Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 23
XXIII. Of the Church of Christ.
All such believing, converted, and from the heart Obedient ones (Romans 6:17) together constitute as so many living stones (1 Peter 2:5) a holy temple in the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:20, 21), the true church (Hebrews 12:23) the people of God (Hebrews 4:9) the church of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18) which He has purchased through His own blood. Acts 20:28.
This church, according to our confession, is but one (John 10:16), its members (1 Corinthians 12), how-ever many (Revelation 7:9), and however varied in their achievements (Romans 12:4-6), constituting but one body (Ephesians 4:4-6) of which Jesus Christ is the head. Colossians 1:18; 2:19. It is known by such names as, People of God (Hebrews 4:9), His Saints (Psalms 50.4; Romans 8:27), the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:18, 23; 25:1), the Kingdom of God (Matthew 12: 20), the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 5:5), etc.
We call this church holy, not saying by this that its members are freed from the condition of sinfulness as long as they live here below (1 John 1:8), but because they are sanctified by God the Father (Jude 1) in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2) as well as by His sanctifying Himself for them (John 17:19; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 2:11) as also by their actual separation from the world (2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 6:17) and their transition into the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13) to serve the Lord in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life. Luke 1:74, 75.
That this church is general we confess, because in it the distinction between different nationalities falls away (Romans 10:12; Ephesians 2:14) and its members are scattered in all parts of the earth (Matthew 24:31) among all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues (Revelation 5:9; 7:9); wherefore it is self-evident that this true church must not be sought among any particular nation or a particular class of professors (Acts 10:35; 1 Corinthians 3:1-5) or limited to such to the exclusion of others. Luke 17:21-23; Matthew 24:26; Mark 13:21.
We call the church Christian, because we thereby mean only those that believe in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), are united with Him (John 15), belong to Him as His sheep, know Him, hear and follow Him (John 10: 12, 27) and are therefore most tenderly loved (John 13: 1), cherished (Ephesians 5:29, 30), led, protected and kept (John 10) by Him, the weak as well as the strong. Isaiah 40:11, 25-31.
Because of the intimate relation which the members of Christ's spiritual body sustain to each other, it is His expressed will (Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35) that these His saints shall cultivate fellowship (John 13: 34, 35; 17:22, 26) and this not in a restricted way (Matthew 5:46-48), as for instance only with those, with whom we are especially united, or with those whose association may seem desirable for our own benefit-for this would follow of itself-but with all believers in general (Acts 4:32; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:3), even with those who seem to be the weakest (Acts 20:35; Romans 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) and most insignificant (1 Corinthians 12:22-24), for such have special need of spiritual help. Galatians 6:1. Has not God put together and endowed the members of the body in such a manner that they must have care one for another (1 Corinthians 12:18-31; Romans 12:3-10), so that those that are. strong bear the infirmities of the weak and do not have pleasure in themselves? Romans 15:1-3. For this reason it is not proper, on the one hand, that any among them think of others, -- I have no need of thee (1 Corinthians 12:21, 22), nor on the other hand, that any one should possess his gifts for himself alone (Romans 12:4-8); but it is the duty of each one to use the same as much as possible for the general good. Mark 4:21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11.
From this arises the necessity for the assembling of believers in meetings (1 Corinthians 11:18; Acts 2:1), of which both the Lord Jesus and His apostles spoke with approval. Matthew 18:19, 20; Hebrews 10:23-25. Therefore, too, our Lord Himself was a regular attendant at such meetings (Luke 4:16) and likewise His loving disciples came together even at the risk of their lives (John 20:19; Acts 12:12-16) thus to serve God publicly (Acts 13:1-3; Ephesians 4:11, 12) and to praise Him together as with one accord (Romans 15:6; Acts 11:18); to confess Jesus Christ before the whole world (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10; 1 Timothy 6: 12), cultivate fellowship among themselves (Acts 2:42) in edification (1 Timothy 4:13; 1 Corinthians 14:26) and continue in the breaking of bread (Acts 20:7) and in prayer. Matthew 18:19, 20. Therefore we pray all disciples of Christ Jesus not to withdraw themselves from such meetings out of obstinacy or self-conceit (Hebrews 10:23-25) seeing that even the weakest and least talented can be useful in the Lord's temple if only their lives show a good example (1 Peter 3:1-5), if they are active in works of love (Romans 16:1-6; Hebrews 6:10) and by earnest intercession strengthen the hands of the servants of the Lord.
And though hypocrites (2 Timothy 3:5; Jude 12) and the unconverted (Romans 12:2) should mingle in great numbers with the flock of Jesus who are His own (John 10:14, 27), as has at all times been the case, sometimes less and sometimes more, in the outward fold of the church -- a condition unavoidable on account of the limitations in our ability, to discern the intents of the heart -- the true disciples of Jesus (John 8:31) must not be soon alarmed or draw back discouraged, but must seek to let their lights shine (Matthew 5:13-16) and become pillars in the house of their God (Revelation 3:12), remembering that the Son of God represented the economy and outward union of the church as composed partly by foolish virgins. Matthew 25:2; Luke 17:34-36. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His: and, Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness. 2 Timothy 2:19.
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