Article VII: Of the Church.
1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.
There is One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as the Nicene Creed says:
- One: Unified
- Holy: Set Apart by God
- Catholic: Universal in Time and Space
- Apostolic: Holds to the Teachings of the Apostles
- Church: Large Catechism Part II Article III 47-48
The Church is timeless and has existed since the beginning. The Church is where true doctrine and practice are found (Psalm 149).
The unity of the Church is not found in unity of human practice but rather unity of doctrine and faith. While we do wish to have uniform practice for the sake of instruction and confession, it is not required of the church. Beyond that, it is perfectly natural for each church to have variations in practice, such as language. These variations though should not cause offense and the church in overall praxis should strive for unity. We are one body, the Church, and Christ is our head thus we should represent that in how we act. As the old axiom says “lex orendi, lex credendi”, the rule of faith is the rule of prayer (Ephesians 4:1-16).
Or, to put it an even better way, the Church is the bride and Christ is the groom. For marriage is the image of the reality of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). We will look at what the Apology says after reading Article VIII which also has to do with the Church, specifically the difference between the visible and invisible Church.
1 I love Your kingdom, Lord,
The house of Your abode,
The Church our blest Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.
2 Beyond my highest joy
I prize its heav’nly ways,
Its sweet communion, solemn vows,
Its hymns of love and praise.
3 I love Your church, O God,
Your saints in ev’ry land,
Dear as the apple of Your eye,
And graven on Your hand.
4 For them my tears shall fall;
For them my prayers ascend;
For them my cares and toils be giv’n,
Till toils and cares shall end.
5 Sure as Your truth shall last,
To Zion shall be giv’n
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of heav’n.