NT14 Kyrkan som institution
This is Håkan again. In the last episode I mentioned a few means of grace that God has given us. The Word of God of course is one of them and the rite of being baptized and regularly celebrating the Holy Communion. I am going to develop these thoughts further. I will show you how the Christian movement becomes institutionalised. When I read the New Testament I find that Jesus’ teaching is so radical that no man can live up to it. I see the same thing when I read all the admonitions in the New Testament Epistles. Who can live up to them? Or when I read about the first Christians in the Book of Acts. Then I also long to see and be a part of the things they were a part of. People were added to the faith in the hundreds, thousands even. God confirmed the Word with signs and wonders. But do you know? Things like this is still ongoing today. In the photo on the screen you can see some friends from a small congregation located in Manila,Philippines. It is not a large one, but it is a living congregation. I myself have been involved in revivals several times. Not just on the missions field, in the Philippines or Nepal, but also here in Sweden. The first time it happened I was still in school. The second time I served as a priest in Hjälmseryd and I got to participate in powerful revival meetings. Not the least during the years when we introduced the concept of the Cell church. In hindsight, I can see that there always seems to be something that triggers a revival, a pent-up need that gets expressed. Then the revival grows in scope. It culminates, then it decreases or ceases altogether. That is why I am so pleased that God has established the Church as an institution that does not stand and fall by a revival movement. I am aware that the word institution is perceived by most people as a negative word. An institution is boring and rigid. It is oftentimes corrupted, something that I do not want to be a part of, something I would rather leave. I share that view. This is exactly why I want to explain in more detail what God did already during the New Testament times. Jesus certainly gave us a very radical teaching and it became a revival movement, a great revival among the early Christians. And it is that new life, a life in communion with God, which is the key to everything. Also to the Church as an institution. We can live in a life-long fellowship with God. We call it living by the Holy Spirit. It is in this fellowship we have access to everything that Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the other writers were talking about. And that is indeed good news! The Holy Spirit helps us in our daily lives. Jesus also promised to always be with us and continually talk to us. And he does this through the Word. He promised to work through the means of grace such as the Baptism and the Holy Communion. Now, we are individuals who receive and perceive things in different ways. But that does not make God’s Word and His promises invalid. Jesus has attached His promises to His Word. For example, Jesus said in Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” It is a promise from Jesus which is linked to the rite of Baptism itself. It is the same way with the Eucharist. He says in John 6:56: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me…” It is a promise we believe in, that we are fixating on. Because this is what the first Christians really did when the revival began to slow down in the years 60-70 AD. Then they held steadfast to the Baptism and the Holy Communion, to the Word of God and His promises in a special way. Now there may be some of you who see this who would rather quote Acts 2:42, where it says that the first Christians adhered to the teachings of the Apostles, the fellowship of the believers, the breaking of the Bread and the Prayers. But let us not play around with words, but insted focus on what is important. You can follow my thoughts on the screen right now. The teachings of the Apostles, yes but it is the Apostles who become the offices of the Church and their teaching is found in the Word of God. It is a progression, I will return to this matter in the last episode. Secondly, the fellowship is what becomes the congregation, or the Church. Church and congregation mean the same thing. Thirdly, the breaking of the Bread, yes that is what is institutionalised in the Eucharist or in the Holy Communion. The prayers, surely there were spontaneous prayers
but it was also a daily use of the Book of Psalms. So, the trend goes from quite a messy revival movement to an institution, in a positive sense. This development can be found already in the New Testament. So there is a progression from the historical Jesus, to the resurrected Jesus, to the Apostle Paul or the Apostle John. It does not look exactly the same if you read what it looked like year 30 AD and compare it to year 49 AD, or by the year 60 AD. Jesus passed His commission on to the Apostles. He comissioned them to make disciples of all nations. And so it has continued on. Thank goodness the Church does not stand nor fall on the appearance of signs and wonders. But it stands and falls on people continuing the the great comission, at any price. I cannot talk at great lengths about this in this short episode, but this kind of progression, becomes more clear when we come to the subject of Church history, or dogmatics. so I ask you to be patient. In telling you that the first Christian movement became a Church institution, I have not in any way wanted to suggest that the institution would not be in need of the revival movement. The Church cannot replace the revival but it must instead accommodate the revival in the same way that the body must accommodate spirit and life. So let us not set the two against each other when in fact they are completely dependent on each other. In the next episode, I will adress this further. We will take another look at the first Christians and how they were waiting for the return of Jesus, and how the Apostle Paul handled that situation and what his and his co-workers thoughts and writings were after year 60 AD. I hope to see you again!