The ecclesiology of the Magisterial reformers: A Study of the View of the Church and its Mission that was held by Martin Luther and John Calvin

Abstract

This essay compares the understandings of the Church and its mission in the thought of Martin Luther and John Calvin and analyses the effect of their understanding on their practice. It begins by outlining the overall position of the Magisterial reformers in comparison to their major contemporaries and moves to provide a historical background for the differences and similarities between the Ecclesiology of Luther and Calvin. The essay then systematically compares four major factors of the Ecclesiology of each theologian. First, it compares the concept of the Marks of the true Church in the thought of each reformer. Second, it outlines the twofold distinction of the invisible and visible Church in the thought of each thinker. Third, it compares the foundation, nature, and structure of the Church in the thinking of each reformer. Fourth, it outlines the understanding of the purpose or mission of the Church in the thought of each reformer. Lastly, the essay concludes by taking note of the prior comparison of the Ecclesiology of each reformer and analyzes the effect of these beliefs on each reformers practice.

 

Introduction

The Magisterial or Moderate Reformation grew out of the perception of several German theologians that the Catholic Church has lost sight of the Christian Gospel[1]. The Magisterial Reformers were confronted on both sides by rival views of the Church and its mission, those of their Catholic and radical opponents[2]. On one side the Catholics emphasized the visible hierarchical institution of the Church which possessed historical continuity with the Apostles and on the other were the Anabaptists and other radical reformers who claimed that the true Church was in heaven, and that no institution on Earth merited the name of the ‘Church of God’[3]. The magisterial reformers sought to claim the middle ground between these two positions, by asserting a Trinitarian doctrine of the Church, the universal priesthood of all believers, the difference between the false and true visible Church and the difference between the invisible and visible Church[4]. In doing so the Magisterial reformers sought to validate their separation from the historical Church centered in Rome as well as to justify the validity of their sacraments and their own status as the true Church. Two such Magisterial reformers were Martin Luther and John Calvin. This essay will systematically compare their views on the Church and its mission, concluding with an analysis of the effect of each theologians understanding on their practice. These two reformers views on the Church and its mission have many similarities. This is because Martin Luther’s thought informed that of Calvin. Martin Luther’s Ecclesiology was only a temporary measure which was designed to justify a temporary withdrawal from the Catholic Church until it had returned to the true Gospel[5]. The Catholic Churches repentance was anticipated to occur quickly once they had recognized that the arguments of the reformers were valid[6]. However, Calvin was a second generation reformer, and by his time it had been recognized that the separation from the main body of the Catholic Church would probably continue indefinitely[7]. Therefore Calvin undertook the task of developing a systematic and coherent Ecclesiology which was based upon the scriptures, and which built upon the thought of his predecessor, Martin Luther[8]. The end result was a strong Ecclesiology that solidified the fragmented ideas of Luther, allowing the reformation to move forward[9].

 

The Marks of the True Church: Word and Sacrament

Paul Avis states that “Reformation theology is dominated by two foundational questions: ‘How can I obtain a gracious God?’ and ‘Where can I find the true Church?”[10]. For the Magisterial reformers these two questions are inextricably linked. For them, the answer to the first question, the gospel of God’s free justification of sinners provides the answer for the second, In that it is the presence of this gospel that is the mark of the true Church. The true faith cannot therefore be divorced from the true community. This understanding of the Gospel as the mark of the true Church can be seen in the thought of both Luther and Calvin who came after him[11].

 

Luther believed that the question of whether or not a Church was authentic stood or fell on the question of whether or not they assented to the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone which he considered to be the centre of the Christian Gospel[12]. For Martin Luther the Gospel is enough to sufficiently identify the true visible Church[13]. The true Church is inextricable from the Christian Gospel; neither can exist without the other[14]. In fact he believed that the Church itself was the creation of the Word alone[15]. For Luther where the Gospel is preached there is true faith, and where true faith exists then so does the one true Church, the bride of Christ, and where the bride of Christ exists then so are those individuals who are betrothed to Christ[16]. Though there are secondary marks of the true Church, the recognition of the Gospel is primary in Luther’s thought[17]. For Luther it was far more important to hold the same faith as the Apostles than to be a member of an institution which was historically derived from them. For Luther it was this faith that is the Christological centre of the one true Holy Catholic Church, the centre which gives the Church its identity[18]. Luther attacked the Roman Catholic Church for their insistence on human tradition and asserted that it is the true faith which identifies the true Church[19]. For Luther all other things are secondary and expendable while the Gospel is primary and needful[20]. He was only willing to sacrifice the visible unity of the Church, if by doing so he would save the Gospel which was the centre of the very identity of the Church[21]. Luther’s reform movement sought to reestablish the Church on the redemptive actions of God rather than on human merit and organizations[22].

 

Calvin’s assertion of the marks of the true Church is very similar to Luther’s. For Calvin the presence of the Word of God and the Sacraments were the essential marks by which the true Church was to be known[23]. In Calvin’s thought the true visible Church is to be found where the Word of God is preached and the Sacraments are administered in accords with the Holy Scriptures[24]. But for Calvin the Word of God took on a different meaning to that given to it by Luther[25]. For Luther the phrase meant the gospel, while for Calvin it took on the broader meaning of correct doctrine and proper Church order[26]. However, Calvin would, if pressed, lay down properly constituted Church order and the Sacraments and would retreat to the Gospel alone as the true mark of the Church[27]. Calvin’s doctrine of the Church and its marks is continuous with Luther’s doctrine[28]. Both reformers shared the conviction that the Gospel was the central and decisive factor in marking the presence of the true Christian Church.

 

The Church as Invisible and Visible

Although the marks of the true Church helped one to distinguish between the true and false visible Church, this did not mean that every person in that Church was a true believer. Both Calvin and Luther recognized this truth and drew a distinction between the invisible Church known only to God and the visible Church that could be known by the mark of the Gospel[29].

 

Luther conceived of the Church on two levels[30]. The first level was the internal invisible Church and the second the external visible Church. Luther believed that the true invisible Church is hidden under the visible Church which is made up of both true believers and hypocrites[31]. For Luther the real Church is not an institutional system with a hierarchical-judicial character and a system of sacramental grace which is centered in that order such as that seen in the Roman Catholic Church, nor is it a voluntary association which is entered into for the cultivation of individual and corporate piety[32]. Rather, it is an invisible spiritual entity that is ruled by God and is being built by God as a bride for Christ. The second level of the Church, the visible, was the community of true and false believers that were inside the true visible Church which was marked by the preaching of the Gospel[33]. Luther believed that the spiritual Church is an article of faith and is not an empirical identity on Earth which is visible to the eyes of the natural man, but that through the aforementioned mark of the word people are given a visible sign of it[34]. For Luther these two levels of the Church are indissoluble in this world, like the body and soul, until the eschaton, when the kingdom of Christ is revealed and the sheep and the goats are sorted[35].

 

Though he rarely used the terms invisible and visible in relation to the Church, Calvin built on Luther’s view of the two levels of the Church. Calvin roots the invisible Church in Gods secret election[36]. For Calvin the invisible body of the Church is known only by God and is the community of the living and dead elect[37]. Like Luther Calvin considers the visible Church to be a mix of both the elect and the reprobate[38]. For Calvin both aspects of the one Church are necessarily combined[39]. The Church is invisible because election cannot be seen and visible because, despite its mixture of hypocrites and saints, the Church is made up of the elect[40]. Calvin follows Luther’s view that only in the Eschaton will the true elect Church finally be seen.

 

The Nature and Foundation of the Church and Church Structure

Martin Luther turned the medieval understanding of the Church as an institution upside down. For Martin Luther the Church is grounded in the action and purpose of the triune God[41]. God the Father justifies sinful humanity on the basis of the salvific work of Jesus Christ[42]. This gift of grace is communicated by the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacrament which are served by an ordained minister[43].  For Luther the Church is a living communion of people in Christ, gathered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament[44]. It is not a saving institution that distributes grace as it sees fit but rather a fellowship of love, faith and suffering that exists by God’s grace[45]. However, although it was not primary to his thinking Luther asserted the need for an institutional Church and declared that the Church was a divinely ordained means of Grace[46]. Luther had no issue with a hierarchical system of Church leadership as long as all believers were recognized as priests and were not treated with partiality[47]. For him the medieval Church looked like the true Church but was not because it did not teach the true faith[48]. Luther seemed to assume the legitimacy of the role of the bishops in the Church, if they were true to the Word and Sacraments, but vehemently denied the legitimacy of the role of the Pope due to his recognition that only Christ is the head of the Church and that the pope was originally only the bishop of Rome[49].  One of Luther’s more radical ideas was the universal priesthood of all baptised believers. He believed that since every true Christian partakes in the Word and Sacrament, then they have Christs Word, Christ himself, and all that he is[50]. Because of this Luther thought that every Christian shared in everything that Christ had, including the power to do everything that a priest could do, namely preaching the Gospel whenever and wherever it is needed[51]. This assertion smashed the medieval concept of the Church to pieces by eliminating the divide between the spiritual caste (the clergy) and the temporal caste (the laity)[52].

 

Calvin follows Luther in recognizing that the Church is grounded in the action and purpose of the triune God. In a Luther like fashion, Calvin states that the Church is composed of those “who by the kindness of God the father, through the working of the Holy Spirit have entered into fellowship with Christ”[53]. In this divinely ordained community, Christ encounters the elect through the means of Word and Sacrament[54]. Although he rejected the Roman view of hierarchy and priesthood in the Church, Calvin did not use the phrase ‘priesthood of all believers’ in the same sense as Luther did[55]. Calvin thought that the universal priesthood of believers referred to the freedom of each Christian to come to God without need of any human mediation[56]. Calvin rejected Luther’s understanding of universal priesthood with its mistaken conclusion that each person has all the gifts of Christ. Calvin emphasized that the different gifts are spread throughout the Church so that each person has only a limited portion. The scriptural image of head and body is crucial to Calvin’s doctrine of the Church[57]. Christ is the head and the Church is his body[58]. With their particular gifts each person performs a certain function in this body. Calvin took this image to its fullest and proclaimed that as no body can live without a head properly attached, so no Church can live without being attached to Christ as its head[59]. A consequence of this thinking was Calvin’s refusal to reject the distinction of rank in his Church structure since it eliminated confusion as to each person’s function in the Churches ministry. Calvin’s view of the Church as a functional entity that is used by God as an instrument, led him to create a strong Ecclesiastical organization which became the backbone of his reform movement[60]. In contrast to Luther who seemed to accept the ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Church as a matter of historical contingency, minus the office of Pope, Calvin thought that there were four orders of office that were instituted by God for his purposes in the Scriptures[61]. They are the offices of doctor (teacher), pastor, disciplinary elder, and deacon[62]. Calvin believed that each office performed a different function in the Church, ranging from maintaining Church discipline to the preaching of the Word and the teaching of theology[63].

 

 

The Churches Mission

The conception of the mission of the Church is quite different in the thought of Luther and Calvin. For Luther the gospel and its mandates form the primary mission of the Church[64]. The Church’s primary mandate or mission can be seen as the preaching and teaching of God’s Word to preserve and spread Gods Word and to administer the Sacraments as taught in the Scriptures[65]. However, Luther also thought that Church had the secondary purposes of supporting the faithful and protecting the true faith from heretical beliefs[66]. Therefore, for Luther the Churches overall purpose is to facilitate the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, to support the faithful and to protect the true faith.

 

Calvin assented to Luther’s view of the Churches purpose, but he also saw another function that God had ordained for the Church[67]. Calvin saw the institution of the Church as a divinely instated means of sanctification[68]. The institution of the Church was a necessary, helpful, God given and God ordained means of spiritual growth and development[69]. Calvin borrowed the image of the Church as mother from Cyprian of Carthage[70]. He believed that the Church exists for the sanctification, nourishment, assistance and guidance of Christians. For Calvin the Church is elected by God as a tool to make community with Christ possible[71].

 

How Their Ecclesiology informed their practice

The Ecclesiology of Calvin and Luther informed the practice of the Churches that they founded. First, the strong organization of Calvinist communities gave them a greater capability to weather difficult political situations than their Lutheran equivalents and helped to sustain the spread of their presence during difficult times[72]. Calvin’s strong Church structure in Geneva served to educate and send out missionaries to spread Calvin’s faith to other European nations[73]. New Churches that formed then adopted the same structure as Calvin’s Geneva Church, with Geneva itself becoming like a Protestant Vatican[74]. This protected the faith against heresy and further schism and allowed the Word of God to spread. Second, for both reformers the preaching of the Gospel and true doctrine were of primary importance. Since the true faith was thought to be the determining factor in whether the visible Church and each individual Christian was genuine, the practice of teaching this faith was emphasized by each reformer[75]. Third, Luther’s view of the universal priesthood lead to the expectation that each person was expected to know and preach the gospel in their everyday life leading to an increase in lay ministry[76]. Fourth, unlike the Anabaptists Luther and Calvin did not withhold Church membership from those who may not have been true Christians since they understood that the visible church would always exist as a mix of the elect and the reprobate and that no level of exclusion would change that reality. Fifth, due to Calvin’s understanding of the Church as mother, the Church played a major role in disciplining and correcting the Christian community. Calvin’s Ecclesiology built on Luther’s Ecclesiology, leading to a strong Trinitarian doctrine of the Church that worked out in a well functioning Church structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Avis, P.D.L., The Church in the Theology of the Reformers, edited by P. Toon (London: Marshall Morgan and Scott, 1981).

 

Calvin, J., “Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances September and October 1951” in John Calvin, Selections from his writings, edited by J. Dillenberger (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1975), 229-244.

 

Calvin, J., Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols, Library of Christian Classics Vol. XX-XXI, edited by J.T. Mcneill, translated by F. L. Battles, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960).

 

Gassmann, G., and S. Hendrix, Fortress Introduction to: The Lutheran Confessions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999).

 

Lindberg, C., The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996).

 

Lohse, B., Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work, translated by R.C. Shultz (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke LTD, 1986).

Luther, M., Church and Ministry, vol. 1, Luthers Works vol. 38, edited by E.W. Gritsch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970).

 

Luther, M., “The Smalcald Articles”. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/concord/web/smc-02d.html (Accessed 1 September, 2012).

 

Luther, M., On the Councils and the Church (1539) in Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 50, edited by D. Martin (Weimar: Bohlau, 1914).

 

Luther, M., “95 Theses: Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/web/ninetyfive.html (Accessed 1 September, 2012).

 

Mcgrath, A.E., Reformation Thought: An Introduction (2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993).

 

McGrath, A. E., Christian Theology: An Introduction (5th Ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 2010).

 

Mueller, W.A., Church and State in Luther and Calvin: A Comparative Study (Nashville: Broadman, 1954).

 

Partee, C., The Theology of John Calvin (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008).

 

Plasger, G., “Ecclesiology” in The Calvin Handbook, edited by H.J. Selderhuis, translated by R.H. Lundell (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 323-331.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] A.E. Mcgrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 2nd ed (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993), 188. The name ‘Magisterial Reformers’ has been given to Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin for the reason that their reform movements were supported by magistrates or ruling authorities.

[2] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 188.

[3] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 188.

[4] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 188.

[5] A. E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5th Ed (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010), 382. It was never Luther’s intention to leave the Catholic Church indefinitely. The early reformers had no wish to start their own Church; they were interested in reforming the Catholic Church.

[6] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382.

[7] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382.

[8] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382. For Calvin all of Christian faith and practice must be based on the Scriptures.

[9] While Luther recovered the Churches identity and being, his Ecclesiology was not viable. P.D.L. Avis, The Church in the Theology of the Reformers, ed. P. Toon (London: Marshall Morgan and Scott, 1981), 24.

[10]In the European mind at this time in history these two questions were linked due to the assumption of Nulla salus extra ecclesiam, that there is no salvation outside the church. This raised the question that if salvation was not available outside the Church, then what was the true Church? Avis, The Church, 1.

[11] It must be noted that in speaking of the true Church the reformers were talking of the true visible Church, this did not mean that every member of this true visible Church was a true Christian.

[12] On this topic Luther says “Now anywhere you hear or see [the Word of God] preached, believed, confessed, and acted upon, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, a “holy Christian people” must be there, even though there are very few of them. For God’s word “shall not return empty” (Isaiah 55:11), but must possess at least a fourth or a part of the field. And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would be enough to prove that a holy Christian people must exist there, for God’s word cannot be without God’s people and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word. For who would preach the word, or hear it preached, if there were no people of God? And what could or would God’s people believe, if there were no word of God.” M. Luther, On the Councils and the Church (1539) in Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 50, ed. D. Martin (Weimar: Bohlau, 1914) 628-630.

Luther reiterates his belief that the Gospel was the mark of the true Church when he says “The sure mark by which the Christian congregation can be recognised is that the pure gospel is preached there. For just as the banner of an army is the sure sign that they have taken to the field, so, too, the gospel is the sure sign by which one knows where Christ and his army are encamped.” M. Luther, Church and Ministry, vol. 1, Luthers Works vol. 38, ed. E.W. Gritsch (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), 305.

[13] Avis, The Church, 15.

[14] B. Lohse, Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work, tr. R.C. Shultz (Edinburgh: T & T Clarke LTD, 1986), 177.

[15] Avis, The Church, 13.

[16] Lohse, Martin Luther, 177. Avis, The Church, 18.

[17] Luther’s secondary marks of the Church are the sacrament of Baptism and the altar rightly administered, the offices of the keys and the ministry, public worship and the bearing of the cross. Avis, The Church, 14. Luther also emphasises the sacraments but it is clear that the gospel is primary in his thought. Avis, The Church, 16.

Luther’s 95 theses also shows his emphasis on the importance of the Gospel where he says “The true treasure of the Church is the most holy gospel, since the Church has nothing which is more precious and salutary” M. Luther, “95 Theses: Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”. 62. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/web/ninetyfive.html.

 

[18] Avis, The Church, 13-21.

[19] On this Luther says “We do not concede to them that they are the Church, and [in truth] they are not [the Church]; nor will we listen to those things which, under the name of Church, they enjoin or forbid. For, thank God, [to-day] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy [catholic or] Christian Church. This holiness does not consist in albs, tonsures, long gowns, and other of their ceremonies devised by them beyond Holy Scripture, but in the Word of God and true faith.” M.Luther, “The Smalcald Articles”. XII. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/concord/web/smc-02d.html.

[20] Avis, The Church, 3.

[21] Avis, The Church, 2.

[22] Avis, The Church, 13. However, although his views were clear and simple Luther had an Achilles heel. He assumed that what the Gospel actually was, was clear to everyone, but this turned out to be untrue. This is highlighted by his disagreement with Zwingli over the Eucharist. Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 191. With the widespread contradictory competing claims to the true Gospel today we can see the inadequacy of Luther’s view even better.

[23] G. Gassmann, and S. Hendrix, Fortress Introduction to: The Lutheran Confessions (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 133.

[24] This can be seen in the Institutes where Calvin says “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and listened to, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, it is in no way to be doubted that a Church of God exists. For this promise cannot fail: “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Mathew 18:20). […] If the ministry has the Word and honors it. If it has the administration of the sacraments, it deserves without doubt to be held and considered a Church.” J. Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 Vols, Library of Christian Classics Vol. XX-XXI, ed. J.T. Mcneill, tr. F. L. Battles, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1023-24.

[25] Avis, The Church, 29.

[26] Avis, The Church, 29.

[27] Avis, The Church, 29. Calvin refuses to make the Churches visible existence dependent on any fluctuating criteria such as a standard of exemplary life shown by its members and seems to count even the sacraments as secondary to the doctrine of Christ’s Gospel in demonstrating the existence of the true Church. Avis, The Church, 30-31.

[28] Avis, The Church,  35.

[29] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 133- 134.

[30] Lohse, Martin Luther, 178.

[31] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 138. The understanding of a mixed Church comes from Augustine, who asserted the doctrine in answer to the Donatist controversy.

[32] W.A. Mueller, Church and State in Luther and Calvin: A Comparative Study (Nashville: Broadman, 1954), 9.

[33] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 138.

[34] Mueller, Church and State, 10. Luther expressed his understanding of the relationship between the invisible and visible Churches when he said “This Item (I believe a holy Christian Church) is as much an article as faith as all the others. Therefore no reason, whatever glasses it may use, may know and recognize it… The Church is not to be believed, but believing refers to that which one cannot see.” And “Therefore it is also useful and necessary that the love and fellowship of Christ and of all the saints appear hidden, invisible and spiritual, so that we are given only a bodily, visible and external sign of it.”[34] Mueller, Church and State, 9-10.

[35] Mueller, Church and State, 12.

[36] G. Plasger, “Ecclesiology” in The Calvin Handbook, ed. H.J. Selderhuis, tr. R.H. Lundell (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 325.

[37] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 325. Calvin makes this clear in the Institutes where he says “For we have said that Holy Scripture speaks of the Church in two ways. Sometimes by the term “church” it means that which is actually in God’s presence, into which no persons are received but those who are children of God by grace of adoption and true members of Christ by sanctification of the Holy Spirit. Then, indeed, the Church includes not only the saints living on Earth, but all the elect from the beginning of the world.”  Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1021.

[38] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 325. On this Calvin says “Often, however, the name “church” designates the whole multitude of men spread over the earth who profess to worship one God and Christ…In this church are mingled many hypocrites who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance.” Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1021.

[39] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 325.

[40] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 325. Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1021.

[41] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 137.

[42] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 137.

[43] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 137.

[44] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 137.

[45] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 133.

[46] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382.

[47] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382.

[48] Mcgrath, Christian Theology, 382.

[49] Lohse, Martin Luther, 177-180. In the Smalcald articles Luther gives the following validation of the role of the bishops “The Church cannot be better governed and maintained than by having us all live under one head, Christ, and by having all the bishops equal in office (however they may differ in gifts) and diligently joined together in unity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, works of love, ect.” and on the pope he says “That the Pope is not, according to divine law or according to the Word of God the head of all Christendom (for this [name] belongs to One only, whose name is Jesus Christ), but is only the bishop and pastor of the Church at Rome, and of those who voluntarily or through a human creature (that is, a political magistrate) have attached themselves to him, to be Christians, not under him as a lord, but with him as brethren [colleagues] and comrades, as the ancient councils and the age of St. Cyprian show.” M.Luther, “The Smalcald Articles”. IV.

[50] Avis, The Church, 97.

[51] Avis, The Church, 97.

[52] Avis, The Church, 96.

[53] Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1015-16.

[54] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 323.

[55] C. Partee, The Theology of John Calvin (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 266.

[56] Avis, The Church, 95. Calvin speaks of how we partake in Christ’s priesthood and need no further mediation between us and the Father in the institutes where he says “Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation, he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also so that he may admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we, though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests (Rev 1:6) offer ourselves and our all to God and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour before him.” Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 502.

[57] Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 262.

[58] Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 262.

[59] Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 262.

[60] Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 331.

[61] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 200.

[62] J. Calvin, “Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances September and October 1951” in John Calvin, Selections from his writings, ed. J. Dillenberger (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1975), 230- 236.

[63] In Calvin’s own words the function of each office was as follows. Pastors were to “proclaim the Word of God and to instruct, admonish and censure, both in public and private, to administer the sacraments and to enjoin brotherly correlations among the brothers with the elders and colleagues”. Doctors were to “instruct the faithful in true doctrine in order that the purity of the Gospel be not corrupted by ignorance or by evil opinion”. Elders were to “have oversight of the life of everyone, to admonish amicably those who they seem to be erring or to be living a disordered life, and when it is required, to enjoin fraternal corrections themselves and along with others”. Deacons were to “receive, dispense and hold goods for the poor, not only daily alms. But also possessions, rents and pensions… and care for the sick and administer allowances to the poor” Calvin, “Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances September and October 1951”, 230- 236.

[64] Luther and Calvin believed that the Churches power of the keys was actually its power to preach the Gospel. Avis, The Church, 144-145.

[65] Avis, The Church, 145.

[66] Gassmann, and Hendrix, Fortress Introduction, 138.

[67] Avis, The Church, 32.

[68] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 199.

[69] Mcgrath, Christian theology, 383.

[70] On this motherly function of the Church Calvin says “I shall begin then, with the church, into the bosom of which God is pleased to gather his children, not only so that they may be nourished by her assistance and ministry while they are infants and children, but also so that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and reach the goal of faith… For those to whom God is father the Church shall also be their mother” Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1012.

[71] This tool is needed because of humanities inherent weakness. Plasger, “Ecclesiology”, 323. 

[72] Mcgrath, Reformation Thought, 198.

[73] C. Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996), 272.

[74] Lindberg, The European Reformations, 272.

[75] Calvin gave this function to the office of doctor. Strangely the reformers made no efforts towards foreign missions to those outside Christendom. This was because their prerogative to reform the Church was seen by them as a mission’s project in itself since, to the reformers, most if not all of the laity of the Roman Catholic Church did not know of the Gospel and therefore they could not be true Christians. Another reason was that they expected that the end of the world was imminent. Avis, The Church, 167- 169.

[76]Avis, The Church, 97.

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