Sometimes it’s quite depressing to think about all the blemishes and spots of the church. The church’s sins and weaknesses cause a lot of pastoral tears for those of us who preach and teach in the church – especially because we’re not free from sins and struggles ourselves. So Luther’s words (which are in WA vol. 54 p. 470 & 474f as well as in Barth’s CD I.2 p. xi) have been awesome reminders for me when it comes to the church’s continued existence despite her weakness.
“It is not we who can sustain the Church, nor was it our forefathers, nor will it be our descendants. It was and is and will the the One who says: ‘I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ As it says in Heb. 13:8 ‘Jesus Christ, heri, et hodie, et in secula.’ And in Rev. 1: ‘Who was, and is, and is to come.’ Verily he is that One, and none other is or can be. For you and I were not alive thousands of years ago, but the Church was preserved without us, and it was done by the one of whom it says ‘Qui erat and heri.”
“Again, we do not do it in our life-time, for the Church is not upheld by us. For we could not resist the devil in the Papacy and the sects and other wicked folk. For us, the Church would perish before our eyes, and we with it (as we daily prove), were it not for that other Man who manifestly upholds the Church and us.”
“Again we can do nothing to sustain the Church when we are dead. But he will do it of whom it is said, Qui venturus est and in secula.”
We have to always remember that it is not our job to sustain, preserve, and uphold the church. We’d screw it up. Jesus won’t.