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6. EMPHASIS ON THE CHURCH.

True, there is another side to this picture. There was now no longer any other way of attaining to blessedness than by believing in Jesus. He himself must now be represented as continually requiring people to believe in him—a request which the Jesus of the Synoptics made so seldom. The branches must abide in the vine (by which Jesus means himself), otherwise they will wither. “Apart from me ye can do nothing” (xv. 4 f.). But this means at the same time that one must be a member of the Church and submit to the ordinances of the Church; for example, to those of the Second Epistle of John (verse 10 f.), which forbids one to receive Christian brethren who hold different doctrines, or even to greet them. People are now divided into those who are in communion with the Church and are blessed, and those who are outside and are not; and the fact that one belongs to the Church is apt, moreover, to depend more on faith than on that doing of the will of God which Jesus required so continually in the Synoptics. On the other hand, the feeling that one is one of the elect leads only too readily to presumption; the power which is associated with ecclesiastical officialism leads to domination, and even, in certain circumstances, to mercenariness (1 Pet. v. 2; 1 Tim. iii. 8).

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Nevertheless, it was necessary to establish a Church communion. The desire to enjoy a common religious possession with people of a like mind cannot be repressed. Moreover, such communion is a powerful support to the individual, whether he comes to be distressed by doubts, is in trouble, or is in danger of falling into sin. Institutions which serve this purpose, whatever dangers may lurk in them, must be considered instruments of progress.

To all intents and purposes, the Fourth Evangelist never speaks of such institutions (xxi. 15-17 is by a later writer; see p. 186 f.). He has no interest whatever in episcopal authority and such like things. Had he had, it would have been a simple matter to make Jesus say something more than he does in xx. 21-23 about the privileges of the Apostles. His idea of the Church is still thoroughly ideal a community with Christ alone as its head. Nevertheless, we should make a great mistake if we were to think that he is indifferent to the Church. Every one who wishes to be blessed must share the Church’s belief in Jesus; he who does not share it is already judged (iii. 18). He who wishes to be a shepherd of the Church must come in to the sheep through the door, which is Jesus himself, that is to say, through faith in him (x. 7-9; see p. 135). Indeed, according to the one point of view, with which, it is true, we shall soon have to contrast another, no man can have life in him unless he partakes of the Supper (vi. 51b-56).

But beyond question the author, while emphasising these thoughts, does so in moderation. In the First Epistle of John, the believer’s consciousness that he comes from God, possesses full knowledge, and is free from sin (iv. 4, 6; ii. 20 f., 27; iii. 9; v. 18 by the side of i. 8-ii. 2: “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus), certainly goes very far; but it is due to a connection 241with Gnosticism, more than to the idea that one belongs to the Church. Both authors never forget that it is the individual who must have the faith and keep the commandments of God; they do not say that, because he is a member of the Church, any demand which should really be required of him will be lessened. If, on the one hand, the Church is a blessing, and so far as it is an evil, on the other hand, is a necessary evil, we shall have to admit that only the Second and Third Epistles of Jn. transgress the limits of what has to be recognised as an appropriate move forward.

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