Sermon on Communion of the Saints
1. Every member shares treasures and gifts.
2. Every member is called use these gifts.
Congregation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how the Heidelberg Catechism seems to sell the Holy Spirit short. The catechism isn’t trying to be a complete and thorough investigation of the Holy Spirit. But what it says about the Holy Spirit is true to what the Bible says about him. He is eternal God. And he his responsible for faith and uniting us completely with Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Last week Pastor Jake showed us how the Catechism talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in the gather, preserving and protecting of the people that are a part of the church. I think its quite interesting that the purpose of God that we talked about this morning, filling the world with obedient people, that idea can be summed up in two words that we confess about the church. It is Holy: obedient to God. And it is Catholic: universal in character. Spread across the entire globe.
The teaching about the Holy Spirit continues in the catechism as it talks about the line in the Apostles’ Creed that says, The communion of saints. I believe in the communion of the saints. What exactly is that talking about.
The question and answer goes like this: What do you understand by
"the communion of saints"?
A. First, that believers one and all,
as members of this community,
share in Christ
and in all his treasures and gifts.^1
Second, that each member
should consider it a duty
to use these gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.^2
So the explanation by Ursinus and Olevianus is broken down into two easy parts. First is that all members of the church share in Christ, his treasures, and his gifts. And the second part of it says that the members of the church should use the gifts they have been given for the sake of the other members.
We will look at those things a little further. But there is something that the catechism simply assumes that we should be reminded of. Who is a member of the communion of saints? It’s a pretty complex issue and it was one that was extremely important to the Protestant Reformers. The Roman Catholic Church claimed that they were the only true church and that membership in the church was nearly equivalent to membership in heaven.
When we begin to sound like that we need to rethink our understanding of the church. Membership in the institutional church is not a guaranteed pass into the spiritual church of God. If you compare our churches membership list up against the list of names in the lamb’s book of life, you will find some discrepencies. When the final audit is done, we will see the real difference between the institutional church and the true communion of the saints.
This was important to the Protestant Reformers because the institutional Roman Catholic church was removing these reformers from their lists and claiming that when they were excommunicated from the church, they stood on shaky ground with God.
The Reformers then realized that there had to be a different between what is called the visible church and the invisible church. The passage in Matthew 7 says that some people will approach Christ on judgement day and say, “lord, Lord.” But he will not receive them. They may have visibly testified that they loved Christ, but they were not part of the true church. The spiritual church.
The invisible church is who we hear in the passage in Ephesians 1. Paul is writing to an institutional, visible church, the church in Ephesus, but he is writing about the invisible church. Its an invisible church because you cannot see whether or someone has been called in the way Paul talks about. Chosen before the foundation of the world. Those are the ones who are given the Holy Spirit. They are the ones who are given faith. They are the ones who truly belong to the communion of the saints.
This communion then, the members of the church of Christ are people that are a part of the invisible church spiritually. The communion of the saints is the gathering of believers of all times and all places.
The catholics when they confess the communion of the saints being from the church militant, alive and at work right now. The church pentitent, in purgatory being purified for heaven. And the church triumphant, those who have already gone to be with Christ in glory.
We don’t believe in purgatory, but the rest of it is right. The communion of the saints is the collection of all believers past and present.
The catholics also claim this communion of saints includes special saints who are able help people who are living today. That’s why they are comfortable praying to the saints and having a special saint for many different things.
We take the word saints in the same way that it was used in the Bible. Saints are all those who are a part of the true church. Saints are actually holy ones.
This communion of saints.
The catechism breaks down the encouragement of the believing in the communion of the saints in two parts. First of all it encourages believers that the Holy Spirit inspires us to faith and then through the evidence that you have faith you can be sure that you share in Christ and all his treasures and gifts. That’s the way it is worded. We share in Christ and all his treasures and gifts.
Ephesians 4 goes into it further. As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 1 powerfully speaks of how we are called to Christ. And it talks about some of the treasures that the Catechism likely has in mind. Verse 3 says he has blessed us with spiritual blessing. Verse 4 says he has called us. Verse 5 says he predestined us. Verse 6 says he has given us grace. Verse 7 says he has given us redemption through Christ’s blood. And in verse 9 it says that the mysteries of Christ’s grace. You get the idea. Many Many blessings come through Jesus Christ.
And they are ours because we are a part of this communion of saints.
Going further, the catechism reminds us that he has given us spiritual gifts as well.
Ephesians 4 or 1 Corithians 12 and 14 are some of the places we find these gifts.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we move on to the second part of the question and answer where we are reminded that because we belong to the communion of saints, these gifts are to be used for the bettering of the body of Christ and the kingdom.
Its definitely like story of the master who gives his servants portions of money to invest while he is away. The one with five makes five more through wise investment. The one with three makes three more. The one with one buries the money and doesn’t use it to multiply the work of the kingdom.
Perhaps this servant was quite busy while his master was away. He might have had other matters to attend to. But the one special instruction was ignored. Take the money and multiply it.
That’s what we are called to with our gifts. We are not called to be busy. Never. Busy is never part of the kingdom plan. Rest is. Not busyness. But we are called to make sure that we fulfill what Christ asks of us. Because we belong to this communion of saints that covers all time and history, we ought to take those precious gifts of the spirit from Christ and use them to continue to build up other believers and build up the ministry of Christ.
A challenge again. Jesus saved you. He called you. He made you part of the body of blessings called the invisible church. Now, what are you doing with the spiritual gifts Christ has blessed you with?
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Eph 4:1-13