Lauantai 22.9.2018
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Tomuun vaipuneet, herätkää ja riemuitkaa! Sinun kimaltava aamukasteesi virvoittaa maan, ja niin maa palauttaa kuolleet elämään. Jes. 26:19

How does God’s congregation come about? The Holy Spirit calls and gathers people

in English 2.4.2014 00:00 | Siionin Lähetyslehti
Fellowship in the Holy Spirit joins believers in a congregation, into which God calls new members. God’s congregation is not a temporal institution or association. It is created by a bond through faith with Jesus Christ and other believers. Life in the congregation of God brings joy and peace into one’s heart.
The congregation is of essential significance in God’s salvation plan. God calls people into His congregation. Ability to hear and accept this call is sheer grace of God (1 Cor. 1:2, 9). God’s congregation is present where the redeeming grace of God is manifested on earth. Redeeming faith can only be found in the congregation of Christ. God is present in this congregation and leads it with his power.

Membership in God’s kingdom is gained through faith

The main purpose of the proclamation of the gospel, the good message, is to create and maintain faith in Christ. Where there is faith through the gospel, the fellowship and communion through the Holy Spirit joins believers into a congregation. This is reflected in the work of the congregation, and it is also visible to people outside the congregation (John 13:35; 1 Pet. 2:12). The Holy Spirit joins believers living in different parts of the world into a single congregation of God.

Based on the redemption earned by Christ, each human being is born into this world as a believer. To preserve this faith, the child is baptized and placed in the care of God’s congregation. If the child is not allowed to live in the care of the congregation, his faith ultimately fails and he loses his connection with God. It is possible, however, to re-establish this connection with God by believing the gospel preached from God’s congregation. The core of this gospel is the forgiveness of sins (Mark. 16:15–16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21–23).

Faith is nurtured in the congregation

Faith does not only connect people but also keeps them together in the believing congregation of God. That helps them to maintain a living connection with Christ (Rom. 12:4–5). Faith is nurtured in the congregation (1 Cor. 12:26–27; 1 Thess. 5:14). God’s congregation gathers to hear the voice of Christ, which speaks through the Holy Spirit in the proclamation and instruction of the congregation, (John 10:14–16, 16:13–16).

The smallest congregation gathers where two or three believers meet in Jesus’ name (Matt. 18:20). For each individual Christian, the home Zion is the most important link to the congregation. The children of God in the home Zion know each other and are able to help and support each other in their endeavor in faith. Jesus advised everybody to be obedient to what the Spirit speaks in the congregations (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29).

Internal and external appearance of God’s congregation

God’s congregation is not a temporal institution or association but fellowship in faith with Christ and other believers. The congregation cannot be seen and perceived outwardly to be the congregation of God (Luke 17:20–21; Matt. 11:27; John 16:1–3). Nor can the presence of the congregation be studied scientifically or perceived by the eyes or by rational deduc tion. (1 Cor. 1:18–24). Jesus, however, reminded us: ”By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).  

According to the Augsburg Confession, God’s congregation is a community of believers where the gospel is preached purely and the sacraments are administered correctly. The congregation consists of believing people, in whom the Holy Spirit lives and acts. The congregation is the house of God among people (Rev. 21:3). Life within God’s congregation gives a wonderful joy and peace into the believing person’s heart, which he wants to keep (Phil. 4:7).

God sees into man’s heart

If a person does not believe in Christ, he will not be saved by merely following the congregation. When a person gives up faith, he also loses the living connection with the congregation, even if he may still follow it outwardly.

According to God’s word, there are also people without living faith amongst the congregation. Jesus spoke about such people in his parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1–13), wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43) and the dead fish caught in the fishing net (Matt. 13:47–50). It is not always possible for us to see that a person lacks faith, but God sees into everyone’s heart.

Jesus said that he is the vine and believers are its branches (John 15:1–10). If the living connection with Jesus breaks, the branch dries up, and God cuts it off from the vine. Rather than cutting off a dry branch, however, God prunes and nurtures it. He is patient and waits “for yet another year” to see if there are fruits of faith (Luke 13:6–9). He loves even those who have lost their faith and exhorts them to repentance (Rev. 3:1–3). Still, the time of grace and waiting is limited.

To keep faith and peace with God, the believer needs to hear the gospel and the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. The promises of God’s word encourage us to believe and to travel with our escorts in God’s congregation. Christ himself is with his believers and does not want to abandon even the weakest child of God. One day God’s congregation shall rejoice and praise God in heaven (Rev. 7:13–17).

Text: Matti Hanhisuanto
Published: SRK Yearbook 2012
Translation: S.-L. L.

Julkaistu englanninkielisessä kieliliiteessä 4/2014


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