The Church: now you see it, now you don't!


Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Ps 47:2 DRC

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. Mt 5:14-16 DRC

*]Can the Church be seen?
*]Should the Church be seen?
*]If the Church can and/or should be seen, then why and how is it revealed?
*]If the Church cannot and/or should not be seen, then why and how is it hidden?[/LIST]


The Confessional Lutheran (contra liberal) believes that its church is the visible church. Note, not the invisible church but the visible church…

They believe they are a/the visible church because
*]a.) they preach the Gospel /Cross of Jesus
*]b.) they have true Sacraments which were believed by the early church. link

[/LIST]This is one definition of the visible Church. Do you agree with this?

The term invisible as defined by the Reformed… refers to the fact that the invisible church cannot be fully discovered, distinguished or discerned by the eyes of men, by empirical means.

*]No one has the ability to look into the human heart and see if a person is truly united to Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
*]Further, the Holy Spirit gives genuine saving faith only to the elect. The counterfeit faith of unregenerate professors of religion often is indiscernible to mere mortals.[/LIST][While] the visible church are those who outwardly profess the truth, participate in an external covenant with real responsibilities and privileges, it does not mean and theologically cannot mean that they truly participate in the saving merits of Christ. Such persons (for a time) are in the covenant but are never genuinely of the covenant. They… never participate in the covenant of grace which flows from the eternal covenant of redemption… link

This is an alternative definition of ‘visible church’ as well as a definition of ‘invisible church’. Do you agree with this?


If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

That is difficult to do with an invisible Church.


Here is an Orthodox perspective:

The Apostles founded outwardly “visible” communities with a definite membership, one in soul even though outwardly separated, and all these communities were the single Church of Christ…

…this does not in the least mean that we Orthodox Christians do not believe in an Invisible Church.

If we did not, we would not pronounce daily, and even several times a day, both in Divine services and in prayer at home, the words “I believe” in the Creed with regard to the Church; faith, in the definition of the Apostle, is “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1)…

…This means that in our teaching on the Church we acknowledge also its invisible sphere. Where and what is it? This sphere is the Heavenly Church…

But why did the Fathers of the Church at the Councils not raise the question of the Heavenly Church, but by the word “Church” always had in mind its existence on earth?.. This is because they were entrusted with shepherding the earthly flock of Christ…

But their service was illuminated and received power by the constant awareness of being in the single ecumenical heavenly-earthly Kingdom or Body of Christ… link

When Paul spoke of the evidence of things not seen, was he referring to the Invisible Church either as defined by the Orthodox or by the Reformers?

Now, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.

For by this the ancients obtained a testimony.

By faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God: that from invisible things visible things might be made. Hebrews 11:1-3 DRC


The scandal of the invisible church is nothing more than a continuation of the scandal of the incarnation.

There is a visible church because the second person of the trinity became man ( visible) and dwelt among us.


Doesn’t Satan try to push the idea of the Invisible church?


Yeah. Also the idea that he is only an idea, and not real.:slight_smile:


Could you be more specific please? Thank you. :slight_smile:


I’ll try

I think rosalind moss said that once she realized that man could not be god but God could become man she believed in Jesus.
At the heart of this is the invisible being made visible. God walking among us and teaching us , just like scripture says. This truth that God be like us in all ways but sin is a scandal because of what that means, he had to eat ,he had to sleep ,he had to go the bathroom. It was a scandal to think that the creator of all would humble himself like this, just to save us.

The modern idea of an invisible church stems from the notion of worshipping in spirit and truth. They begin to overemphasize the spirit ,and the truth of the incarnation suffers. In getting rid of the physical elements of Christ, they begin to remove the physical elements of worship i.e. sacraments, sacramentals, and any corporeal means of getting closer to God. Therefore the logical conclusion leads to the idea of ,not a visible church or authority, but a “personal” experience led by the “spirit”


Of course. Christ’s Body is made up of human beings.

Should the Church be seen?

Yes. It is commanded of us.

If the Church can and/or should be seen, then why and how is it revealed?

Through the fruit of its members.


The Church is definitely a visible Church and scripture proves it. The following passages of scripture make it clear that we are talking about a visible entity.

Acts 8:1-3
AND SAUL was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison."

There could not have been a persecution of the church if the church were invisible. Saul and the rest of the Jewish leadership would have been clueless as to who to persecute if the church were invisible.

Likewise, we read other things about the church that make it clear that the church is a visible entity. The following are additional testimony:

Acts 9:31
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied.

Acts 11:22
News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Acts 13:1
NOW IN the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers,

Please be advised that none of these facts would be known if the church was invisible. Likewise, look at what the bible says in Acts 14:23. It says:

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.”

How could elders be appointed in any local church if the church were not visible, and how could anyone be sure that they had appointed elders in every church?

And finally, how about Acts 14:27 which says:

“And when they arrived, they gathered the church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”

How could anybody gather the church together and make a declaration to the church if the church were invisible? It just couldn’t happen. The idea of an invisible church didn’t make sense during the time of the apostles and it doesn’t make sense now.


I agree—most heresies stem from an incorrect understanding of the Trinity, emphasizing the divine, or the human, out of proportion.

The invisible church concept takes the church out of the physical world and into the spiritual entirely. That’s not the intent, as the passage quoted in the above clearly indicates.





Of course. Christ’s Body is made up of human beings.

The Chuch is indeed made up of human beings but how does that make the Church visible?

Human beings are visible.

This is basic.

Are you saying that all organizations are visible?

If they are made up of human beings, then yes.

But Christ’s church is an organism, not an organization.

Through the fruit of its members.

How do you asses it and thus identify it?

The fruit of the Christian life is common knowledge and outside the scope of this thread.

We can discern trees by their fruit.

I would appreciate a precise answer that would allow me to locate the entire organization (not one or two mambers).

The entire organism of Christ’s church cannot be “located.” This is true in Catholicism as well.

Why you would expect from others what you do not expect from your own theology is beyond me.



“The entire organism of Christ’s church cannot be ’ located .’ This is true in Catholicism as well.” - Atemi


Just as all men of good will who came into contact with our Lord were able to know him for what he was, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), so it must be equally possible for them to recognize his Church as a divine institution. For the claims of the Church upon the world’s attention are no less imperative than those of Christ himself. Indeed it is the Church’s boast that she is, in her very constitution, “a perpetual motive of credibility and unassailable witness to her own divine mission.” Whence it follows that she must be a society visible to all as an unmistakable concrete fact. You have failed to look for the certain marks or notes characteristic of the Church whereby she can be clearly and definitely apprehended by the mind for what she is. The Church is a reality as intelligible in its own order, as susceptible of scrutiny, as anything which comes within the range of sense observation. She is “a city seated on a mountain,” (Matthew 5:14) challenging men’s gaze, proclaiming her own authenticity to those who will pause to examine.

Care to pause?





Curiously enough, this claim of the Church to be a visible society has proved to be a stumbling block to many like yourself. In the Middle Ages the Fraticelli thought they had discovered two Churches, one “carnal,” the other “spiritual,” Wycliff and the Hussites vigorously opposed the notion of a Church that could be visible. In the same line of thought lies Luther’s restriction of the Church to the Communion of Saints, and Calvin’s to the number of the predestined. All these theories were devised to justify the repudiation of traditional Christianity as embodied in Catholicism. Analogous to them is the modern antithesis between “the religion of authority” and “the religion of spirit”; likewise the familiar distinction drawn by idealists between the “institutional” and “mystical” elements in religion.

It is not my present purpose to discriminate the amount of truth which lies concealed in these fundamental aberrations. All heresy is an isolating of a part of the Christian inheritance and setting it in opposition to the whole, a principal which is conspiculously verified in every attempt to concentrate on the hidden riches of the Church to the exclusion of what is visible. But it is worth remarking that there is an all but ineradicable tendancy in certain minds to show devotion to the spiritual by contempt for the material. The Manichean dualism, reproduced in a different form in the Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophical tradition, which has deeply influenced sections of Christian thought, bears striking witness to this. There is evidence of it also in the widespread contemporary interest in “mysticism,” as divorced from Christian faith and worship. The neo-mystics professedly inveigh against “established Christianity,” which is alleged to have “failed,” but in fact their revolt is against the Incarnation itself.




Now, as to the intellectuals in St. Paul’s day, the notion of a God who so loved sinners as to identify himself with them in visible humanity is “foolishness.” ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 ff )

The Catholic Church, though she gives scope to the highest aspirations of mysticism, provided it is based on an acknowledgement of sin and the need for salvation, is concerned with the eternal welfare of mankind, not of a select group. And men in the mass need to approach the things of the spirit through the medium of what they can see and hear and touch. So the Church comes before them, as Christ did himself, with evidence which testifies to divinity, in lineaments recognizable by all who eyes to see. As our Lord pointed to his life’s work in proof of the validity of his claims ( John 10:25 ), so does his Mystical Body exhibit to the world the distinctive qualities of unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity as warrenting her divine origin.



Is the Church the body of Christ? The answer to that question surely must be yes.

Is anyone who will not be with Him in Heaven, truly a part of Christ’s body? Clearly not. The Apostle John says:

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 2:19

The people John is speaking of were in the visible church beforee they left, but according to John they were not really true Christians. So the visible church does not equal the true body of Christ.

Can the true body of Christ be identified? No. You cannot go into any church and point to anyone that you can guarantee will be with Jesus in heaven. You can only know what someone professes, not what they actually believe. If you cannot point to anyone and say that they are part of Christ’s body, how can the Church be visible? Can something be visible yet no one can actually show or point to part of it?

The Catholic Church claims that it is Christ’s Church and that the Church is visible. However they also recognize that their separated brethern can be saved as well as non-Christians. If non-Catholics are saved, they would be part of Christ’s body, which is the true Church as they will be with Him in Heaven. However they are not part of the visible Catholic Church. Unless the body of Christ and the true Church are not the same, then the Catholic Church cannot be the true Church since it does not contain the whole body of Christ. The true Church must be all the members of Christ’s body whichever denomination they belong to. Therefore the true Church cannot be identified with any particular visible organization.


It was precisely the visible organized body of men that Saul the persecutor knew, when he was “consenting to the death” of Stephen, a deacon of the organized Church, and when he “made havoc of the Church,” imprisoning its members; when he set forth from Damascus, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” against them. In later years he recalls that he was “according to zeal, persecuting the Church of God” (Phil. 3:6); “that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it.” (Galatians 1:13) “For I am the least of the Apostles . . . because I persecuted the Church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9)

When St. Paul was struck down on the way to Damascus he heard a voice saying to him “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4) Who said “Who art thou, Lord?” and he, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” (Remember, at this time Jesus had already ascended bodily into heaven) Saul was persecuting the Church of God; in persecuting the Church Saul was persecuting Christ himself. Thus at the very outset of his Christian career, St. Paul learned the truth which was to affect the whole of his teaching, the truth of the union of Christ with his Church, a union so close, so unique, so unparalled, that he uses one imaged expression after another to try to bring home to his hearers a fuller realization of the supernatural reality which had been revealed to him.

Where the Apostle refers to Christ’s Mystical Body, whether a’ propos of the whole Church or of the individual, he is thinking primarily of external organization, and when he refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, primarily of inward sanctification. The doctrine of the Mystical Body, like that of the Kingdom in the Gospels, has its internal and external aspect.


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