A Visible Church: How?


This is a question founded in ignorance. Please help if you can:

Talking with a pastor/friend a certain point was brought up, which I thought to be rather good. He asked me how Christ could establish a visible Church if the Church is the community of believers (the “Communion of Saints,” in other terms) and we cannot truly know who is or is not a believer.

“Are the buildings a part of the Church …? How can the Church be visible if it’s a matter of the heart: an internal matter, in other words?”

I thought this was interesting. I think it goes without saying that the Church is an organization, an institution, as well as a family and a community. But where does the former come in?


This betrays the Protestant eccelsiology which is faulty. They say the Church is only those who will be saved–therefore to know where the Church is, is to be a judge.

On the other hand, Catholics do not believe the whole Church will be saved. Here’s a parable:

Matt. 13:47 Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kind of fishes. 48 Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just.

Notice, both good and bad are in the kingdom (the net), but at the end only some are saved. The bad are thrown back into the sea where those who never entered the kingdom (net) are.

The community of the faithful is all those who are Baptized and profess the true faith. They are united in a communion that has visible leaders too, like Peter and the Apostles and the Pope and Bishops who succeeded them.

Jesus the Church must be a city on a hill that cannot be hid–only the visible Catholic Church fits that description–all men know of her. :slight_smile:


Here is a quick group of verses to read and study.

Matt 16:18, Eph 3:10, Eph 5:23, Col 1:24, 1Tim 3:15 and
Matt 18:17.

All of these verses say something about the Church. Once you’ve read these combine them with the following which pertain to unity:

Eph 4:1-5
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Phi 1:27
Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel,

Phi 2:1-2
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

We have a Church established by Christ and the unity of that Church as described in John 17 is to be such “…that the world may believe that you[the Father] have sent me[Jesus]” This is a visible unity and it is of the utmost importance in converting the world to Christ. The better question to your friend would be, "How could it be any other way?


The Church is “visible” through history. It is “visible” because it has real authority and speaks the truth.

Its not new, it was not invented, and it does not claim that previous religions apostisized and their holy scriptures were “corrupted”.


The Church is the Body of Christ–bodies are visible :slight_smile:


But consider the parable of the tares.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ "And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ “But he *said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Jesus explains this parable.

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. (Matthew 13:36-40)

It is made clear that the tares are in the world, so He is not talking about good and bad in the Church. The parable of the fishes is similar.


The Church is a spiritual body and is not visible.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:1-5)


You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.Matt 5:14-16


Look at the picture at the bottom of my post.

Who are these people?

If you can answer that question, you have made progress.



The Church is the body of Christ. The members of the body are visible. Scripture attests to this concrete fact that is plain for all to see. Please read what I provided in my earlier post by way of scripture. Put all of the verses together and then read the 17th chapter of John’s gospel. As a complete package it should change your mind.


Eph. 4:16 From whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity.

How someone could think this could apply to scattering of secretly “saved” people amongst unsaved people, with no real organization or communion, is beyond me…:shrug:


If the Church is visible I should be able to walk into any church and have the true members of Christ’s body pointed out to me. Can you do that? Can you say this person is a member of Christ’s true body? I don’t think so because only God knows what a person truly believes and does. If you can’t point to anyone and say they are definitely a part of the true body, how can you say that the true Church is visible? Or do you say that Christ’s body has unbelievers or those of no faith in it?


Was the early church visible? Could you point to Peter, James, John, Paul, Timothy, and all the others mentioned in scripture and say that you were looking at the visible church? I think so. Inspite of this, we also had Annanias and Saphirra, Hymenaeus and Alexander, Simon, Diotrephes and others who were probably not saved. Yes, the community of Christians were visible even even with the sinners among them. To say that the Church is not visible is like saying that Islam is not visible, the Democratic Party is not visible, Hinduism isn’t visible and on, and on, and on.

Read the scriptures that I gave on my first post in this thread. Scripture makes it clear that the Church is visible. Why make this a point of contention just because there are sinners in the Church and that there are those that will fall away?


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

This does not seem like a viable reading of these passages. Consider Judas Iscariot. He was one of the Twelve (Mt 10:1-8). He went out preaching, curing, and expelling demons (Mk 3:13-19). In Acts, Peter specifically says that Judas had a share in the ministry and that his bishopric should be given to another (Acts 1:15-17, 25).

Jesus’ inclusion of Judas among the Twelve seems like a further confirmation of the “good fish” and the “tares among the wheat” parables. When Jesus says in His interpretation of the “tares and wheat” parable that “the field is the world” this is not an abrogation of the fact that He is talking about “the kingdom of heaven” throughout the parable. Rather, it is a hint that the Church exists beyond the world as well as in it. Read in this light, the explanation fits a Church with good and bad members in the world, but with only saved members in Purgatory and Heaven.

The phrases “sons of the kingdom” and “sons of the evil one” may be Hebraisms expressing categorical ideas – this would amount to saying “good” and “bad.”

The Holy Spirit speaking through the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it this way:

“The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged." Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 14.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


Ephesians 5

30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, **and they two shall be one flesh.

32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. **

Flesh,Head,Body,Bones and Members ( arms,legs) all are visible.
If He meant invisible It would read “the Soul of Christ”

Jesus is both at the same time human and Divine. Jesus is one with His church. And because Jesus is one with His church and He is both human and Divine, His church is both human and Divine.

We make up the Body of Christ, that is the “human” part. Jesus is one with His church ,that is the “Divine” part.

Romans 12

4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

**1 Corinthians 12:24 **
24 while our **presentable parts **need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

**Ephesians 3:6 **
6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

**Mark 2:17 **
17On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


What it would seem to be a confirmation of is that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us. It seems to support an amillenial view. But unless Jesus equates the world with the Church, the parable does not speak about the Church.

Quoting from the Vatican 2 Council settles nothing. It is the visible church talking about itself which is hardly evidence that Christ’s Church is visible. John says:

Children, it is he last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:18-19

Even though these people were in the visible church before they went out from it, John tells is they had not been part of it. The true Church is not the visible members.

Jude tells us that:

Jude goes on to detail these people at length. They are in the visible Church but are not part of the true Church.



The other CAF members pointed out Scripture and some posted Second Vatican Council. Tell me are we not a member of the Body Christ? Are you invisible?

The Church my friend is both invisible (spiritually) and visible because its members have a physical body, and plus where do you go on Church on sunday? Is the church like the Invisible woman or like Wonder Woman’s jet which is invisible? I don’t is not only invisible but it is visible.


The people who make up the Church are visible but who those people actually are cannot be ascertained. So while the members of true Church are visible, we cannot identify them with certainty, only God can do that.

I would agree that there is both a visible church, the institution, and an invisible, spirtual Church which consists of all true believers wherever they are. Are you a member of the true Church? I hope you are, but I can never tell, for I know only what you tell me. I cannot see your true nature.

But the enemies of this brotherly love, whether they are openly without, or appear to be within, are false Christians, and antichrists. For when they have found an opportunity, they go out, as it is written: “A man wishing to separate himself from his friends, seeks opportunities.” But even if occasions are wanting, while they seem to be within, they are severed from that invisible bond of love. Whence St. John says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for had they been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” 1 John 2:19 He does not say that they ceased to be of us by going out, but that they went out because they were not of us. Augustine (Against the Donatists, Book 3, 26)


Chapter 32.—The Second Rule of Tichonius.
45. The second rule is about the twofold division of the body of the Lord; but this indeed is not a suitable name, for that is really no part of the body of Christ which will not be with Him in eternity. We ought, therefore, to say that the rule is about the true and the mixed body of the Lord, or the true and the counterfeit, or some such name; because, not to speak of eternity, hypocrites cannot even now be said to be in Him, although they seem to be in His Church. Augustine (On Christian Doctrine Book 3 45.)


It is the true Church of true believers against which Hades shall not prevail. It has already prevailed against the false Christians and those are not part of the true body.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Thank you for your comments.

I based my comments on the the parable beginning, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to;” it seems this is a reference to the Church. The entire parable is a description of the Church – the field, that is the “world,” is part of the picture described.

The Ecumenical Councils are the voice of the Holy Spirit. You are correct He speaks through the visible Church, however, that is the point. You are, of course, correct that it will not “settle” anything in a discussion with those who are “debating” rather than “docile” toward the Church; but the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks publicly on these issues ought not be ignored or go unmentioned.

It seems clear that one can adopt a “retroactive” way of reading the texts under discussion. One can say, “if you are eventually out then you were never in.” In fact, when the Scriptures are conveying the transcendence of the issues this sort of a-temporal image is sometimes used. However, one can also consistently adopt a more familiar and temporal reading of the texts. It is not a question of whether the “retroactive” reading is possible, but whether it is strained or unhelpful.

It seems that the main fruit of such a reading would be to undermine the security of the Lord’s Family, the Church. It is hard to imagine a more destructive doubt to saddle a member of a family with than to say, “you might not really be a member of this family.” This would seemingly inject a sense of loneliness and “every man for himself” negating much of the benefit of being supported and encouraged by family in the first place.

All of this strongly supports the statement quoted from the Second Vatican Council as the correct reading of these Scriptures.

Is there some other fruit of the “retroactive” reading that we ought consider?

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


[quote=SyCarl]If the Church is visible I should be able to walk into any church and have the true members of Christ’s body pointed out to me. Can you do that?

Yep. The Saints.

What purpose would be served by having an invisible Church? Oh! I forgot! Some folks could make claims which could not be verified by means of the two faculties which God has given us to know things: observation and reason. And if their claims could not be verified, then they could say and do anything they want, wielding illegitimate power over others for their own worldly gain.

If the Church were invisible, then how would folks find us in order to subject us to anti-Catholic diatribes?

If the Church were invisible, then how would folks who are searching for answers find those answers? The Catholic Church is a place of answers, not a place of circular reasoning.

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