Cyprian and the Reformed Church circa 258

Saint Cyprian

Image of Saint Cyprian

Belgic Confession Article 28 on the communion of the saints in the church states, “We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and outside of it there is no salvation.”  We confess that outside of the visible church there is no salvation.  This idea was not new with the reformed, Cyprian, the Father of the Church so called, stated the same in the 3rd c.e., “apart from the church there is no salvation.”[1]  Us reformed folk following the ancient church believe that the work of Christ in his church does not happen in isolation.  We believe that there are spiritual advantage found in, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) that are not found in private devotion.  For this reason the letter to the Hebrews commands the laity to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (13:17).  At this point American Evangelicals cry “foul,” leaning on a faulty understanding of our doctrine of the priesthood of believers, asking, “Am I not my own priest?  Why do I need a minister to stand before me?”  The correct understanding of the priesthood of all believers simply means that we no longer need a human mediator, for Christ is our only high priest.  It is by his one sacrifice on the cross that we are redeemed.  It is because He ever lives that we have an intercessor before the Father.  All members now have the same standing in Christ.  However, we must not forget that there are different functions within the body of the church (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-28).  Everyone now participates in the worship service (Eph. 5:15-21), but certain men are called to lead the service that all things are “done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).  As redemptive history gave the three offices of prophet, priest, and king, those offices, fulfilled in Christ, continue today in the life of the church through the three offices of the church that salvation may come to God’s people every Lord’s Day.

[1] Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church, 5.429.

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