Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, chapter 44

The Church: Its nature, its marks, and its purposes.

*Just a reminder that this study of Wayne Grudem's book, Systematic Theology, is not by any means me teaching, but rather a simple summary chapter by chapter of his book for my own enrichment.*

By definition, the church is the community of all true believers for all time. 

Christ says in Matt 16, "I will build my church," that it is the Lord who draws people to himself.   And indeed, the church includes many from the Old Testament who were God's people. 

1.  The church is invisible, yet visible. We cannot see the spiritual condition of people's hearts, those who attend "church." So Paul says, "the Lord knows those who are his." 

Paul wrote many letters to "the church," in different areas, and yet he was aware that not all that were there were believers.  So the visible church is the group of people who come together weekly to worship and profess faith in Christ. 

Calvin says that we must make a charitable judgement whereby we recognize as members of the church all who confess their faith and partake in the sacraments and thereby rofess the same God and Christ with us. 

The church is local and universal.  It can refer to a little house gathering, a city, or even all the believers worldwide. 

Metaphors for the church: 

  • family (Father God and others as brothers and sisters). 
  • Bride of Christ.  As Christ gave himself for his church
  • The body of Christ (i.e. ears, feet, etc)
  • Branches on a vine, a building, a harvest, a new temple, a new priesthood, etc. 
The church and Israel.  The church (believers in Christ) are now God's covenant people.  The dwelling place of God is no longer the Jerusalem temple, for Christians are the new "temple" of God. 

The church and the Kingdom of God.  The church is a group of believers who await to come into the kingdom of God. They are witnesses for the kingdom, used for the glory of the kingdom, and await the kingdom.  There is a start or taste of the kingdom within the church, but also an longing for glory when it will be full. 

Marks of a true church. 
According to Luther: the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments rightly administered. 
Calvin said: Wherever we see the word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christs institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.

How do we know how much wrong doctrine can be tolerated before a church can no longer be considered a true church?   Jehovahs witnesses, mormons, do not teach saving faith, and thus are easily marked as false churches. 
A protestant church based on works righteousness or unbelief in scripture is not much better than those two aforementioned groups. Also a church who offers the sacraments to anyone who walks through the doors can give false assurance to unregenerate sinners.  People who do not believe in the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone are another example. 

Purpose of the church: (all churches should have a good balance of all three of these). 
1. Ministry to God, worship. both with song and lifestyle. 

2. Ministry to believers, Nurture.  build believers up in maturity.  Paul did not just try to bring people to faith but to present every man mature in Christ. 

3. Ministry to the world, evangelism and mercy, These are both key aspects of a church.  (Ministries of Mercy should never become substitutes for genuine evangelism). 

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