Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Church

Fr. Dale Matson

“Through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” (Ephesians 3:10a, ESV)

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worked in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:14-21)

How fitting and proper that this epistle reading was selected for the Feast Day of Gregory of Nazianzus  since St. Paul’s prayer includes the three Persons of the Trinity that Gregory helped define and defend in the second ecumenical council (381). Note also that St. Paul claimed that while he was the minister of the Gospel to the Gentiles, the mysteries of God are revealed by God the Holy Spirit to the church. It is to the mystical body of Christ, the church, that God the Holy Spirit reveals the mystery of unity of fellowship and truth. These mysteries are spoken to the church by Apostles and Prophets BUT it is the church that tests, weighs, and confirms what has been revealed. St. Paul himself warned ” but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”(Galatians, 1:8)

In the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, the Church is described as “The Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head and of which all baptized persons are members.  It is called the People of God, the New Israel, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth.”

In Article XX (39 Articles) we read the following concerning the church. "The church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the church is a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation".

Finally, this is written to the contemporary prophets and churches as a caution. New revelations do not set the Word of God against itself. “The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man” (Article VII) Although the Church is under the Word of God, it is the one Holy, catholic and apostolic church that is and remains the steward of the mysteries of God. 

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