For all the saints in warfare, for all the saints in rest

We recently discussed the need for unity in the Church. But isn’t there already the only unity in the Church that really matters? All who believe and have been baptized in Christ are part of His Body, the Holy Christian Church. Isn’t it like the Kingdom of God, which is not something we have to bring on–though we pray for it to come–but already exists, since He already reigns, on Earth and in Heaven? As for an external, temporal, institutional unity, that might be wished for, but isn’t it already accomplished as a hidden, though no less genuine reality?

Anyway, the question for All Saints’ Day and All Saints’ Day weekend: Consider the confession in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the communion of the saints.” What does that mean to you?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Nathan

    Dr. Veith,

    I’m really interested in this question and have written quite a bit about it on my blog, if persons want to explore this question more:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    Re: “communion of the saints”, I recommend this excellent show of Issues ETC:

    http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/335100909H2.mp3

    ~Nathan

    ~Nathan

  • Nathan

    Dr. Veith,

    I’m really interested in this question and have written quite a bit about it on my blog, if persons want to explore this question more:

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/babies-in-church-part-vii-the-%e2%80%9cchurch-speak%e2%80%9d-that-we-need/

    Re: “communion of the saints”, I recommend this excellent show of Issues ETC:

    http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/335100909H2.mp3

    ~Nathan

    ~Nathan

  • Darren

    For me, it’s a reminder that even when our church family of ~25 people meets on Sunday, I know that we are joining with the saints and angels in worship that has been going on since the beginning and will continue eternally.

    To me, it also means that when I am in need of prayer, I have lots of brothers and sisters to pray for me, not just the ones I see here and now.

  • Darren

    For me, it’s a reminder that even when our church family of ~25 people meets on Sunday, I know that we are joining with the saints and angels in worship that has been going on since the beginning and will continue eternally.

    To me, it also means that when I am in need of prayer, I have lots of brothers and sisters to pray for me, not just the ones I see here and now.

  • Orianna Laun

    I always think of the “great cloud of witnesses” who have “have come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. They are those who demonstrate that it was about Jesus for them and it is about Jesus for us, no matter what the circumstances. They are still gathered around Christ’s throne praising Him in a way that we yearn to do.
    I also think about those saints on earth who still struggle with the issues of living in a fallen world. When we pray the prayer of the church every week we pray for them and they pray for us. As they hymn says, “No saint on earth lives life to self alone Or dies alone, for we with Christ are one. . .We are the Lord’s, safe in God’s faithfulness.”

  • Orianna Laun

    I always think of the “great cloud of witnesses” who have “have come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. They are those who demonstrate that it was about Jesus for them and it is about Jesus for us, no matter what the circumstances. They are still gathered around Christ’s throne praising Him in a way that we yearn to do.
    I also think about those saints on earth who still struggle with the issues of living in a fallen world. When we pray the prayer of the church every week we pray for them and they pray for us. As they hymn says, “No saint on earth lives life to self alone Or dies alone, for we with Christ are one. . .We are the Lord’s, safe in God’s faithfulness.”

  • George A. Marquart

    The communion of saints is nothing less than the Kingdom of God, which our Lord proclaimed. Our confessional writings clearly teach that the Kingdom is the Church.

    But there is also some evidence that this sentence is a mistranslation of what originally was “the sharing of holy things,” a reference to the Eucharist. Someone who is more familiar with the details may want to fill in the details. (Was it Aulen? Memory fails me, and I am away from home and my resources)
    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    The communion of saints is nothing less than the Kingdom of God, which our Lord proclaimed. Our confessional writings clearly teach that the Kingdom is the Church.

    But there is also some evidence that this sentence is a mistranslation of what originally was “the sharing of holy things,” a reference to the Eucharist. Someone who is more familiar with the details may want to fill in the details. (Was it Aulen? Memory fails me, and I am away from home and my resources)
    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

  • wayne pelling

    to me the communion of saints is the line of those who have gone before,living out the Gospel,including my parents,who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses,resting after their service and watching and encouraging us in our pilgrimmage. It also means my identification with my fellow church members and with my brethren who are suffering for Christ around the world

  • wayne pelling

    to me the communion of saints is the line of those who have gone before,living out the Gospel,including my parents,who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses,resting after their service and watching and encouraging us in our pilgrimmage. It also means my identification with my fellow church members and with my brethren who are suffering for Christ around the world

  • fws

    I was raised in the WELS in the 60s and early 70s. There we were taught that this was sort of the apostles stuttering. that this should be read as “the holy christian church, ie, the communion of saints.

    in fact when we would say these two phrases we were actually encouraged to sorta rush past the separating comma if my memory serves me correctly.

    I also remember that this had something to do with the unique WELS ideas on what the church is and the ministry. I remember the phase “believers are church” (no definite article before the word church please, just to keep the meaning of this phrase semi-mysterious I guess….) as the unpacking of “where two or three are gathered” and Luther´s comment of “even a child knows what the church is…”

    interesting that these thoughts, along with romans 16:17 being the only chapter and verse from memory that stuck along with John 6:16, are a good part of what I took with me out of the WELS.

  • fws

    I was raised in the WELS in the 60s and early 70s. There we were taught that this was sort of the apostles stuttering. that this should be read as “the holy christian church, ie, the communion of saints.

    in fact when we would say these two phrases we were actually encouraged to sorta rush past the separating comma if my memory serves me correctly.

    I also remember that this had something to do with the unique WELS ideas on what the church is and the ministry. I remember the phase “believers are church” (no definite article before the word church please, just to keep the meaning of this phrase semi-mysterious I guess….) as the unpacking of “where two or three are gathered” and Luther´s comment of “even a child knows what the church is…”

    interesting that these thoughts, along with romans 16:17 being the only chapter and verse from memory that stuck along with John 6:16, are a good part of what I took with me out of the WELS.

  • fws

    that was john 3:16 of course….

  • fws

    that was john 3:16 of course….

  • fws

    #4 george marquardt

    “The communion of saints is nothing less than the Kingdom of God, which our Lord proclaimed.”

    Geroge, my mind immediately went to Jesus telling the pharisees: “the kingdom is here in your midst” (often mistranslated as “the kingdom of god is within you”).

    The tiein you made to the eucharist reminds me of Luther´s words: where christ is, THERE is life and salvation.

    Could I say, accurately, that wherever Christ is, there is the kingdom?

  • fws

    #4 george marquardt

    “The communion of saints is nothing less than the Kingdom of God, which our Lord proclaimed.”

    Geroge, my mind immediately went to Jesus telling the pharisees: “the kingdom is here in your midst” (often mistranslated as “the kingdom of god is within you”).

    The tiein you made to the eucharist reminds me of Luther´s words: where christ is, THERE is life and salvation.

    Could I say, accurately, that wherever Christ is, there is the kingdom?


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