Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XVIII
Of the church of God and the communion of believers.
Concerning this we believe and confess: Whereas men by reason of the natural birth of the flesh, follow sin and wickedness when they attain to their understanding, and thereby depart from God their Creator; therefore the high and holy God, before whom the sinners and ungodly cannot stand, from the beginning of the world, called and chose, from all the unbelieving nations of the world, an own special people, and separated them from all other nations. These are they who turn their ears to the calling voice of God, and thereby have separated themselves from the world with all its sinful lusts, and all false worship, and have again united themselves to Christ, bowing, as obedient members and sheep of Jesus Christ, under His head and commanding voice, and shunning everything strange which militates against this. These are they who are renewed in the inward man, and are circumcised, changed, and converted, and live after the Spirit.
This church of God was first commenced on earth, with Adam and Eve in Paradise, and afterwards, with Enoch, Noah, and all those who with them honored and called upon the high name of God; which was the first period of time, that is, before the law.
After this God the Lord established His covenant or church with Abraham and his seed, giving them circumcision as a sign of the covenant, together with many laws, ceremonies, statutes, and customs; which continued till the coming of Christ, and was the second period, or the time of the law of Moses.
Finally God sent His Son, who, as a potentate in heaven and earth,
established a new and perfect covenant with the house of Israel, calling to the
same all the Gentiles and nations of the earth, all those who amend their sinful
life, and obediently yield their bodies under this covenant. With all these
Christ has established His church and congregation; this is the third and last
period, which shall thus continue, without change in faith, walk, and laws,
until the reappearing of Christ from heaven.
And though the people of God in these three periods, had different and special laws and ceremonies, according to which they had to live and walk; yet this was the will of God, and they were nevertheless only one people of God, and were moved and led by one Spirit.
This church and congregation of believers has not always been visible to the eyes of all men, but has frequently vanished from the sight of the sinful and bloodthirsty world, the latter not being worthy of them. This can be seen in the case of Noah with his families in the ark, who concealed themselves from the whole world; in the people of Israel in the Red Sea, and here and there during the forty years in the wilderness; in the pious in Judah from the bloody sword of Manasseh; and in all the godfearing in Israel from the awful threats of Jezebel. Thus also the bride of the Lamb, the church of Jesus Christ, had to hide herself in the wilderness, forty-two months, or three times and a half time,* from the abominable beast of Antichrist, which with his tyrannical sword and burning, exalted itself above everything which is called and worshiped as God. Afterwards, through the grace of God, she again came to the light, and was built upon the first, ancient apostolical foundation.
And as Solomon's temple was destroyed, and the second building continued until the first coming of Chris in the flesh, so we hold that the church of Jesus Christ rebuilt upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, shall also continue openly in the light until the second coming of Christ from heaven.
This church of God, that is, all believers, are, as members of one body, joined together by faith and the bond of love: they are like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus; they live according to the same rule of the divine word, and are bound together by the same love, thus having fellowship with one another. Those whom God has blessed with spiritual gifts, minister with them to the souls of their neighbors out of love. And those whom God has provided with temporal possessions, minister with them to the temporal needs of their neighbors; thus showing that they have their temporal and spiritual goods in common, and suffer no want in spiritual and temporal gifts. This church of God has existed on the earth from the beginning of the world, either in greater or in smaller numbers, secretly or openly, and shall thus continue unto the end of the world, and Christ will be with her, with His Spirit, always.
Of the Christian church, that is, of all believing regenerated persons, gathered and purified by the Holy Spirit, read: "The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 1 Peter 2:9).
"And among all the multitude of peoples thou hast gotten thee one people: and unto this people, whom thou lovedst, thou gavest a law that is approved of all" (2 Esdras 5:27).
How the church of God, which is built upon Christ must be subject, as members to their head, read: "And upon this rock (Christ) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18; 28:20).
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27, 29, 32; 1:22).
"That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:20; 4.16; Hebrews 12:23).
Of the fellowship of believers, read: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
"They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2:42; 4:34; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 3:28; John 17:21).
*Understand, taking each time for a great year, there are as many years as there are days in three years and a half; which is about 1260 years. (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:5.)
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APA style: (1617). Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XVIII. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C6653.html/c6653_18.