What Church does the "body of Christ" refer to? And Sacramental qualifications.

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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
In 1 Cor. 12, the church is referred to as the "body of Christ." Which church is it? I note, first, that in Jus Divinum, this passage was used to show that baptism belonged to the general visible church, rather than to particular churches. I'll quote the place, because its wording is better than my summary of it could be: "y the Ordinance of Baptism, we are all admitted into one body, the general visible Church (1 Cor. 12:12), and some were baptized into the general body, that thereby were not admitted into any particular Church, as the Eunuch, Acts 8." (On page 68 here). So it appears the "one body" is interpreted to be the general visible Church, such that one could be in the "one body" without being in a particular Church.

Nevertheless, I find that the various duties in 1 Cor. 12 seem to only be possible within a particular Church; hence, it seems that the being in Christ's body requires participation in a particular Church of some kind. I also note, that this passage is also appealed to as an example of the invisible Church; so being in Christ's body is something invisible (Shaw's Exposition: "The Scripture teaches us that there is a Church which is the spouse of Christ, and whose glory is internal (Ps. xiv. 13); which is the mystical body of Christ, conjoined with him by spiritual bonds (Eph. i. 23); and the individual members of which are joined together in one body by one Spirit—1 Cor. xii. 13. But these things cannot be discerned by the senses, and we must, therefore, believe that there is a catholic or universal invisible Church, composed of true believers.").

Anyone wish to help me by sorting this out?

As a follow up question, if this passage is seen as referring to the general visible Church, what is the contents of the "one faith" referred to in the similar passage of Ephesians? Is it simply the basics of Christianity, or is it all of the truth of Christianity? And confessionally, what is the "true religion" referred to in WCF 25 "Of the Church"? Is it also simply the basics of Christianity (I don't see how it could be the Reformed religion, since that would then seem to exclude much from the general visible Church)?

And finally, if the sacraments belong to the general visible Church, does that mean one need not be a member of a particular Church to take part of the Lord's Supper (e.g., say one was baptized but never joined a particular Church, or moved to a new area, having preiviously been baptized in and leaving a particular Church that did not take membership seriously)? Why, why not?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
The Confession teaches that particular churches are members of the catholic visible church. I take it that any action performed by an organic part cannot be severed from the organic whole, and so what is done by a member is done by the body.

On the first question, the "fundamentals" of the faith are necessary for a profession of the true religion and membership in the visible catholic church. But then, to this church has been given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of religion, that is, these are the particularising element which gives visible expression to the catholic church in specific times and places. The "reformed religion" relates to a "particular" expression of the catholic church, claiming to be a pure, visible expression of it.

On the second question, partaking of the Lord's supper is an implicit action of particular church membership. So church membership is required whether one makes it explicit or not. Those who are office-bearers and overseers of particular churches have a responsibility to the flock in admitting to, or debarring from, the ordinance. As long as "church membership" is intricately tied to this responsibility it is lawful. Where this membership becomes a privilege independent of admission to the ordinance it effectively becomes an extra sacrament and contrary to the Presbyterian principle that Christ is the sole Head of the church.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you!

armourbearer said:
The Confession teaches that particular churches are members of the catholic visible church. I take it that any action performed by an organic part cannot be severed from the organic whole, and so what is done by a member is done by the body.
I may need to think about this some more, but let's see. 1 Cor. 12 refers to Christ's body, which seems to be broader than a particular church, so must be referring to the general visible church. Nevertheless, the actions specified in 1 Cor. 12 are those done by particular churches. But since particular churches are made up of members of the body, the particular churches themselves are members of the general visible church (?). Hence, those actions done by the particular churches, are done by the general visible church, and so can be said to be done by Christ's body too. Then by comparing this with the Eunuch's position, we can arrive at the possibility of being in the general visible church without belonging to a particular church, since the baptism is into the one body--the general visible church. Then, by noting that the invisible church is the ideal of the visible church, one can then make the statement Shaw makes in his Exposition concerning this passage.

armourbearer said:
On the second question, partaking of the Lord's supper is an implicit action of particular church membership.
Would you demonstrate this? I suppose there are two parts: (1) The Lord's Supper is an action of particular church membership (as opposed to general visible church membership), and (2) That this action is implicit. By "implicit", I understand you to mean that particular church membership guarantees possible access (cause the officers may admit or debar) to the Lord's Supper, but I may not be correct (I note the seeming exception of baptized infants).

As a separate question: Since the Lord's Supper is an action of particular church membership, would its requirements then be the same as the requirements for membership in that particular church (I guess this depends on whether the person partaking is a visitor or a regular member)? It would seem that would have to be the case, since otherwise membership in a particular visible church would seem to not be required for participation.

I suppose then also, that membership in a particular church does go beyond profession of the "fundamentals" that admits one into the general visible church, but is it more desirable to keep the requirements close to those of admission into the general visible church or not? I was wondering if thinking of the ordinances belonging to the general visible church could be used to answer questions about "close", "closed", and "restricted" communion, or the very high standards some have for particular church membership and/or the Lord's Supper, but it seems those may be separate questions. It seems that this line of thinking can be used for acknowledging the legitimacy of ordinances in "less pure" churches, but it doesn't seem to answer the question of what members ought to be partaking of the Lord's Supper either in their own particular church, or in another particular church.

armourbearer said:
Where this membership becomes a privilege independent of admission to the ordinance it effectively becomes an extra sacrament and contrary to the Presbyterian principle that Christ is the sole Head of the church.
Interesting. I'd aslo ask if you'd be willing to demonstrate that such membership effectively becomes an extra sacrament, but it probably requires some more technical knowledge of what sacraments are, so I'd need more study to appreciate such a demonstration; and I've already asked several questions already!
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
armourbearer said:
On the second question, partaking of the Lord's supper is an implicit action of particular church membership.
Would you demonstrate this?

1 Cor. 11:20, "When ye come together therefore into one place." The catholic church visible cannot come together into one place. Ergo...

By "implicit" is meant that there is an expectation implied in the very partaking of communion that one is a member of that body of people. 1 Cor. 10:17, "for we being many are one bread, and one body." What is implicit should, as a matter of obligation be made explicit, as chap. 11:29 makes clear. But whether it is made explicit or not, it cannot be denied that the corporate celebration is in a particular church.

As a separate question: Since the Lord's Supper is an action of particular church membership, would its requirements then be the same as the requirements for membership in that particular church (I guess this depends on whether the person partaking is a visitor or a regular member)? It would seem that would have to be the case, since otherwise membership in a particular visible church would seem to not be required for participation.

"Requirements" arise from the concept that the communion contains something "common" to all participants. This means the qualifications laid on one should be laid on all. There should not be a graded participation. This dovetails into the statement made relative to making membership a third sacrament. Any requirement which adds further obligation on a communicant than that which is required for full communion in effect makes church membership a third sacrament.

I suppose then also, that membership in a particular church does go beyond profession of the "fundamentals" that admits one into the general visible church, but is it more desirable to keep the requirements close to those of admission into the general visible church or not?

There are additional requirements relative to the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of the church. Once it is accepted that these are the particularising element of the church, it is obvious that qualifications relative to the particular church must include requirements in these areas. Commitment to sit under and submit to the ministry, personal profession of faith and a life free from scandal, etc, thus become proper qualifications given the particular nature of the church in which communion is administered. Local circumstances might dictate local qualifications also. E.g., Acts 15 to abstain from meats sacrificed to idols, which in 1 Corinthians is regarded as indifferent in itself.

I was wondering if thinking of the ordinances belonging to the general visible church could be used to answer questions about "close", "closed", and "restricted" communion, but it seems that may be a separate question.

It supports restricted communion but not close communion as there is the possibility of "open communion" based on an individual meeting the requirements in relation to another particular church.

armourbearer said:
Where this membership becomes a privilege independent of admission to the ordinance it effectively becomes an extra sacrament and contrary to the Presbyterian principle that Christ is the sole Head of the church.
Interesting. I'd aslo ask if you'd be willing to demonstrate that such membership effectively becomes an extra sacrament, but it probably requires some more technical knowledge of what sacraments are, so I'd need more study to appreciate such a demonstration; and I've already asked several questions already!

Basically, in Presbyterian polity, the sacraments are regarded as privileges and seals of membership. This means there is a twofold membership -- baptised and full communion. Where a church seeks to establish membership as its own privilege, or sets up qualifications above and beyond those necessary for full communion, it in effect raises membership to the status of a sacrament.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you a bunch for going through all those questions! I now see your point about how membership could effectively become a third Sacrament.

armourbearer said:
But whether it is made explicit or not, it cannot be denied that the corporate celebration is in a particular church.
One question remains though: Could it not be that though celebrated in a particular church, that membership in the particular church isn't necessary? The passage says the celebration is in a particular church, but I'm not sure how that implies that those who celebrated it in a particular church were members of that particular church. Unless that is overthinking/overcomplicating the matter? Or actually, I wonder whether the rest of your statement concerning "implicit" action actually addresses this: that is, Paul seems to presuppose that the Corinthians celebrating the supper are one body, and the one body in that context seems to be limited to the particular church?

armourbearer said:
There are additional requirements relative to the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of the church. Once it is accepted that these are the particularising element of the church, it is obvious that qualifications relative to the particular church must include requirements in these areas. Commitment to sit under and submit to the ministry, personal profession of faith and a life free from scandal, etc, thus become proper qualifications given the particular nature of the church in which communion is administered. Local circumstances might dictate local qualifications also. E.g., Acts 15 to abstain from meats sacrificed to idols, which in 1 Corinthians is regarded as indifferent in itself.
armourbearer said:
It supports restricted communion but not close communion as there is the possibility of "open communion" based on an individual meeting the requirements in relation to another particular church.
It's rather interesting that you brought up Acts 15. I had never considered it in relation to this topic before. I'm not sure I can think of the last church I've been to that had those sorts of requirements on indifferent matters that could cause scandal in certain times and places; but then again, perhaps I take for granted some of those things and so have never thought of them in that manner before; or perhaps, there are no things of that nature that could cause scandal in the places I've been.

But anyway, considering that requirements could be such as submission to the ministry of a particular church, how can a person who is a member of one particular church, who, say, happens to be on vacation, meet that requirement (of submission to the ministry of a particular church) in another particular church? Along with the fact that the minister there is not the person's minister (and so how can such a person submit to that ministry?), membership in a particular church usually requires membership vows, which would seem weird to have to take while visiting another particular church, given that such vows also include a special commitment to the local congregation.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Or actually, I wonder whether the rest of your statement concerning "implicit" action actually addresses this: that is, Paul seems to presuppose that the Corinthians celebrating the supper are one body, and the one body in that context seems to be limited to the particular church?

That is right. The ordinance requires coming together, so it belongs to a particular church; and it teaches that those participating are one body, that is, members of the one body. This makes it conclusive that particular church membership is at least implied by the ordinance.

But anyway, considering that requirements could be such as submission to the ministry of a particular church, how can a person who is a member of one particular church, who, say, happens to be on vacation, meet that requirement (of submission to the ministry of a particular church) in another particular church?

Granting that particular churches are members of the catholic, and communion as an ordinance is given to the catholic church, it follows that good standing in one church and equal terms of communion enables inter-church communion on catholic principles.
 
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