Which is more appropriate and faithful to the biblical story?
1. Faithfulness to Christ = Faithfulness to Church
2. Faithfulness to Christ –> Faithfulness to Church
I’m concerned that as Protestants we’ve got a utilitarian understanding of the Church–it’s good as long as we can be certain of its usefulness, but it may be abandoned in order to follow Christ most faithfully. Such a view cannot help but see Jesus and his Church as essentially separate, having been joined together by rivets along an overlapping seam. This seems to be the way we function whether or not we profess such a stance. But the biblical portrait seems to be different. There are two primary images I think of from the NT of the Church: Body and Bride. Body emphasizes the organic connection; Bride emphasizes the covenant connection. Both emphasize essential unity with Christ, for better or worse.
Hmm…more later perhaps…
7 thoughts on “christ & church”
body and bride— very nice Guy. try reading ephesians 5:25-33 with these ideas in mind.
this is a good insight with respect to the utilitarian nature with which protestants tend to view the church. i think you are on track here.
you are becoming quite the prolific blogger.
One thought I have as I read your post is your usage of “Jesus” and “Christ.” Recent biblical scholarship has recovered the sense Paul had in using “Christ” as a title – Messiah – for Jesus. Being “in Christ” is, therefore, not mere another way of talking about mystical union with Jesus, but is also a way of marking our connection with our king – as one of his people, a status we have with others.
Cyprian said, “Extra ecclesiam nulla sallus” -No salvation outside the church. The usual way of taking this has been ecclesiological exclusivism: ‘If you’re not a member of MY church, you won’t be saved.’ But the more biblical sense is that church is part of what salvation is all about. A key passage I rely on here is Eph. 2:11 – especially as it is structurally similar to Eph. 2:1-10.
In my preaching I explain that in the Fall four human relationships were broken (not just for A & E, but for all of us down their line): our relationship with God, our relationship with each other, our relationship with ourselves, and our relationship with creation. Full Salvation (if we need to differentiate it from plain old ordinary salvation – which I’d rather not do) includes healing, restoration and reconciliation in all these areas.
On Sunday morning a few months back we were heading for church and Mary Kathryn spouted out in a whiny voice, “I don’t want to go to church. I want to see Jesus.”
how about them apples?
A few years ago a certain politician wrote It Takes a Village. One can take this is a claim that no nuclear family has the resources to raise children on its own – it needs extended “family.” Another way to read it is as a claim that no family has the resources to raise its children without a large, intrusive and ever growing government.
Sometimes we say (with Tod Bolsinger) It Takes a Church. We can mean – the instition composed of cranky people who do what they always did they way they always did it – OR – the group of people connected to Jesus through the shared Holy Spirit, continually growing in love for Jesus & each other. In the former, the fog can be mighty thick. In the latter, one just might see Jesus.
An image of salvation as a communal experience that I particularly like is of the Passover. Individuals were saved inasmuch as they belonged to the community of God’s holy (set apart) people who were being saved/delivered. I think of someone standing outside one of the shelters and another calling to them, going to them, bringing them inside to safety and deliverance–included in the community of people taking shelter under the blood of the lamb on the doorpost.
This image is helpful and instructive for us as well. To piggy-back on what Richard is saying about the four relationships, community is itself an essential part of our salvation–not merely a nice add-on if it doesn’t get in the way. Looking at the sacraments, one cannot baptize oneself, nor can one share the Eucharist with oneself.
I’m glad someone else has noticed the poor understanding of ecclesiology in the Protestant Tradition. Your explanation of the the body and bride connection is very well done. Have you ever noticed that when Jesus addresses Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus he say: “Why are you persecuting me?” Notice the connection in that Jesus does not say “Why are you persecuting my people?” but instead, “Why are you persecuting ME?” There is a powerful statement of the union of Jesus with the church. A remarkable connection.
ah, yes, good memory Michel–that is a critical connection!