The Church as the Reformation Understood It — Herman Sasse

Great Quote from Herman Sasse on the Church:

But if one proceeds from God and not from man, not from human religion, nor even from the Christian religion, but from the Gospel, as do the Reformation confessions, it is possible to understand the church.  If one has understood what faith in the Evangelical sense is, worked by the Holy Spirit himself, and never “by my own reason or strength” [SC, Creed, 6];  that the Holy Spirit creates faith in the Word of God;  and that this is quite different from all human religions within the bounds of pure and practical reason, then it is possible to understand the church as the Reformation understood it.  This church is not built by us.  It is created by God himself.  And this is so as surely as God is God, as surely as Jesus Christ is Lord, as surely as God’s Word is the Word of the Creator and Consummator, the Judge and Redeemer, the greatest power on earth.

The concept of the church of Luther and Lutheranism originates from faith in this Word.  In this definition of the church, man, as individual or Volk, can never have a founding or co-founding role.  He is passive.  One does not decide to join the church;  he is rather called to the church.  We do not build the church (“Arise!  Let us build Zion!”);  we are only the stones used to build it, or at most the tools used to build it.  The church of the Word is the chur of the sola gratia [“by grace alone”].  It is the true catholic church because it alone is the curhc of God, not a Roman or German church, not Reich or national church, not Volks-church or free will church, or whatever other adjectives we place beside it.  These adjectives finally have no other intent…. than to smuggle man back into the definition of church.  All these names serve finally only to deny the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the church.

— Herman Sasse, “1933, The Lutheran Confessions and the Volk,” The Lonely Way:  Selected Essays and Letters, Vol. 1, tr. Matt Harrison, Kindle Edition, Loc. 2937-2953, Concordia Publishing House  (St. Louis, MO 2010)

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