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September 01, 2005

Ch. XXIII. Q. 126. What is the Church?

THE CHURCH is (a.) the Body of Christ: (b.) the ecclesia or chosen people: (c.) the kingdom of God. 1

2. The Church is called the Body of Christ 2 because of her mystical union with Christ and vital relation to Him. The name signifies that (a.) she is the embodiment of those supernatural conditions on earth, by means of which the Holy Ghost extends to men the Flesh of Christ. He Himself abides in her for the salvation, sanctification and glorification of her members: (b.) Those who become members of the Church, in Baptism, become members of Christ's Body, of His Flesh and of His bones3: (c.) The saving grace which flows from the glorified Flesh of Christ is given in and by means of the Church: (d.) The relation between Christ and His Church is organic, perpetual and unalterable, so that none can be lost who remain faithful to her.4

3. The Church is called the ecclesia, ἐκκλησία, because her membership consists of those who are called of God, and adopted as His children and heirs of everlasting life. The name teaches that (a.) her origin was due—not to any human act of organization, but—to Divine operations and a Divine ingathering of the elect: (b.) The mark by which the elect are distinguished in Holy Scripture is membership of the Church by Baptism, although ultimate salvation requires further conditions.5

4. The Church is called the Kingdom of God, because its organization and institutions signify the method which God employs in exercising His sovereignity over the saints. Thus: {a.) The Head of the Church is God, in the Person of Christ: (b.) Her Ministers are the Ministers of God, and bear His authority delegated to them, in accordance with the terms of their commission: (c.) Her organization and the methods of succession in her Ministry are Divine, and cannot be altered by the will of man: (d.) The Church has a visible organization of Divine appointment, by reason of which she is a visible kingdom.6

5. The Church has also been called (a.) the Bride of Christ7, because of her perpetual and intimate union with Christ, her fruitfulness, and her final occupation of His heavenly mansions: (b.) the City of God8 , because God is known in her midst and obeyed: (c.) the ark of the Covenant and the ark of safety,9 because in her are treasured the charter of the Covenant of grace and the means of receiving its benefits: (d.) the pillar and ground of the truth10, because the Gospel is committed to her for transmission and defence: (e.) the source of grace, because she is the Body of Christ, and the grace of God is bestowed upon men by means of her Ministry11: (f.) the communion of saints, because those who are sanctified are associated in her fellowship.12

6. The Church as a visible kingdom is identified in her totality and parts by means of her notes. The chief of these are her unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. No religious body should be reckoned as one of her true branches which does not possess them.13

1 Palmer, P.I. ch. I: Notes and Questions from Pusey, 72-91: Pearson's Ap. Creed, Art. IX: Grueber's Kingdom of God: Churton's Function of Doctrine, ch. II. pp. 50-61: Maclear's Introd. to the Creeds, ch. IX: Norris' Rudiments, I. v: Schouppe, El. Theolog. Dog. III. 79, 80, 91, 96-110: Hammond's The Christian Church, What Is It: Moehler's Symbolism, §§ 36-51: Ewer's Oper'n. of the H. Sp. pp. 15-25: Dix's Authority of the Church, Lec. I.

2 Ephes. I. 22, 23

3 Eph. V. 30

4 Forbes' N. Creed, 271-273: Mason's Faith of the Gosp. VII. 9: Schouppe VIII. 378-380: Staler's Catholic Church, I. iv: Hooker's Ec. Pol. I. 15. 2: Blunts Theol. Dic., "Body Mystical"': Cotterill's Genesis of the Church, ch. XIII.

5 Pearson, 592-599 (gives N.T. instances): Schouppe, III. 72-78: Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Church."

6 S. John III. 3, 5: Ephes. V. 23, 24: S. John XV. 16. Denny's Studies, 184-187: Sadler's Church Doctrine, ch. VII: Hammond's Christian Church, ch. XVIII.

7 Psa. XLV: Rev. XIX. 7, 8


9 cf. I. Pet. III. 20, 21

10 I. Tim. III. 15

11 Col. I. 18-23: II. 19

12 Jerem. XXXIII. 16: Acts II. 47. Staley's Cath. Church, I. i-iii, III. i, ii: Schouppe, III. 92-95, 195-202.

13 Palmer, I. ii: Staley's Cath. Church, II. iv: Grueber's Kingdom of God, 7-9: Churton, 61-67 : Schouppe, III. 47, 187-194.

Posted by Trevor at September 1, 2005 08:57 AM