Conflict between the church of Rome and the reformers reached its most violent peak in the five years before the Council of Trent in 1545, a council the pope had been delaying for years. Luther had not only given up hope for a "free, Christian council," but had also come to the conclusion that the authority of such a council was limited to reaffirming the ancient faith of the apostles. This radical departure from Rome's interpretation of its own authority forms the basis of Luther's new doctrine of the church—and also of his advice to Protestant princes on the problems of ecclesiastical property. It is this doctrine of the church which is the theme of the three treatises written during this period and included in this volume.
“First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God.” (Volume 41, Page 148)
“Sixth, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God. Where you see and hear the Lord’s Prayer prayed and taught; or psalms or other spiritual songs sung, in accordance with the word of God and the true faith; also the creed, the Ten Commandments, and the catechism used in public, you may rest assured that a holy Christian people of God are present.” (Volume 41, Page 164)
“‘I believe in one holy Christian church, the communion of saints.’ Here the creed clearly indicates what the church is, namely, a communion of saints, that is, a crowd378 assembly of people who are Christians and holy, which is called a Christian holy assembly, or church.” (Volume 41, Page 143)
“Now, wherever you hear or see this word preached, believed, professed, and lived, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica, ‘a Christian holy people’ must be there, even though their number is very small. For God’s word ‘shall not return empty,’ Isaiah 55 [:11], but must have at least a fourth or a fraction of the field. And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s word cannot be without God’s people, and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word. Otherwise, who would preach or hear it preached, if there were no people of God? And what could or would God’s people believe, if there were no word of God?” (Volume 41, Page 150)