Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Salvation and Mother Church

This past Sunday, I preached a sermon entitled "Mother Church" on Isaiah 66:7-14. In that passage, God describes the church as a fruitful, beloved, and blessed mother. You can listen to the sermon here or watch it here. As I point out in the sermon, the church is also described as a mother in other passages, like Isaiah 54 and Galatians 4:21-31. This biblical image for the church has been used throughout church history by men like Cyprian (200-258), and John Calvin (1509-1564) echoed his comments when he wrote of the church:
“What God has thus joined, let not man put asunder: to those to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a mother … [A]s it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels. For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for ...” - John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.1.1, 4)
Beautiful words, but also strong words, especially that last sentence. He goes on to explain it by discussing Isaiah 37:32, Joel 2:32, Ezekiel 13:9, and Psalm 106:4-5. And Calvin was not alone in speaking so strongly of the visible church. Consider these statements from the confession of the continental Reformed churches and the confession of the British Reformed churches: 
"We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself, to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it..."
- Belgic Confession of Faith, 28 (1561) 
"The visible church ... is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."
-Westminster Confession of Faith, 25.2 (1646)
Why would a Protestant say that there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the visible church? Watch the video below to find out! I give four biblical reasons why there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the visible church. 

No comments: