One church, many services – not status, but a mission
What exactly is the church of Christ? It is more than one or the other denomination. What about elites? There are none, only different tasks. And that means collaborating and working together. This is what the Chief Apostle made clear in his most recent doctrinal paper.
The church of Christ is one of the topics in the most recent issue of community. The text is based on a spiritual presentation by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider at a District Apostle Meeting in the latter half of 2017. It was initially published in a special edition of the Divine Service Guide in 2018 (No. 2).
Who or what is the church of Christ?
“The church of Christ is comprised of all those believers who belong to Christ through baptism, faith, and profession,” the Chief Apostle writes. It must not be confused with individual institutions or denominations nor can it be equated with the Catholic Church, New Apostolic Church, Protestant Church, or Orthodox Church, nor even with the sum total of all of these churches.
The church of Christ consists of Catholic, New Apostolic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians, but no one can know which Christians are really part of the church of Christ. For “only God can see the sincerity of faith in each individual believer”.
With and without Apostles
After the Apostles of the early Christian church had died, God continued to provide for the faithful. “The Holy Spirit continued His activity of salvation.” The church of Christ was able to develop because believers who had been baptised with water engaged the gifts they had received from God in serving the church. “Faithful Christians … proclaimed the gospel, taught and exhorted the believers, searched the Scriptures and thereby advanced knowledge, led and organised church communities, and helped those in need.”
“Since the renewed occupation of the Apostle ministry, those who have been baptised with water can once again receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Chief Apostle Schneider explains. Those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit are not better than others, they have only been chosen for a special service: “They are to announce the imminent return of the Lord, to testify of the activity of living Apostles, to give room to the Holy Spirit within themselves, to acquire divine virtues, and in this way prepare themselves for the return of Christ.”
Grateful and respectful
“We are filled with deep gratitude toward all Christians in both the past and present, who have placed the gifts they have received from God into the service of Christ and His church,” the Chief Apostle emphasises. He says that it is the concern of all New Apostolic Christians “to fulfil the mission they have in common with all other Christians, namely to profess belief in Jesus Christ and proclaim the praises of God in both word and deed”.
That is why they “proclaim the imminent return of the Lord and testify of the activity of living Apostles. In doing so, they show the due respect to those Christians who do not share their belief”.
Our relationship with other churches
“Our understanding of the church of Christ also has implications for our relationship with other Christian churches,” the leader of the New Apostolic Church makes clear. Let us develop our relationships with other Christians and other Christian churches on the basis of the doctrine described in the Catechism, he says.
The Chief Apostle’s advice on how to foster these relationships is found in Ephesians 4: 1–3: “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.”
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