Part 1

The church of the living God, the pillar and ground L of the truth … the household of God … built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone …” (1 Tim. 3:15 and Eph. 2:19, 20).

A pronounced characteristic of modern Christendom is its confused doctrine of the Church. This confusion reveals itself in extreme expressions of Protestant individualism, of Roman Catholic sacerdotalism, and of the “ecumenism” of councils of churches, extremes which often embody and “glorify” the visible differences between communions. Any extreme tends to be harmful, of course. In the case of the Church, the above mentioned extremes tend to diminish both the New Testament fellowship described as “filled with the Holy Ghost … [and] of one heart and of one soul …” (Acts 4:31, 32) and the New Testament task of witness to the Gospel commanded by Christ, even to “the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

What is being taught about the Church that would diminish its nature and mission? In the first place there are those who describe the Church as just another man-made social organization, a loosely-bound group of like-minded individuals. They feel the Church has social relevance only as individual members give it import and meaning. The most commonly accepted but no less erroneous modern teaching sees the Church as an invisible entity (an abstract divine ideal) toward which Christians strive. Then there are those who describe the Church in such strictly mechanistic or authoritarian terms that they seem at times even to presume on the prerogative of the Holy Spirit.

What shall we say to these trends? The Roman Catholic extreme is best referred to the Holy Spirit, while non-Roman Christians ...

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