The Church as the “People of God”
The Church as “People of God” is a term that has gained prominence since the Vatican II Council although the term has been in use since the times of the Old Testament (OT). In the OT the Israelites were referred to as People of Yahweh, In Exodus Moses conducts a covenant between the “People of God” and God himself; “You shall be my people and I will be your God” (Deut 32:9). Today we have some theologians who argue that all humankind is indeed the “People of God” (Osei-Bonsu) since they were created by the same God who is our Father. Others think that the term “People of God” refers to all Christians in the NT context where it involves the community of believers (1 Peter 2:9) “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart to sing God’s Praises.” The limitations of the image “Populi Dei” (or People of God) arises in two ways; first, that of understanding the unity that is demanded by core concepts such as ‘Body of Christ,” and secondly, the more sociological meaning that risks the mystery aspect of Christ’s mission in the world. In comparing the Catholic and evangelical conceptualization about the image of the Church, the evangelicals often tend to focus more on the virtual or spiritual unity, while the Catholic understanding refers to both physical and spiritual unity of the Church. Therefore, the term “People of God” is greatly accepted among evangelicals than Corpus Christ that is often more popular in the Catholic circles. Lumen Gentium (Vat. II) used the term “People of God” in direct reference to the Church as an image hence giving it a deeper meaning. The second chapter of Lumen Gentium bears the title ““People of God”.” This title does not refer to the laity in contra-distinction to the “hierarchy,” but rather it applies to all members of the Church. First it was used to refer to the Church as a body of the New covenant in Christ’s blood and in the sense of Koinonia or communion of the Christ’s faithful. Therefore the “People of God” refers to the Corpus Christi (i.e., Body of Christ) that is united in one faith and one love and moving towards the soteriological calling by Christ their head. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the Populi Dei concept that underscores the practical implications of the term Populi Dei in continuous self-awareness of the Church in the increasing roles to be taken up by the lay faithful.
Keywords: Church, People of God, Lumen Gentium, Body of Christ