And all the brethren who are with me. To the churches of Galatia.
In the ecumenical/universal creeds of Christendom, Christians everywhere confess faith in “the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints” (Apostles’ Creed) and “in one holy Christian and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed).
This same Church that Christians confess, on the one hand, consists only of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. NonChristians and unbelievers are not members of this church. They may be members of congregations and churchly organizations, but this kind of membership does not translate into membership into the communion of saints. Not every member who attends church on Sunday morning or who retains membership in a congregation is Christian.
A Christian believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. A Christian repents of sin. A Christian is sorry for the sins committed against God and neighbor. Only those who, confessing their sins, believe God’s promises in Christ, are members of the one true Church. This is so only because of Jesus, and not because of how much external change we can see or evaluate. Membership in the holy Christian Church is one of faith, not sight.
The Holy Christian Church consists of the saints still living who “call upon the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:9). It also consists of those who have died having faith in the Lord. These faithful are also members of the Holy Church (not the Roman Catholic church), again, not because of all the good that they did, but because of Jesus. They looked to Him for salvation and not to themselves. They sought to be rid of their sin and the godlessness within themselves and the world. They looked toward their heavenly home, prepared for all who wait upon the Lord.
Such a confession of membership in the Holy Christian Church and the Communion of Saints is not at all meaningless. The Christian is confident that such a church exists on account of God’s Word. This confidence leads to firm and bold confession of Christ and His Holy Name. And that the Christian remain in this heavenly fellowship, God has given His Word and the Holy Sacraments. He has given His Word that we readily hear and receive it, not doubting, but firmly believing the promises given. The Lord has also gives His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Church is universal throughout the world, wherever the Gospel of God and the sacraments are present. The Jews, the Turks, and the fanatics are not the church, because they oppose and deny these things (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p25-26).
Prayer: Gracious God, you have brought us into fellowship with You through the blessed death of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Give us faith in Your promises, that we not doubt, but confidently take You at Your Word. Keep us in this faith, gladly hearing Your Word, remembering our baptism, and partaking of Christ’s body and blood, that we remain Your holy people and not be led astray by the temptations of our own hearts, the world, or the devil. Amen.