1 Kings 19:18.

3. "The communion of saints." This describes the church very well. Anything we receive from Christ we are to share with one another. Acts 4:32; Eph 4:4. The church "stands by God's election," even if the whole world falls. "So powerful is participation in the church that it keeps us in the society of God." But we don't have to see the church to embrace and receive her benefits. We shouldn't try to distinguish elect from reprobate. We just need to know that we are received into the fellowship and Body of Christ.

4. The visible church is our mother, who conceives, bears and nourishes us. "Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of ins or any salvation, as Isaiah (37:32) and Joel (2:32) testify - Ezek 13:9; Isa 56:5; Ps 87:6. "God's fatherly favor... [is] limited to His flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church."

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