There is a need for solidarity among churches
What exactly is church? Only the building? Only a certain denomination? An organisation? There are different definitions. Paul speaks of a “body of Christ” in Scripture. Following are some thoughts from the Chief Apostle on this subject.
Dortmund (Germany), 23 November 2017. The conference of the International District Apostle Meeting has just started, and as always the Chief Apostle begins with a spiritual message. This time, the image “body of Christ” is on his mind, a term that is found in a number of biblical passages, especially in the epistles of Paul. The texts are comprehensive and meaningful, as are their interpretations by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider. The explanations are far-reaching, and will first of all be published in a Special Edition of the Divine Service Guide for the ministers. Following is a brief overview of the Chief Apostle’s statements.
The diversity of the church of Christ
When Paul speaks about the “body of Christ” he means the church. Believing Christians are members on this body, all in different capacities. Paul’s intention is not to define the concept “church” with this image, but to define its essential aspects.
- Christ is the head of the body, in other words, of His church. The members on this body serve Him.
- The members are all different and have various tasks, yet they work together and serve each other.
- In order to build this body, His church, God has given special gifts and services.
The church of Christ is comprised of all those believers who belong to Christ through baptism, belief, and their profession of Him. It can only be grasped in faith. Only God knows how sincere an individual is about his or her faith. In Paul’s day there was no such thing as different churches or denominations. Today, this is quite different, and there is a great variety of different Christian churches. We must not, however, confuse the church of Christ with these institutions or religious communities. The church of Christ is certainly comprised of many Christians, but it is not the Catholic, New Apostolic, Protestant, or Orthodox Church, nor is it the sum of all of these churches.
The New Apostolic conception of the body of Christ
New Apostolic Christians believe that
- God calls those whom He has chosen so that they may receive the baptism with water and can thus be included in the church.
- God has entrusted the members of the church of Christ with spiritual gifts and expects that they serve God and His church with these gifts.
- God has granted the members of the church of Christ, whom He has chosen, belief in the Apostles and the gift of the Holy Spirit. These believers are not better than others, but they have been called by God to fulfil a special task in the church of Christ.
And although all members on the body of Christ have been endowed with different gifts, they have all been called to stand together in solidarity and overcome their differences in order to build one another up in the love of Christ.
Relationship with other Christian churches
This understanding of the church of Christ is what determines the relationship of the New Apostolic Church to other churches.
- It is on this basis that the New Apostolic Church wants to develop its relationship to other Christians and other Christian churches. We are grateful to all Christians of the past and the present who have put the gifts they have received from God into the service of Christ and His church.
- As members on the body of Christ, New Apostolic Christians are committed to fulfilling the joint mission of all Christians in professing their faith in Jesus Christ and testifying of the goodness of God. Having been reborn of water and Spirit, they know that they have been called to proclaim the imminent return of the Lord and to testify of the activity of the living Apostles.
- They have deep respect for those Christians who do not share this faith.
Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider recalls the words of Apostle Paul: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4: 1–3).
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