Some Protestant theologians describe the church as a body constituted by individuals who have covenanted with God and one another. The new covenant would suggest, however, that individuals do not constitute the church by their coming together. God’s covenant-creating love has brought the church into being. Individuals can decide whether to accept or reject God’s terms – whether to be included in or excluded from God’s people – but they do not establish the covenant or the church. Remembering this fact might discourage the notion we sometimes develop that the church belongs to us and exists to meet our needs. The church belongs to God and exists to do God’s will. (p62)
I agree, completely.
I love it when I read my thoughts articulated far better than I could. I am not a congregationalist in any form really as I do believe in an episcopate and in the one, holy, apostolic, universal church, which sometimes is hidden by our constant fracturing. I do not believe that we create the church, but that the Church existed before us and will after us.
I’m reading this book, for review, and have enjoyed it so far, although the first few chapters seem to be a rehash of recent reads and my only development. The next few chapters are going to be very interesting because the author is going to take the various, um, images of salvation which are found in the New Testament, and explain them in a literary fashion and I believe show modern application.
Maybe it’ll help me clarify my own viewpoint here a little. For now…
I believe that the covenant with Israel was expanded to include us Gentiles under a (re)New(ed) Covenant, but it is a covenant given by God which we can choose to be faithful to or, well, not. We don’t covenant with God; the covenant already exists. We partake of that covenant through baptism and celebrate the memorial of it through the Eucharist. We also partake of it when we celebrate the sacraments of Scripture and fellowship.
What is your image of the Church? Is it pre-formed or do we form it?