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Melanchthon on the Church and the Word (4)

In today’s post, Melanchthon cites one more patristic source (Origen) as an example of how the church’s authority is rightly deployed. 

He then proceeds to sketch his understanding of the relation of the church to the Word and to give his definitions of what the church (1) is not, and (2) is. The church at its most basic is not its officers or institutional structure. It is the company of believers gathered by and around the gospel and the sacraments.

On the Church and the Authority of the Word of God (Continued)

Origen adduces the apostles on the subject of the baptism of infants. For he says in his commentary on Romans 6 that the churches received it as a tradition from the apostles that infants should be baptized.1 These figures correctly adduce the authority of the church. 

Therefore, I shall say in order what the church is, as well as the fact that it should be listened to and that approved testimonies should be made use of; and that nevertheless teaching should be judged according to the Word of God, in order that the authority of the Word of God might remain supreme, according to the following passage: “If anyone teaches a different gospel, let him be accursed.”

First of all, moreover, when I use the name “church,” I do not mean it in the sense of pontiffs, bishops, and others who approve of their opinions. For they are enemies of the true church–partly Epicureans, partly manifest idolaters. But I call the church the assembly of those who truly believe, who have the gospel and the sacraments, and who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, as the church is described in Ephesians 5 and John 10: “My sheep hear my voice.”2

  1. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 5.9.11.
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.