Full Text for Dogmatics 4- Volume 38 - How does Scripture speak of the church? (Video)

No. 38. >> Okay. I think I understand. But let me ask this: If the term does not come from Scripture, how then does Scripture speak of the church? >>DR. KLAUS DETLEV SCHULZ: David, the church in Scripture can be associated with a number of perceptions. A number of descriptions. And I would like to mention a few now as we look at the New Testament. And one of these terms or associations with the church is the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of heavens or the kingdom of Christ as it is also used. This term, the Kingdom of God, can in some ways be associated with the church. Because it indicates that there are people in this world that are ruled by Jesus Christ. Those that believe in him, Jesus Christ comes to them, rules over their hearts through both Word and sacrament. And as these people meet and come together, they praise the Lord Jesus Christ and say: Come, maranata, as we read in II Corinthians. That is they call Jesus Christ and invoke his presence in their midst. The Kingdom of God or basileia tou as we call it in Greek is a term that is associated with the ministry of John the Baptist and also Jesus Christ. It begins by people entering this kingdom through repentance. You might recall that the ministry of John at the River Jordan was to call people to come and repent of their sins so they may enter this kingdom. And Jesus Christ in his ministry of proclaiming the Word continued to call people to the Kingdom of God. And in fact, in his person, that kingdom was represented. So all those who repented by hearing his message and then believing in him would then be entering into that kingdom. In the preaching of Jesus, we find a number of parables that beautifully describe this Kingdom of God. These parables are crucial for the understanding of the church. Some of these parables are included in describing the church in our Lutheran Confessions. So therefore, in the few minutes that are following, I would like to indicate to you a few of these parables that are mentioned and are helpful to describe what the Kingdom of God really means. And also, how it relates to the church. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 30, if you open up to that place, you will notice that there are a number of parables being used. And I would like you to go there and look at a few of them. The first parable that comes to my notice is that of the sower. That is of the four ***filed soil in Matthew 13 Verse 3 following. Now, what could we say to that parable and how does it relate to the church? Well, it means that the Word of God takes hold of the heart of a person as it begins to grow therein. It begins to bear fruit. And the members of the kingdom are those in whose heart this Word of God begins to grow and to bear fruit. Granted, as the parable shows, the Word of God will not always fall on fertile soil. There will be hearers of the Gospel who will not come to faith. Who will reject God's Word. But then there's also this fertile soil on whom this Word of God will bear fruit. And they will show it through good works and love to one another. I think this is a good parable to explain the existence of the church today. That therein are people who are not believers. But nonetheless belong to its outward community. And on the other hand, there are those on whom the Word of God grows. And those that believe in Jesus Christ. Secondly, there is this parable on the weeds or of the weeds in Matthew 13 Verse 24 following. I understand this parable to say this: That the Kingdom of God does not resemble the visible congregation on earth. But the church is a mixed body of believers, as I've said before already, that also includes hypocrites. But as long as the church exists on earth, we cannot and should not weed out these hypocrites. It is not possible for us to do something that the Lord Jesus Christ will do when he returns at the day of judgement. Then it will be his task to weed out those and place them to the left side. And those he will take to his kingdom to lead them into it on the right-hand side as the example of Matthew 25, the judgement of the goats and the sheep in this case. That does not say that the church does not need to employ discipline. I will come back to Matthew 18 and exactly what it means to discipline someone in the church. But it's crucial to understand that we cannot forego the reality of heaven in this world today. And have to accept that there will be amongst the Christians that gather Sunday after Sunday also those who will not come to heaven. A reality, however, that is not ours yet but one that will come when Jesus Christ returns. A third parable briefly is that of the mustard seed and the yeast found in Matthew 13 Verse 31 following. Just as the kingdom grows outwardly, this parable tells us, also, that it needs to grow inwardly. Like a mustard seed, or this yeast that is also included next to this parable. We then have a fourth parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl, which is found in Matthew 13 Verse 44 to 46. The Kingdom of God is the highest treasure for all of us. And the most valuable possession we Christians can attain in this world. And for this reason we should seek it out, we should give everything possible that we can find this Kingdom of God. And so it means that only those who deny themselves and truly seek out this treasure will find it and will be graciously rewarded. The children of this world ignore this treasure and do not look for it. We as Christians know where the hidden pearl lies. We can find it in the church where the Word is being preached and where the sacraments are administered. There is the pearl that we need to look for so that we may receive eternal salvation. We also have the parable of the net in Matthew 13 Verse 47 following. The Word of God here in this parable is like a net. With it new members will be added to the church. The net brings the fish into the boat. And so, also, the church will bring in new members as they hear God's Word. While on earth, unbelievers and believers continue to co-exist in this world. And only on Judgement Day will Jesus Christ take those out of the boat, namely, those fish that he finds inadequate to be eaten, and he will throw them overboard. And hand them over to eternal damnation. We also have the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21 Verse 33 following. This parable tells us that the church has undergone three stages. It was prepared in the Old Testament with the Jews and the people of God, the nation of God, from Abraham onwards. Then we find it in the New Testament as a community that reaches out to both Jews and to the heathens. And God's Word continues on us this day. But there's also a third stage in the church that means that there will be a kingdom of glory and the church will be triumphant. God works on our souls today. It bears fruit. But there will be a time when we will be actually becoming that full manifest church in Jesus Christ. It is important to know with the imagery of the vine in John 10 -- or John 14 actually where we are grafted in to the vine as branches. In the parable of the vine, Jesus mentions that it's important and crucial for us Christians to remain grafted into the vine. And how is that possible? It will be only through the Word that we hear constantly Sunday after Sunday that we will remain as branches and grafted into this vine. That is also the important point to be made with this parable. We then, also, have a parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the son in Luke 15. The lost sinner in this parable is the one who will return back to Jesus Christ. It is the one whose invitation will come to him through the Gospel. He will be asked to return because Jesus Christ's love is always open for him. That is, we affirm here in this parable the doctrine of justification as it is narrated, told to us, in a story form. And in this parable we will also see that through repentance the Son will be restored into this beautiful relationship with the Father. And as the Son is given new clothes, so, also, we, too, as we return through repentance will be restored with the righteousness of Christ. We will be given the ring that means also that we will be restored as children in the relationship of God. And we will walk a new life, that is in the parable the son is given shoes. That, too, is significant in the story here to indicate how wonderful it is for us to know that there is always God the Father in Jesus Christ who will receive us back as we repent of our sins. We then have a good -- the Good Samaritan, the parable in Luke 10. This parable describes none other than Jesus Christ as the Good Samaritan. Jesus Christ will bring the fallen sinner into the safe haven of his church. And there, through Word and sacrament, those are the two silver coins, I might add in Verse 35, this sinner or this hurt person that was helped here and restored and brought back into the hotel, will be nurtured healthy. Luther once said a that the church is a hospital. And I think he refers back to this parable. The church is a hospital of sinners who need to come back and repeatedly be restored and made healthy again and again in their life. We still have three more parables. One of them is the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22. The Kingdom of God here is compared to a father, a king, who wants to celebrate a wedding for his son. And what we are told here are people are invited to come. And not everyone wants to come actually. And he sends out his servants to invite others to come in. And eventually there is a gathering of people at the wedding banquet. And then it says of someone that is not adequately dressed, he does not wear the wedding dress. And therefore, it says in this parable that while all are called, not everyone is invited. And not everyone who is in the wedding, that is in the church itself, will not be considered one who is fittingly or appropriately a member. We then have the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Only those who actually fill their lamp with oil and are prepared for the coming of the Lord are those that will enter heaven. How do we Christians in our church prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord? How do we fill our lamps? It basically means that all of us in the church should expose ourselves to the Word of God so that our faith, that oil in our body, is filled repeatedly by the Word of God. And finally, we have the parable of the talents. Here in this parable the kingdom of glory will only be given to those who look after their talents. Who are good stewards of those gifts that the Lord Jesus gives us. We need to put our faith to work in this world. We need to give mission a place in our lives. We need to do good works to those who are poor and needy. These are all things where the talents can be used in our life. Those talents that the Lord Jesus Christ has given each of us. We can see, therefore, from this overview of the Kingdom of God in terms of it being described in the parables how beautifully these fit with the description of what the church is. The Kingdom of God might be described, also, one in its glorious sense. Namely, that Jesus Christ also rules the world at the right hand of God the Father. However, we can say and we should affirm that rule or reign or dominion of Christ as it is associated with the reality of the church as he rules over those who come together and hear his Word. I think our focus is on that reality. On a church that exists. And we should emphasize this point with the help of these parables that we have just looked at. We have spoken so far about the Kingdom of God and identified that with the church. I would like to say a few words or so on the term ekklesia. The term ekklesia comes from the Greek word, the preposition ek and the verb kaleo. That means to call out from. So the Greek word really makes a lot of sense when we look at it as the Word of God being preached and then there are people called out of a circle of people and brought together and defined then as the church. Now, some may ask: What exactly does the church look like in the New Testament? Is it a congregation? Or is it maybe a Synod or a huge body of believers all over the world? Well, I would say that we can look at Scriptures and say that there are small congregations mentioned. In the Book of Acts we know that there are individual churches mentioned, Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus. But then we can also say that in Chapter 12 of the book of Romans, we can say there's a church also defined as a larger community that expands all over the world. It's the church that exists wherever there are believers. So in other words, ekklesia needs to be carefully read in the passages that we look at. We can't always say it just means a congregation or it means a large gathering that transgresses geography. This is important as we look and read the New Testament. One important point also needs to be made then is that while we define the church as those true believers in Jesus Christ, that congregation or that Communion, we also know that it attains some visibility. It protrudes in society. People know that this is a church that there are Christians. And where is such visibility to be found? Well, we can see in I Corinthians 10 and 11 that there were Christians coming together and worshiping and actually celebrating the Lord's Supper. They were coming together as a fellowship. And a word that's used there is ***konia. That they came together as a fellowship around the body of Christ and the cup that they were celebrating. So the church also becomes visible through its activities of love, such as diakonia, diaconical services, human care services. It helps our people in this world. And in Matthew 5 Verse 16 there's a sentence being said by Jesus Christ that you must become a salt, a light, to the world. So in other words, Christians cannot be complacent in their life. They need to understand that they need to work in this world in their vocation and thereby become active. I think that's what Jesus Christ means in this passage. In I Peter 3 Verse 12 we also find a passage there that speaks about us doing good things through our works. That people may see them and praise God in heaven. So we intend people to understand that Christians believe in Jesus Christ. But at the same time also become visible in their activities. We have thus seen so far that the church that we speak of Sunday after Sunday that meets and gathers for worship is a church strictly speaking one that does not associate itself only with the pure true believers. But that it also is a gathering of all those that come together. And amongst them, also are those that consider themselves not as true believers but as we would define as hypocrites. Only in heaven, finally, will the separation take place. This is the aspect that is also included in the parables that we have spoken of. I come now to another term that is being used to describe the church. Namely, the body of Christ. In Romans 12 or I Corinthians 12, as well, there we see that the church is defined as the body of Christ. And that there are many members put into that body. They are of Christ's flesh and blood. And without Christ, however, it would be like a corpse. A body without a head. And the individualdom only exists as he is connected to the body. Only true believers here it is said can be members of the body of Christ. The one Lord has put all together through one baptism we hear in I Corinthians 12 Verse 13. This ***konia that I mentioned before, this fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ and with one another, is expressed especially in the Lord's Supper. And that's why we will speak, also, about the ramifications and implications of the fellowship around the Lord's Supper. Now, the Holy Spirit has also endowed his members of the church with very special gifts. In this way, the church is called to help one another. That is, the members are there to support and build each other up. We might compare this to a living organism. There was one great theologian in the 19th Century called ***Velenlure. He actually went back to this text and promoted the idea of the church as a living organism. That is, as it reaches out to people, it continues to extend its boundaries. It moves around the world as people help one another. And especially, as the ministry of Word and sacrament is implemented, as well. However, we need to say that these gifts that are endowed to the church, to every Christian, ought to be applied orderly, not disorderly. So that everything that occurs is done to the glory of Jesus Christ. And the ministry of Word and sacrament, we may point out, is crucial to supervise and maintain that order in the church. So that if somebody stands up and wishes to speak in tongues, as we know that occurs in the context of the Corinthians, Paul advises that this is to be done orderly in such a way that everybody can understand. And that supervision over such gifts is done through the institute of ministry of Word and sacraments. We also have one further image. That is the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5, we are given an understanding that Jesus Christ is the bridegroom of the bride. Just as the husband is to the wife. This example here indicates the important relationship that the church has to Jesus Christ. And to use the analogy of a marriage is helpful, as well. Some theologians emphasize the point that gender is here important, as well. Namely, that just as Jesus Christ was the male of the church, the male member of the church, the male supervisor, so -- and as the husband is also the male person in the marriage, so to the pastor needs to be a male person when it comes to the ordination. We think here of the church as being the bride as one that cannot be separated from Jesus Christ. He is the Lord of the church. And without him, the church cannot be led to eternity. I think this relationship here and the image of the church as being the bride of Christ is absolutely crucial for the understanding of the church. It has also been customary in the history of the church and in its theology to speak of the church as the mother. Galatians 4 Verse 26 perhaps is a text where this is indicated. The Old Testament church is defined by the apostle Paul as the mother. And it is appropriate to talk of the church as the mother since we children, you and I, are flesh and blood, are indebted to our mothers for having come into this world. And also to survive in it without our parents and our mother, especially, it would not have been possible to survive. AND so defining the church as a mother means basically this: Without it, without being placed into its midst, it would be very difficult for us Christians to survive in this world. There are also other imageries of the church, such as it being the house or the temple or the city of God. I would advise you to go to the letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 2 Verse 11 following. For there we are given an indication that the church is the house of God. And we as members of that house are invited into this church. And will actually be served by God himself at the table. This church, this house of Jesus Christ, is one that has members. And we are compared often to being the wall of that church. Stones that are being placed into that building. And this church, this house, is actually built on a cornerstone. That is this cornerstone being Jesus Christ is grafted into the church. And without that cornerstone, this whole building will crumble together. And therein, also, we are given an understanding in this imagery of the church as house. That it is standing on a very firm foundation. And that foundation is identified as the apostles or the preaching of the prophets. So that the church needs to understand, as we talk about its apostolic foundation, that it cannot exist without the preaching of the apostles. As they have witnessed Jesus Christ. And as they are preaching to the church in the New Testament. And as it is now recorded in the Bible. We are relying on the words of the apostles for our proclamation in the church today. Finally, the imagery of the church as being a flock of Jesus Christ or of the pen as it is said to us in John 10 is absolutely important here. Just like the pen offers security to the sheep against wolves and thieves, so, also, the church is a pen where we Christians are being given refuge and protection from this world. It is like a Noah's ark that was being built to protect those inside it from the oncoming storm. The door to this pen is Jesus Christ. And the shepherd is Jesus Christ, as well, who leads his flock. That is why Luther in the Smalcald Article when he was asked how to define the church says this simple sentence: The church is the flock of Jesus Christ that hears the voice of its shepherd. Outside the church here we can say then there is no salvation. Many times in the history this sentence has been abused. And it can be misunderstood. If the church is the haven or the pen in which people are given salvation, it means for us Lutherans this: Wherever the preaching occurs, wherever the Word of forgiveness is being spoken and said and preached, there salvation is found. We, therefore, disassociate ourselves with the understanding that a church of Christ has to create a hierarchy. And only if we affirm that hierarchy and belong under it do we then consider ourselves as true members of the church. This has always been the argument against the Roman Catholic understanding of the church and its statement that outside the church, there is no salvation. Namely, that they claim that the hierarchy and the Roman pontiff is the one that sits over the church and that everyone who does not belong under that hierarchy should not consider himself a member of a church. This was a long answer to a question about what the church is all about in the Scriptures. I think it is crucial here just to reaffirm the fact that there is a lot of imagery going on in the Scriptures about what the church really is. And we should be careful as we evaluate the evidence in Scripture that we come to an exhaustive conclusion about what the church is and what is being said therein. We spoke about the Kingdom of God. We looked at the number of parables about what the church is. And we then went to a few imageries such as the mother of all believers, the flock of Christ, and so being the body of Jesus Christ. All these help us to explain what the church is.