The aim of this article
In the following article we are going to outline the teaching of the “invisible church” that people try to trace back to specific Bible passages. We will discuss these passages in detail. This teaching is far from the teaching of the New Testament. Not only does the expression “invisible church” not occur in the Bible, but not even one thought or statement of Jesus and the apostles allude to it. The church is seen by the world, this is the visible church. This is the only concept of church Jesus knew.
1 Teaching of the Invisible Church
“Committed” members of today’s so-called Christian denominations are aware that besides them (“believers”, “born-again Christians”, “devoted ones”) there are also “pseudo-religious church goers” or “Sunday Christians” in the “church” who have not decided yet for Jesus or will not ever do that. Also the latter ones take part in the community-meetings, they pray, sing and celebrate the Lord’s Supper together with the others although they do not have relationship with Jesus.
How is it possible? Is it all right so, or are we faced here with a situation that contradicts the teaching of the Bible?
Today’s situation is often explained by the teaching of the so-called “invisible church” which can be summarized as follows:
According to this teaching:
- There is a difference between visible and invisible church.
- The visible church is seen by outsiders, to it belong both the believing and unbelieving “Christians”(!). There are lots of such “churches” (Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and many more diverse small and large “churches”)
- There is however only one “Invisible church”. To it belong the “born-again” Christians who are together with the unbelievers in the visible churches. Jesus will take them to himself when he returns. At this time the invisible church will become visible.
- The “believers” think about the “unbelievers”, whom they are together with, that only God sees their heart and maybe one day they will convert but it is also possible that they will die as unbelievers. They see as their task to be a light for the unbelievers within the “church”, to fulfil in this way an “internal evangelism”.
They try to trace this teaching back to specific Bible-passages, which we will elaborate later. However, at first we would like to point out, on the base of other passages, how foreign the above teaching and practice are from the values of the Bible. Only a believer can be the member of a Christian community and no-one who has not decided for Jesus and is satisfied with his (spiritual) state.
2 The Situation of the First Community
About the first community in Jerusalem, which came to existence after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost we can read the following:
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…. (Acts 5:12–14)
The fact that no one else dared join them means neither that the Christians formed an isolated community nor that they kept out those who were willing to join them. We can see how eagerly they evangelised and how God increased the community with those who were to be saved (Acts 2:47). By the others, we have to understand those who did not want to serve Jesus with their whole life. The Christians’ evangelism and life made the people decide. Those who converted through them joined them. It was not so that a multitude of people joined from among whom some really had decided to follow Jesus and others either repented after years or decades, or they practised religious forms till the end of their life. The first Christian community did not know this problem: what to do with the unbelieving members who are present in masses since it was simply impossible that an unbeliever became the member of the community without repentance.
If an unbeliever came to the community, everybody assessed the “secrets of his heart”.
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:23–25)
The whole community endeavoured that the “visitor” would understand what he had to repent from. This process was in one case shorter and in another case longer. If, however, the “visitor” did not want to convert by hearing the assessment of the Christians, there was obviously no base to baptise him. Nor did he join or take part in the fellowship.
It occurred, nevertheless, that through the evangelism such people like Simon the sorcerer joined the church. It seems that Philip did not realize that, among the many converts, Simon’s thinking had not changed and thus he succeeded in deluding also the other Christians for some time. This, however, came to light soon and Peter behaved in a very resolute way:
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” (Acts 8:18–24)
We see a similarly strict acting also in such cases when some men slipped in the community, who lived or thought in a different way to what Jesus and the apostles taught.
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
Jude’s aim was to express that these men have no place in the community. Even though it occurred that somebody came to the community, who did not fit in, from the above we can see that his presence was possible for short time only and it was not at all regarded as normal. The writers of the letters always admonished the communities to fight against and to separate from such persons (Acts 20:29–31; Matthew 24:23–26; 1 Timothy 4:1–3; 6:3–5; 2 Timothy 3:1–9; 1 John 2:18–19).
3 The Purity and Holiness of the Church
If a member of the church sinned in such a way that he became unworthy of the fellowship with the saints and he did not want to change from his sins in spite of repeated help and admonitions, the community ceased the fellowship with him: excluded him. This was based on Jesus’ command:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:15–18)
Concerning treating someone like a Gentile or a tax collector it ought to be remarked that the Jews did not have fellowship with Gentiles because they considered them as unclean (Acts 10:28). They thought in a similar way also about the greedy tax collectors, who compromised with the Romans (Matthew 9:10–11). This categorical rejection was not correct, yet this was the Jewish practice. Jesus bases on this fact showing what the real sense of separation is: the reason for it should not be the social or national state of the other one but the fact that he does not accept help and wants to remain in his sin.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgement on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:1–7)
Some verses later Paul goes on to say:
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11–13)
Somebody might ask: “Where is mercy here? Where is patience? Did not Paul have hope that God would still open the heart of this sinner?” Yes he did! However, even though he considered it possible he binds belonging to the community to severe conditions. God’s church cannot have fellowship with someone who clings to sin. However, if he later repents he can return to the church with the renewed decision to live a holy, pure life.
The first Christian churches guarded their purity in this way. In this way it was possible that unbelievers were not among them. If this had not been the case, how could Paul address those who received the letters as saints? (For example 1 Corinthians 1:1–3; 2 Corinthians 1:1–2)
In the New Testament the term “saint” has the same meaning as “Christian” (Acts 9:13; Ephesians 5:3; Philippians 4:21–22; Hebrews 3:1). All Christians are saints and only those can belong to the church who let them be sanctified and let God reign in their life (Hebrews 12:14; Ephesians 5:5; Galatians 5:19–21). Not sinless people are meant (this is visible especially in the letters to the Corinthians) but such people “who are sanctified in Christ Jesus”, who accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and redemption. Even if they happen to sin they will listen to the admonition and want to change. The whole church and each member of it fights against sin. A Christian cannot live a double-life. He cannot serve God while his heart is in the world. In the same way neither can the church give room to sinners, who do not want to change (Matthew 6:24; Matthew 10:38–39; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17; John 12:25–26; 1 John 2:4–6).
If Christians do not separate themselves from worldly people but have fellowship with them, they show a false image to the outsiders. Furthermore, they deceive also those “religious ones” who consider themselves Christians (what is understandable from the above). Finally, they themselves also break away from God.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–18)
God can receive as his children those who separate themselves from the unbelievers. Also the meaning of the Greek word ecclesia is a community that is called out. This hints at the custom that the messengers of ancient Greek towns used to call out the citizens from their houses for the official assemblies. Thus, also the messengers of the Gospel call God’s community out from the world.
We can see from the above that the practice of the first Christian communities was totally different from that of the nowadays’ denominations. Today everybody can become a member of the “church” (after some formalities) and usually exclusion is not practised either. For these things, a more intensive fellowship would be necessary: they should deal more with one another, they should follow each other’s life with attention. The thinking of today’s religious people is like this: “That is right but: Who has time for this nowadays? We live in the 21st century.” (That means: Who has time in the 21st century to fulfil Christ’s command?!)
4 The Parable of the Wheat and Weed
The wrong practice, however, did not begin just in our days, and so also the theoretical support of it (= the teaching of the invisible church) came to existence already early. The process was matched by the (parallel) profaning of the church. As the community backed away more and more from God and the holy life so its sensitivity against sin decreased. Already in the 4th century, in the Donatistic controversy, Augustine misused a Biblical passage to uphold the readmission of apostatised bishops into the church: the interest created the false teaching.
Augustine claimed, on the base of the parable of wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24–30,36–43) and the parable of the net (Matthew 13:47–50), that the church is a “mixed body” (corpus permixtum), in which the wicked coexist with the righteous.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24–30)
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47–50)
Augustine identified the field and the net with the church, ignoring the fact that Jesus himself interpreted his own parable in a different way!!!
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36–43)
According to verse 38 the field is identical to the world. Whoever refers the field to the church on the base of the parable about the wheat and weeds, acknowledges that his church is one with the world. Paul, however, writes to the visible church at Philippi as follows:
…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. (Philippians 2:15–16)
The church is in the world, it shines as a light in it and therefore it cannot be identical with it!
If in Matthew 13:41 the Son of Man nevertheless collects the evildoers from his kingdom, then—considering the facts above—the kingdom of the Son of Man we should refer to the created world—since Jesus is Lord of the whole world—and not to the community.
Similarly, neither does the parable of the net refer to the community. Just because of the fact that he [Jesus] compares the kingdom of heaven with the net it does not necessarily follow that the net means the community. In other parables he compares the kingdom of heaven to a king, a merchant etc. Of course nobody thinks that the king or the merchant would symbolise the community. Jesus used the expression “kingdom of heaven” when he wanted to explain something concerning God’s Kingdom. “God’s Kingdom” (in Matthew: “Kingdom of Heaven”) meant for the Jews the kingdom of the Messiah. Jesus mainly wanted to correct the wrong images about it with his parables.
The Jews in Jesus’s time expected from the messiah to act as a glorious king and just judge: to deliver his people from the foreign oppression and to extinguish the evil from the earth (cf. the words of John the Baptist: Luke 3:7–9). Jesus wanted to correct this thinking: he had not come to reign as an earthly king or to execute judgement. The judgement will be on the last day and till then good and evil have to coexist in the world. His kingdom is a spiritual one that has overcome the world in a spiritual way:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
5 Other Misinterpreted Passages
5.1 2 Timothy 2:16–21
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his”, and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
The house mentioned by Paul (v. 20) is identified with the church and the articles for noble and ignoble purposes are usually referred to the believers and unbelievers respectively who are together in the community.
It is correct to refer the house to the church since also the context is about the life of the community: there are Gnostic false teachers who should be kept clear of because their teaching spreads like gangrene and they disturbed already many in their faith. However, who are the articles for noble and ignoble purpose? In the Greek text the words time = honour, worth, value (NIV: noble purposes) and atimia = dishonour, the antonym of time (NIV: ignoble purposes) are used (they derive from the verbs timao = to appreciate, to honour and atimadzo = not to appreciate). Also in 1 Corinthians 12:23 Paul uses a word derived from time: atimoteros = more despised, NIV: less honourable. This passage may help us come closer to what Paul meant in 2 Timothy 2:20 by articles for noble and ignoble purposes:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:21–25)
Here the “presentable” and the “unpresentable” (weaker, less honourable) members clearly refer to Christians because this passage has the very message that every Christian is worthy in the same measure through the Holy Spirit who dwells in him, independently of his gifts. As well as every limb of the body is connected to the head and obeys it, so every member of the church is in connection with Christ. This passage in itself annihilates Augustine’s fabrication of “corpus permixtum” (the body is only so far mixed as different members have different gifts or as they are on different levels in obedience, and not because some do, some do not have relationship with God) but it helps also understand the meaning of the “articles” in 2 Timothy 2. The articles for “noble” and the “ignoble” purposes do not designate the believing and not believing members but—on the base of the context—those members who stand firm in their faith and in the teaching and those who are weaker and can be influenced by false teachers. To cleanse oneself from “these” (in Greek the demonstrative pronoun: apo touton is used that literally means: “from these”) is a similar thought to what verse 19 says: “…everyone must turn away from wickedness.” So the demonstrative pronoun “these” does not refer to the articles for ignoble purposes (neither those can think so who believe in the teaching of invisible church because they do not want to separate themselves from the unbelievers in the church) but to the wrong teachings and teachers. The “articles for ignoble purposes” may have started to give in to the influence but if they separate themselves from the influence of the wrong teachers, they can become “instruments for noble purposes made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work”.
5.2 1 Corinthians 15:34
Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
In the context, the topic is the correct image of resurrection. Several Christians in Corinth—giving room to the influence of the Greek spirit—thought about resurrection in a wrong way (instead of resurrection in body just a further existence of spirit). Paul designates this thinking as far from God. He who thinks in a false way in this point, actually does not have correct image about God. Paul admonishes them with such strong words (there are some who are ignorant of God) in order to show: they cannot remain in this conception, they must change it. From the initial greeting of the letter (as mentioned above), however, it is clear that in the Corinthian community everyone “knew” God, had relationship with him.
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
5.3 Matthew 25:1–13
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The foolish virgins are really together with the wise ones but why would the parable speak about believers and unbelievers who live together in the church? Above we have thoroughly proved that the Bible does not know such a situation. The parable could be thought provoking for both the Jews who listened to Jesus but had not repented and the disciples who followed Jesus. The Jews thought that they all would reign together with the messiah when he comes because they were the chosen nation. The parable makes it clear that not all who think so can take part in the wedding (not all can enter his kingdom). There is a condition for entering it: one must be ready. Being ready in the case of the Jews could mean the acceptance of the one who was sent by God, that is, Jesus. The parable could be an admonition also for the disciples: it is not enough to start with Jesus—they have to persevere with him alertly till the end. It is valid for the church, too. Also in the church there can be such Christians who repented and gave their life to God but later they apostatise and abandon Him. (There are several passages which speak about apostasy in the New Testament, e.g.: Hebrews 6:4–8; 10:24–31) If somebody, however, decides not to live with God he has no place in the community anymore.
5.4 John 10:14–16
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jesus speaks about the one flock in future tense. That is why many people understand by the flock those believers whom Jesus will gather together from the diverse visible Christian denominations on the last day: then the believers scattered in many different flocks would be united in one flock. But why should we refer the future tense to the last day? It can mean any other later event. Jesus speaks about those who are “of this sheep pen” and those who are not. From the first sheep pen he had already called the sheep and the other sheep he would call later. Those sheep that listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd would form one flock. According to the theory of invisible church what would the first sheep pen refer to? To which church? How could Jesus have spoken about church at all when no church existed yet? In verse 16. he uses the specific demonstrative pronoun “this”: “from this sheep pen”. This sheep pen has to symbolise Israel since Jesus called the sons of Israel during his earthly ministry:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 10:5–7)
The other sheep refer logically to the gentiles. Jesus wanted hint that there were people also among the gentiles who would listen to his call. The disciples experienced it indeed after some years. This experience is summarised by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…. (Ephesians 2:11–19)
Consequently, the unification of the sheep of the two sheep pens took place already that time in the visible churches. Hence, it is clear that there is no base to deduce from John 10 the teaching of invisible church.
Without examining other Bible-passages, we can state that this teaching does not occur in the Bible (not even the expression “invisible church”). Not even one thought or statement of Jesus and the apostles alludes to it. Only conscious misinterpreting of biblical passages and complete disregard of the truth of the Bible can maintain it.
Even if there are differences between the members of the Christian church in regard of maturity in faith or obedience in one item each member is equal: he has relationship with the Head, Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–27; Ephesians 4:15–16). This church is seen by the world; this is the visible church, as also Jesus knew only the concept of visible church:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)
…I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23)
How should the world judge if not on the base of what it sees: on the base of the visible church? The community of Christians always has to be aware of this responsibility. A community that lives as “mixed body” is not the body of Christ and does not fulfil the duty that Jesus entrusted to his church. Christians live in a deep fellowship based on the teachings of Christ. Only in this way, their testimony about Christ’s love can be authentic in front of the world.
- J. Calvin formulated the teaching of invisible church as follows: “I have observed that the Scriptures speak of the Church in two ways. Sometimes when they speak of the Church they mean the Church as it really is before God—the Church into which none are admitted but those who by the gift of adoption are sons of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit true members of Christ. In this case it not only comprehends the saints who dwell on the earth, but all the elect who have existed from the beginning of the world. Often, too, by the name of Church is designated the whole body of mankind scattered throughout the world, who profess to worship one God and Christ, who by baptism are initiated into the faith; by partaking of the Lord’s Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, agree in holding the word of the Lord, and observe the ministry which Christ has appointed for the preaching of it. In this Church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance: of ambitious, avaricious, envious, evil-speaking men, some also impurer lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because their guilt cannot be legally established, or because due strictness of discipline is not always observed. Hence, as it is necessary to believe the invisible Church, which is manifest to the eye of God only, so we are also enjoined to regard this Church which is so-called with reference to man, and to cultivate its communion.” (Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 1). [↩]
- Of course it is not about inquirers. See the explanation to 1 Corinthians 14. [↩]
- This is clearly visible from 1 Corinthians 5:5: “…so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” [↩]
- A similar address can also be seen in other letters: Romans 1:1–7; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1–4; 2 Peter 1:1–4. [↩]
- See also Peter’s sermon at Pentecost: Acts 2:40: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [↩]