What is the Church? (What do Lutherans Believe?: Part 1)

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This is a seven-week devotion by Pastor Ricky Jacob, of Winnebago, Nebraska. 

It is still all about Jesus.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Some of you may wonder, just what do we Lutherans believe?

Today, I will attempt to summarize just one of the chief articles of faith that we Lutherans believe and teach, based solely on the sacred Word of God.

Today's chief article of faith: What is the Church?

Defining "church" was one of the most controversial topics during the time of the Lutheran Reformation.

Properly speaking, the church is the assembly of saints and true believers. The church is primarily the gathering of God's people around Christ's Word and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

In the wide sense, the visible church includes all who are seen together around the sacred Word of God and the Sacraments. This, of course, includes hypocrites and evil persons who mingle with believers, including (it is sad to say) some pastors and leaders of the church organization.

In the narrow sense, the invisible church includes all who genuinely have faith in Christ, an aspect of church that cannot be seen. Fellowship around, in, and through the Word and Sacraments define unity in the faith.

The Apostle Paul writes, regarding Christ's work in the making of the saints of the church by grace alone, in his letter to the saints, the faithful believers in Christ of the church at Ephesus.

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)

Pastor Ricky Jacob
Winnebago, Nebraska