Commentary on the Barmen Declaration: Third Article

The third article of the Barmen Declaration begins to discuss some of the outworking of the rule of Jesus Christ in the church. It's impact on social identity and the sacraments within the church certainly stand out.

The Scriptures

3. “Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together.” Eph. 4:15-16

This singular verse from the Epistle to the church of Ephesus is an interesting one given the content of this article of the declaration. The Headship of Christ is at the forefront. Because of this headship only "truth in love" may be spoken by the church. Not love without truth. And not truth without love. For neither of these two options spring forth from the headship of Christ nor should they be proclaimed by the church growing up into Christ.

The Affirmation

The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and Sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.

For those who are frequenters of my blog, the affects of this affirmation on my own theology may be obvious. In its own way, the Barmen Declaration has a strong sacramentology (perhaps one so strong that Karl Barth looked back on this in disagreement). But it stands as written through the sacraments Jesus Christ is "present as Lord." Though this does not encapsulate my theology on the sacraments, under this influence I wrote,

I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, through His church and sacraments, is currently reigning upon the throne of David. (Brief Confession)

This coincides with the Second Article of the declaration. Christ Jesus is reigning over the lives He has ransomed. And He reigns in every sphere. The Word and Sacrament are the way in which He is present to us. The church that rejects the common and frequent practice of these is susceptible to collusion with the world. The church that practices them in accordance with "the sinful world" instead of "in the midst" apostatizes against Christ.

The church under the headship of Christ must believe and act. It must preach and rally. The church belongs to Christ alone, under Him alone waiting upon Him alone.

The Rejection

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.

Unsurprisingly, the Declaration decries the mutilation of the Church's message whether it be by the church itself, whatever ideology is conquering the world or the persistent draw to political fades. But the church is not to be persuaded to follow any of these.

In its historical context this rejection was focused on blasting Hilter and the Nazi regime. In the eyes of some of the authors this rejection also had socialism in its sights. In context for us today is the growth of statism and undue adherence or devotion to political parties and theory. Far from removing the church from interaction with ideology and politics, it pulls the church back "under his [that is Christ] direction alone" to be sent out again "in the midst of the sinful world."

In pulling our Christian message out of the false forms of the world we finally make it suitable to be sent into the world as a representation of Jesus Christ "in the present as Lord."

(Check out the IntroductionPart 1 & Part 2)

Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.