A Perfect Church? Not In This Life
미국 서부 웨스트민스터 교수단이 내는 Evangelium 4권 2호 (2007)에 실린 스코트 클락 교수의 "완전한 교회는 이 지상에서는 없다"는 제목의 논문을 소개합니다. 중요한 논의를 하고 있는 이 논문의 요점을 볼드체를 따라서 읽어 보시기 바랍니다. 스코츠 클락 교수는 1961년생의 비교적 젊은 학자로 네브라스카 대학을 마친 후 서부 웨스트민스터에서 목회학 석사를 하고(1987), 영국 옥스포드 대학교에서 박사 학위(D. Phil.)를 하였고(1998) 1997년부터 서부 웨스트민스터 신학교의 교회사 교수로 섬기고 있습니다. 1997-2000 동안에는 교무 처장을 하며, Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant: The Double Benefit of Christ (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, December 2005); Covenant, Baptism, and Election (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 2007); Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008) 등의 중요한 책을 출간하고, 웨스트민스터 교수들이나 다른 개혁신학자들과 같이 다음 같은 중요한 책들을 편집하여 내었습니다.
|by R. Scott Clark, D.Phil.|
First published in Evangelium, Vol. 4, Issue 2.
In a recent book, church growth guru George Barna seems to suggest the end or irrelevance of the local congregation.(1) He speaks for a significant number of people who find their congregation unsatisfying or who cannot find a church at all. It is not hard to understand such ambivalence and frustration. The church is divided and broken. It is filled with sinners and hypocrites. R. R. Reno and others have said that we are living in the “ruins of the church.” (2) This is how it has always been and exactly as Jesus said it would be. Welcome to life in the church. It is not perfect and, in this life, it will never be perfect, but it is nevertheless instituted by God. The ministry of the Gospel (and sacraments) and the exercise of discipline are the evidences that the church is Christ’s.
Church: Since the Beginning
God has always entrusted his gospel, the ministry, and the sacraments to redeemed sinners, and he expects those who bear his name to be united to a particular congregation. This was the early apostolic pattern. The early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42; ESV). Such a congregational life, organized around Word and sacrament, would be impossible without some form of mutual accountability and organization.
Church: Instituted by God
Jesus could not have been clearer about his intention. The noun for “church” used in Matthew 18 was drawn from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Deut 4:10; 9:10). It means “the covenant assembly” and denotes a divinely constituted gathering of God’s people with officers, members, sacraments, and discipline.
Against this background we can understand why the Apostles followed the ancient pattern by gradually instituting three new covenant offices broadly corresponding to the Old Testament offices: prophets/ministers (1 Tim 4:6, 11–16; 6:11–12), priests/deacons (Acts 6:1–7; 1 Tim 3:8, 11–13) and elders (1 Tim 3:1–7; 1 Tim 5:17-20).(5)
It is clear that the New Covenant church was Spirit-led, but the Spirit works through the Word (Rom 10:14–18) and sacraments (1 Cor 10) to bring his elect to faith and to confirm to them the promises of the gospel (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 65).(6) The pattern of the New Covenant church was established very early (Acts 2:42). The life of the early church was Spirit-led, but it was so in a structured, disciplined assembly with officers, sacraments, and discipline.
Not only did the Apostles obey Jesus’ instructions in regard to the local congregation, but in Acts 15 we even see an example of a regional gathering of delegates to make binding decisions (that they called a “decree”) about the nature of the gospel and about membership in the church (Acts 15). “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question” (Acts 15:2). Here is the first synod or general assembly. At this synod there were missions reports, speeches, discussion over the meaning of various passages of Scripture, even heated theological argument (vv. 7–11), and finally, agreement.
The Marks of a True Church
In Article 29, the Belgic Confession recognized that, in this life, every congregation will contain “hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there….” Even though the church is mixed, it is possible to distinguish a true church from the “false church” and from “sects” (Art. 29). A true church “engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.”
Church Discipline: A Necessity
The church is composed of wheat and weeds. We live in the time of sowing. In terms of the parable, the harvest time comes with the return of Christ, the judgment and end of all things. We need to adjust our view of the church to match that of Jesus. It is not that there can never be discipline. Cain was excommunicated because he showed himself to be in open rebellion to the Lord and an unbeliever (Jude 1:11). We are not, however, authorized to go rooting about the church (to stretch a metaphor) looking for “weeds” or to disregard the church because it is mixed.
In Matthew 18:15–20, Jesus prescribed the method of discipline for the church. If one member of the congregation sins against another, the offended should speak to the offender. If the erring brother is resistant, then he is to be approached by two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15). If the offender “refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (v.17). If he remains impenitent, he is to be excluded from the congregation. This is a potent act: “…whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (v.18). This is also a formal, judicial decision: “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (vv.19–20). This passage not only teaches us the necessity of discipline, but everything taught here assumes the existence of an institutional church (cf. John 20:21–23).
Peter exercised the most severe church discipline upon a couple who lied to the Spirit (Acts 5:1–11). The Apostle Paul ordered the Corinthian congregation to excommunicate an impenitent member:
When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor 5:4–5; ESV).
Notice that Paul wrote to a congregation about discipline, not only as a punitive measure, but for the sake of the rebel’s own soul.
Furthermore, the Reformed confessions speak about church discipline with one voice. The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 30 requires church discipline. Heidelberg Catechism question 83 describes church discipline as one of the keys of the kingdom. According to the Belgic Confession Art. 29, church discipline is a mark of the true church. In other words, though the church is unavoidably sinful, it must also be disciplined to be a church.
In this life, however, even the act of discipline is imperfect, and no disciplined church will be perfect. The Corinthian congregation is proof of this. Nevertheless, despite all their sins (e.g., gross immorality, factions), Paul continued to call them a “church” (1 Cor 1:2). The Scriptures and the Reformed confessions do not teach that discipline must be done perfectly, only that it must be done.
Though the church is human, it is not a human invention. That is why Paul calls it “the church of God” (1 Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:22). It is a divine institution. The church, whether as the assembly of those looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, with shadowy ministry of Word and sacrament (1 Cor 10:1-4), or as the assembly celebrating the accomplishment of salvation and the resurrection of the Messiah (Acts 2), has always existed. Christ has given to her the keys of the kingdom and, through the Apostles, gifted her with the Holy Spirit and special officers.
The bad news is that church has always been full of sinners and will remain so until our Lord returns. The good news is that our God-Man Savior, the Second Adam (1 Cor 15:45) obeyed the law in the place of his people, died for them, and was raised for their justification (Romans 4:25; 5:1–21). By his Word and Spirit he works graciously and powerfully to bring his people to faith through the foolishness of gospel preaching (1 Cor 1 and 2), to confirm them in that hope through gospel sacraments.(10)
He also uses sinful, frail men to exercise church discipline to correct his church, to protect her against wolves (Acts 20:29), and to demonstrate the righteousness of God in hope that those under discipline will turn from their sin and renew their profession of faith by amending their lives.
There are folk who cannot find a church. Perhaps they are not looking or perhaps they are looking for the wrong things. They should look for a congregation that has the marks of the church, but not for perfection, because they will not find it—not in this life anyway.
1 George Barna, Revolution (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 2005)
2 R.R. Reno, The Ruins of the Church. Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002).
3 2 Cor 1:21; Romans 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17; Heidelberg Catechism Q. 19.
4 See Edmund P. Clowney, The Church, ed. Gerald Bray, The Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995).
5 See Derke P. Bergsma, "Prophets, Priests, and Kings: Biblical Offices," in John Armstrong, ed., The Compromised Church (Wheaton, Crossway, 1998.)
6 The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) is one of three summaries of the faith adopted and used by the Reformed churches.
7 The Belgic Confession (1561) is the confession of faith of the Reformed churches and one of three summaries of the faith adopted and used by the Reformed churches.
8 The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) is the confession of the Presbyterian Churches.
9 See also Hebrews chapters 1-3.
10 Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 65.