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WCF 25,26

CHAPTER 25
Of the Church

1. The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

2. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

3. Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.

4. This catholic church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

5. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.

6. There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.

CHAPTER 26
Of the Communion of Saints

1. All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

2. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

3. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.

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WLC Q&A – 61-65

Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?

A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.

Q. 62. What is the visible church?

A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?

A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?

A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?

A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

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WSC Q&A 29

Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

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Belgic Confession 27-29

ARTICLE 27 – THE CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN CHURCH

We believe and profess one catholic or universal church,1 which is a holy congregation and assembly2 of the true Christian believers, who expect their entire salvation in Jesus Christ,3 are washed by His blood, and are sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.4

This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will be to the end, for Christ is an eternal King who cannot be without subjects.5 This holy church is preserved by God against the fury of the whole world,6 although for a while it may look very small and as extinct in the eyes of man.7 Thus during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord kept for Himself seven thousand persons who had not bowed their knees to Baal.8

Moreover, this holy church is not confined or limited to one particular place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world.9 However, it is joined and united with heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.10

1. Gen 22:18Isa 19:6Eph 2:17-192Psalm 111:1John 10:14John 10:16Eph 4:3-6Heb 12:22-233Joel 2:32Acts 2:214Eph 1:13Eph 4:3052 Sam 7:16Psalm 89:36Psalm 110:4Mat 28:18-20Luke 1:326Psalm 46:5Mat 16:187Isa 1:91 Pet 3:20Rev 11:79Mat 23:8John 4:21-23Rom 10:12-1310Psalm 119:63Acts 4:32Eph 4:4.

ARTICLE 28 – EVERYONE’S DUTY TO JOIN THE CHURCH

We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it,1 that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his status or standing may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it,2 maintaining the unity of the church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline,3 bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,4 and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters,5 according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.6

To observe this more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church7 and to join this assembly8 wherever God has established it. They should do so even though the rulers and edicts of princes were against it, and death or physical punishment might follow.9

All therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.

1. Mat 16:18-19Acts 2:47Gal 4:26Eph 5:25-27Heb 2:11-12Heb 12:2322 Chron 30:8John 17:21Col 3:153Heb 13:174Mat 11:28-305Eph 4:1261 Cor 12:71 Cor 12:27Eph 4:167Num 16:23-26;Isa 12:11-12Acts 2:40Rom 16:17Rev 18:48Psalm 122:1Isa 1:3;Heb 10:259Acts 4:19-20.

ARTICLE 29 – THE MARKS OF THE TRUE AND THE FALSE CHURCH

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church, for all sects which are in the world today claim for themselves the name of church.1 We are not speaking here of the hypocrites, who are mixed in the church along with the good and yet are not part of the church, although they are outwardly in it.2 We are speaking of the body and the communion of the true church which must be distinguished from all sects that call themselves the church.

The true church is to be recognized by the following marks: It practises the pure preaching of the gospel.3 It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them.4 It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.5 In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God,6 rejecting all things contrary to it7 and regarding Jesus Christ as the only Head.8 Hereby the true church can certainly be known and no one has the right to separate from it.

Those who are of the church may be recognized by the marks of Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour,9 flee from sin and pursue righteousness,10 love the true God and their neighbour11 without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works.12 Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life.13 They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him.14

The false church assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God. It does not want to submit itself to the yoke of Christ.15 It does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in His Word, but adds to them and subtracts from them as it pleases. It bases itself more on men than on Jesus Christ. It persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke the false church for its sins, greed, and idolatries.16

These two churches are easily recognized and distinguished from each other.

1. Rev 2:92Rom 9:63Gal 1:81 Tim 3:154Acts 19:3-51 Cor 11:20-295Mat 18:15-171 Cor 5:4-51 Cor 5:132 Thes 3:62 Thes 3:14Titus 3:106John 8:47John 17:20Acts 17:11Eph 2:20Col 1:231 Tim 6:371 Thes 5:211 Tim 6:20Rev 2:68John 10:14Eph 5:23Col 1:189John 1:121 John 4:210Rom 6:2Phil 3:12111 John 4:19-2112Gal 5:2413Rom 7:15Gal 5:1714Rom 7:24-251 John 1:7-915Acts 4:17-182 Tim 4:3-42 John 916John 16:2.

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Heidelberg Catechism

Lord’s Day 21

54. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE CONCERNING THE “HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH?”

That out of the whole human race,[1] from the beginning to the end of the world,[2]the Son of God,[3] by His Spirit and Word,[4] gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself[5] unto everlasting life a chosen communion[6] in the unity of the true faith;[7] and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of this communion.[8]

[1] Gen 26:4Rev 5:9; [2] Isa 59:21Jn 10:101 Cor 11:26; [3] Jn 10:11Acts 20:28;Eph 1:10-13, 4:11-13Col 1:18; [4] Isa 59:21Rom 1:16, 10:14-17Eph 5:26; [5] Ps 129:1-5;Mt 16:18Jn 10:28-30; [6] Rom 8:29-30Eph 1:3-14, 4:3-6; [7] Ps 71:18Jn 10:28-30;Acts 2:42-471 Cor 1:8-9, 11:26; [8] Ps 23:6Jn 10:27-281 Cor 1:4-9Gal 3:281 Pt 1:3-5;1 Jn 2:19, 3:14, 19-21

 

55. WHAT DO YOU UNDERSTAND BY THE “COMMUNION OF SAINTS?”

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts;[1] second, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.[2]

[1] Rom 8:321 Cor 6:17, 12:4-7, 12-131 Jn 1:3; [2] Rom 12:4-81 Cor 12:12-13, 20-27, 13:1-7Php 2:4-8Heb 3:14