The Church in the Fathers and the New Testament III: St Paul

None of this is foreign to the New Testament as a whole. In fact this all reflects St Paul’s teaching that the Church is one Body made up of many members (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 10-13, Ephesians 4). For St Paul the Church is the Body of Christ, the Eucharist as the Body of Christ, and our own membership in the Church are parallel ideas.

One of the clearest expressions of Paul’s thought on the Church is in 1 Corinthians 10: 14-22:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.  Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

It’s worth noting, as we close out this section, that it is only AFTER he discusses our unity with Christ and each other in the Eucharist that St Paul discusses in chapter 12, the spiritual gifts given and, in chapter 13, the primacy of love.

In light of this admittedly too brief survey, it shouldn’t surprise us that in the Creed we profess not only our faith in the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but also in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  In the Creed the Church is an object of faith. Like St Nicholas, I believe in the Church, I trust the Church, I am obedient to the teaching and practice of the Church.

But the Church is not only the object of my faith. The Church is the context—the visible, living community—within which and through which I am called to live out my faith in Jesus Christ.  It is important at this point to say that the Creed doesn’t just reminds of the objective character of the Church in which I believe. There is to the objective dimension of my faith in the Church a subjective or personal dimension as well.  This shouldn’t surprise us since, this too, is the teaching of the New Testament specifically the Epistle of St James (2:14-26).

In my next post, I want to look with you at three themes:

  1. The Four Marks of the Church
  2. What these Four Marks suggest about our Christian calling
  3. The importance of spiritual formation and spiritual direction in living out our Christian vocation

I will not look at these themes with the same degree of detail I looked at the Church. Rather, I’ll just sketch out some thoughts and ask you to fill in the blanks as you see fit.

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