When we confess the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our belief in the holy, catholic (i.e., universal) church. While best known for his Reformation work as a pastor and theologian in Augsburg and Bern, Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) began his religious vocation in a Benedictine monastery. In this selection drawn from his commentary on Ephesians (commenting on Ephesians 4:7-16), Musculus rejects the institutional understanding of the church he experienced in his early theological training. The true catholic church, he argues instead, is that which is united to Christ and depends on him for its life and salvation.


Since the whole body receives its growth from the head, the whole church cannot have life or growth unless it comes from Christ, who is its head. In him is all the fullness of the Spirit, life and grace. It is not for nothing that Paul did not simply say “from whom the body” but “from whom the whole body grows.” Therefore there is no part of the body that does not get its growth from the head. Even the smallest parts belong to the body in such a way that without them the body cannot be whole and entire. Therefore if the whole body grows from the head, each and every part of it grows because of it. The situation of the church is comparable to this. The whole church lives and grows from Christ its head, so that not even the least important believers are excluded from sharing in his grace, nor is it possible for anyone to be part of the ecclesiastical body unless he lives in and is saved by Christ. Therefore anyone who seeks his salvation somewhere else is not a part of the body of Christ and will never find what he is looking for elsewhere. The papists boast of the Catholic Church, but at the same time they do not care whether they are in the catholic fellowship of Christ’s grace or not. But nobody can partake of the catholic grace found in Christ if he is not a member of the catholic body of Christ. Those whose life and salvation do not depend on Christ the head are not members of his body.

Galatians, Ephesians, ed. Gerald L. Bray, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT vol. 10, p. 349