“Christ has not only appointed the message, but the methods and, as we have seen, there is an inseparable connection between them. All around us we see evidence that churches may affirm the gospel of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone, but then adopt a methodology that suggests otherwise. Christ has appointed preaching, because ‘faith comes by hearing the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:17); baptism, because it is the sign and seal of inclusion in Christ; the Supper, because through it we receive Christ and all of his benefits. In other words, these methods are appointed precisely because they are means of grace rather than means of works; means of God’s descent to us rather than means of our ascent to God.
“In this way, Christ makes himself not only the gift, but the giver; not only the object of faith, but the active agent, together with the Spirit, in giving us faith. And he not only gives us this faith in the beginning, but deepens, matures, and increases our faith throughout our lives. The gospel is not something that we need to ‘get saved’ so that we can move on to something else; it is the ‘power of God unto salvation’ throughout our pilgrimage. So we need this gospel to be delivered to us regularly, both for our justification and our sanctification…
“…We don’t need more ‘community,’ but more of the gospel that creates a specific kind of community of the Spirit in this passing evil age. We don’t need more activities, but more Word-and-sacrament ministry. The sheep don’t need more opportunities to serve the church as much as to be served by a church that treasures them as Christ’s flock. We don’t need more spiritual disciplines, but more profound instruction in God’s Word from cradle to grave that will fill our minds with wonder, our hearts with thanksgiving, and our own meditation and prayer with richness. Any voluntary service organization can create a fellowship of the like-minded. Only God’s work – in and through the gospel – can create a communion of saints and spread a feast in the desert.”
-Michael Horton in “No Church, No Problem?” and “A Tale of Two Churches,” July/August Modern Reformation magazine. (image from Modern Reformation via Photoalto Agency/Jupiter Images)