May 23 – LD 21, Day 3: The Attributes of the Church
by Prof Herman Hanko

Read: I Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:1-14

Question and answer 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism is explaining the article in the Apostolic Confession: “I believe an holy, catholic church”. And so our teacher points us to the attributes of the church. They are three in number.

One attribute is the unity of the church. Our teacher points out that this means that the church agrees “in one faith.” There are many churches in the world and many denominations. But this does not mean that all churches are part of the church of Christ and that all denominations belong to Christ’s church.

Nor does it mean that every member in a given denomination, even if that denomination holds to the truth of Scripture, is a member of the church of Christ. Even in the church that faithfully bears the marks of the true church (the pure preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments according to the rule of Christ, and the exercise of Christian discipline according to the command of Christ) –even such churches have in them hypocrites, who, while outwardly professing faith in Christ, prove not to be members of Christ’s body.

 We are to learn, however, that the true church of Christ, wherever it is found, is one in faith. Christ is the Head of the church, and thus the mind of the church, for the mind is in the head. The mind of Christ is the mind of God himself. And the mind of God is the truth as it is in God and revealed in the sacred Scriptures.

Although the teacher at whose feet we sit does not mention this here, the one great truth upon which all the church agrees is the truth that God is the sovereign Lord who saves his church by his own work, and does so through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. One who does not believe this truth with all his heart is not saved.

The unity of the church as an attribute of the church is a fact both now and in heaven. Yet we are admonished by Scripture to seek the unity of the church. This is Paul’s earnest exhortation in Eph 4:1-3. And we are taught to pray this prayer for the unity of the church in Psa 122: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.” (verses 6-9).

The peace of the unity of one faith is a priceless gift. It is our calling to do all in our power to preserve it.

To that one church, united in a true faith, I am and forever shall remain a living member.