When we reflect on the reality and the significance of the Church in the New Testament and on the place of the Church in the midst of the world, we quite naturally come into contact with the question of the relation between the Church and authority. This will be immediately evident if we reflect on the age-old controversy between the Reformation and Rome. It stands to reason, however, that this controversy also plays a role, albeit somewhat differently, when we take note of other discussions about the Church of Jesus Christ.
When the Reformation began, the reformers were sure that they did not intend to place over against the authority in the Church a church without authority. This is what the Roman Catholics affirmed more than once; they asserted that the Reformation refused to acknowledge the authority in the Church. The reformers, however, were convinced that they wanted not the way of less authority, but specifically of more authority, of genuine authority, of an authority which was really the authority of Christ himself.
A church without authority is a pitiable thing, because in that case it is forgotten that the Church is not something of us (our church), but that the important thing in the world is the Church of Jesus Christ, which he governs by his Word and Spirit. For this reason the controversy with Rome is also of significance in any reflection on the body of Christ.
Even those who reject the Roman Catholic view of the Church are thereby not at the end of the road but at the beginning. This becomes fully clear in the New Testament, that the essence of the Church becomes visible only in subjection of the entire Church in all of its aspects to her only Lord.
This existence of the Church is by no means a matter of course, ...1
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