A Jagged Contention: The Holy Church?

Now that Christ reigns, there is in fact no more sin, death, or curse—this we confess every day in the Apostles’ Creed when we say: “I believe in the holy church.” This is plainly nothing else than if we were to say: “I believe that there is no sin and no death in the church. For believers in Christ are not sinners and are not sentenced to death but are altogether holy and righteous, lords over sin and death who live eternally.” But it is faith alone that discerns this, because we say: “I believe in the holy church.” If you consult your reason and your eyes, you will judge differently. For in devout people you will see many things that offend you; you will see them fall now and again, see them sin, or be weak in faith, or be troubled by a bad temper, envy, or other evil emotions. “Therefore the church is not holy.” I deny the conclusion that you draw. If I look at my own person or at that of my neighbor, the church will never be holy. But if I look at Christ, who is the Propitiator and Cleanser of the church, then it is completely holy; for He bore the sins of the entire world.

– Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians 1535. Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 26. Concordia Publishing House, 1963. Pg. 285


Often you will hear people say the church is full of hypocrites. Is this an accurate statement? How do you respond? How do Luther’s words help us think more accurately about the sinners we find in the holy church?

2 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: The Holy Church?

  1. “Often you hear people say the church is full of hypocrits. Is this an accurate statement?”
    Yes, it is true indeed, but to be fair, hypocrits are prevalent outside of the church as well.
    The difference is that inside the church we recognize our collective hypocrisy and the nature of sin in ourselves and in all people. We cannot hold ourselves as people more perfect than the unbelieving world, since we also share similar weaknesses, passions, and sinful proclivities. Faith in the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross are the only two things which keep us from sinking into despair and unbelief. The Lord taught us to strictly guard our hearts, and to watch out for self righteousness. However. when people, particularly non religious individuals or practicing agnostics, accuse Christians of blanket hypocrisy, it is usually intended to make you feel too unworthy to continue making the effort to live in Christ and follow Him. Jesus would have us persevere anyway, and encourage one another in our faith.

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  2. I think there are two answers: if we look at the law (what we are commanded to do) the answer is yes, we are hypocrites all. But if we look to the gospel (what Jesus has done FOR us) the answer is no, for Christ’s death perfects the sanctified (Heb. 10:11-18). Luther was on to something


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