The consolation in fellow believers

The consolations of God - Eighth in a series

Continuing from the previous blog post, according to the Westminster Confession (WC), accepted by many denominations as a guide to Scripture, the holy catholic (universal) church is INVISIBLE. It 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. (WC 25-1) Unbelievers are not in that number, even though you may see them and sit with them in church every Sunday.

The WC then points out that the VISIBLE church is also universal, that is, not confined to one nation, but is made of all throughout the world who profess the true religion, together with their children.

Furthermore, to the VISIBLE church Christ has given the ministry, oracles (the Bible), and the ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, and does by his presence and Spirit assure their effectiveness. (WC 25-3) We must believe that Jesus Christ is with us in the churches, even though many have become "so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan" (WC 25-5). It is comforting and an article of FAITH that "there shall always be a church on earth to worship God according to his will." (See the 25th chapter of the WC for the scripture references for these teachings.)

The WC states that the catholic or universal church is "the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." This statement would provide a start for a lively discussion among many today!

Now, about the COMMUNION OF SAINTS: to Roman Catholics, this refers to all those in the church, alive, in purgatory or in heaven. It includes the intercession of saints and the practice of praying for the dead. For the Lutherans, it means "union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith." (Wikipedia)

For protestants generally, the communion of saints is defined in the WC’s chapter 26-1:

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.

The Scripture references are: I John 1:3; Eph. 3:16-19; John 1:16; Eph. 2:5-6; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6; II Tim. 2:12; Eph. 4:15-16; I Cor. 12:7; I Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 2:19; I Thess. 5:11, 14; Rom. 1:11-12, 14; I John 3:16-18; Gal. 6:10.

The word "communion" or koinōnia (Gr) means: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse, intimacy, the share which one has in anything.

Calvin and other church fathers wrote about the need for believers to mutually strengthen themselves in the fear of God and by sharing among themselves the benefits given to each by God. These concepts are hard to understand for unbelievers.

There is a participation in Christ that is expressed in communing with fellow Christians. It is an intimacy of relation that is tended by someone unseen, whose example we are careful to model as we commune. We feel His presence in one another and we are consoled.

We will take up this blog series again in the New Year, DV — Deo Volente, God Willing.

Consolation in Creeds

The consolations of God - Seventh in a series

We protestants over the centuries and today “confess” our faith by saying together the ancient creeds as part of worship. This is to nourish our hearts through recommitment of our minds to Truth.

In one of these, the Apostle's Creed, we state,

I believe
in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe (numbers added)
1. in the Holy Ghost;
2. the holy Catholic (universal) Church;
3. the Communion of Saints;
4. the Forgiveness of sins;
5. the Resurrection of the body,
6. and the Life everlasting.

There are two I believe’s in this creed: The first comprises some important points that a Christian must accept about God and Jesus; the second begins a list of commonly held beliefs.

Two of these points in the second part, numbers 2 and 3 , seem not to fit.

Yes, we know that (1) all Christians must believe in the third Person of the Trinity, (4) if we confess and repent of sin we are promised forgiveness, (5) our bodies will be resurrected as Christ's was, and (6) we will live forever.

It does take FAITH to believe these things, for they are outside of our natural realm of experience.

But we can SEE the (2) church, can we not? At least we can see those near us and read about those in other lands. And what is the (3) communion of saints if not the simple experience of fellowship among believers? So, is there a need to STATE that we have FAITH in these?

Is there more in these phrases, holy catholic church and communion of saints than meets the eye? Yes, and as we understand what each means and believe in them, we will be consoled. More on this in the next post.

God's Consoling Presence Part 2

The consolations of God - Sixth in a series

Perhaps the best example of a man earnestly desiring God's presence is the story of Moses, when Israel was in the desert, after her miraculous deliverance from slavery under Pharaoh.

Moses was on Sinai fasting and receiving the 10 Commandments and laws for 40 days and nights, and the people grew anxious and lost faith. They pooled their jewelry and Aaron, Moses' brother who had assisted him in confronting Pharaoh, fashioned a gold calf for them to worship. Well, the cow was a sacred animal in Egypt, where, as a nation, they had resided for hundreds of years.

Moses took the stone tablets that had been engraved with the Law by God's finger, and traversed down the mountain. When he saw Israel dancing before the golden calf he threw down the tablets and they shattered. (Ex 32:19-25)

After a firm and somewhat violent reprimand of God's people, Moses returned to Sinai and fasted another 40 days and nights— again neither eating bread nor drinking water (Deut 9:18-19) — before interceding for the people. He reminded the Lord of the promises he had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so God relented from destroying Israel in his wrath.

The situation was righted to an extent, so that the people might continue on their journey to the Promised Land, however, God stated that he would NOT go with them. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned (Ex 33:3-4).

But Moses had sought the Lord on behalf of Israel, and God relented: My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Ex 33:14)

Moses expressed what all Christians should say: If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence. (Ex 33:15-16) Why take even one step if God is not with us? What would be the purpose? What might be the outcome?

Again, God wrote his Law on two tablets, and told Moses to put them in an ark to protect them. (Deut 10:2)

Moses came down from the mountain, his face shining, and taught the people God's law and they set about constructing the tabernacle for the proper worship of the Lord. It all came to pass just as Moses had told Pharaoh: Let my people go that they may worship me. (Ex 7:16; 8:1; 9:1; 9:13; 10:3)

God made known his presence by a cloud or fire above the tent of the congregation:

When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Ex 40:34-38)

So the people of God journeyed to Canaan, yet none of those who rebelled and worshiped the golden calf and argued against entering the land when Caleb and Joshua brought a good report (Num 14:28-33) were permitted to enter. Neither did Moses enter (Num 20:12). But that is another lesson.

Even so, Israel in the wilderness was blessed, for they had the presence of God. It was enough consolation for a lifetime.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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