“The Church as Our Mother”

But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keeps us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)

I would be the first one to admit that the church on earth is not a perfect organism, but I also wholeheartedly agree with the wisdom of the Westminster Confession which states:

The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (WCF, XXV.ii)

We need the church. It is through the church that we hear the Law and Gospel preached faithfully by Christ’s ministers. It is at the gathering of the church where we are able to join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship our God in spirit and in truth. It is the church that teaches and disciplines in order to keep us on the “paths of righteousness,” and looking to the grace of God for the strength needed to live our lives to glorify God. It is the church that reminds us “to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” and provides us with a place to do just that.

God’s Word never speaks of “Lone Ranger” Christians who thrive outside of Christ’s visible church; instead it says, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” (1 Peter 2:5) and “now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” (1 Corinthians 12:27) and “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:29-30) There is no place of safety and security outside of God’s church in our fallen world, so be sure that this Lord’s Day you flee to Christ, by fleeing to His church, to hear His Word, and gather with His people.



  1. Carly said,

    September 4, 2009 at 8:14 PM

    An excellent reminder to pray even harder for a church home where we are moving. Thanks for your words, Clifton!

    • cliftonr said,

      September 5, 2009 at 12:14 AM

      We will also be praying for your move, jobs, place to live, and church. May the Lord bless you in every area.

  2. Pat Cheek said,

    September 6, 2009 at 9:54 PM

    Cliff, there are so many times I could not have made it through the week without the fellowship and worship of our church. Being a part of the church makes such a difference in my life. It can be a bible study, sermon or song that touches our heart that makes us want to stay faithful to our savior.

  3. RP said,

    September 7, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    “no ordinary possibility of salvation”

    Does the inclusion of that word “ordinary” free us from another sola? No sola ecclesia?

    • cliftonr said,

      September 7, 2009 at 10:46 PM

      Yes, although I never thought of it in that way. There is no “sola ecclesia visible” anyway. (I would say there was a “sola ecclesia invisible” since we must be a part of it to be the people of God) However, I would think that the “ordinary” would speak of such people as the thief on the cross, deathbed conversions, Christians in the federal prison who have no “church” per se, etc. Interesting thought.

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