The doctrine about the Congregation


We confess in the Creed: I believe there is a holy common (universal) Church. Its content is explained by Luther as follows: ”I believe that here on earth, as far as it extends, there exists no more than one holy, common, Christian church and it is nothing but a community of holy, pious and believing people”. And elsewhere: “This community, or this flock, means all those people who live in true faith, hope and love. So, the essence, life and nature of Christendom is not a corporeal community but a community of hearts in one faith, as Paul says in Eph. 4: ‘one baptism, one faith, one Lord’”
-- “The Church has always existed, even during the deepest decay of the Church. Even if some charming, wrong spirits, or the Pope were in power, the only condition is that the Word of God is present there.” Jesus also promised that “I am with you every day until the end of the world”. Jesus describes his own flock as sheep who hear his voice, and on the other hand, as twigs which stay in him, Christ. It is the matter of personal heart faith. Through this, there is mutual connection of Christians.   

According to the catechism, congregation is the one where the Holy Spirit calls and collects us to, and where He sanctifies us, protects us in  true faith and forgives me and every believer all sins without any limit.

The Church is known for its signs. Our father in Christian doctrine, Luther, says: “The most important sign is that the holy Word of God is proclaimed. Then follow baptism, holy communion, the keys, inviting the leaders of the church to proclaim the Word and to treat the sacraments, that you publicly pray and praise the God and, lastly, that ‘the sacred cross’, in other words the suffering that becomes the part of Jesus’ followers.” –“Correct, the attribute, the sign, is really necessary, and in fact we have it, namely baptism, bread and above all, the gospel. These are the three symbols, signs or attributes of a Christian. Where you see baptism, bread and gospel present – no matter where it happens, or which people are involved – you should not suspect; there is the church. In these three attributes the Christ wants to be one with us, as it is said in Eph. 4:5: one faith, one baptism, one Lord. On the contrary, where you see that no gospel exists, then no doubt there is no church either, even though they baptize and share the holy communion. - - In fact, the gospel is before both bread and baptism, and it’s the only, surest and most important characteristic of the church. It is only with the gospel you can conceive, form, nourish, raise, teach, supervise, equip, decorate, strengthen, arm and maintain. In brief: the whole life and being of the church is in the Word of God.”

However, the church is concealed. Jesus himself said to the Pharisees: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21). Luther expresses it like this: “This point: ‘I believe a holy church’ is as much of an article of faith as well as all the others. This is why the natural wisdom cannot see it even though it puts all its spectacles on its nose. The devil can cover it with insults, offenses and dispersals, so that you could be offended by it. God can also cover it over by dissension and weakness so that you become crazy and you give false judgements about it. The Christendom shall not be recognized by eye but by faith, and faith is dealing with something that cannot be seen. (Hebr. 11:1)” God only can utter the right judgement.

How did people think about these matters in the beginning of the revival movement? That time the line of Bible and Luther was followed. Laestadius saw, that where there is revivalism, new birth and new life, living Christianity exists there. That’s why he also defended other revivalisms. Raattamaa, on the other hand, often wrote his wish that revival movements would unite and that when there is similar leaven (yeast) in bushels, so may the bakers mix it into one dough. He warns against condemnation of people in other revival movements, but wants them to be treated with love, “because they are also disciples of Jesus”.