Fri April 3 Q 94-95 The Necessity of the Church
94. Is it necessary to believe this article?
Yes, indeed, unless we want to make the death of Christ of none effect, and all that has already been said. The fruit that proceeds from it is the Church.
95. You mean then that up to this point we have spoken of the cause and foundation of salvation, how God has received us in love through the mediation of Jesus, and has confirmed this grace in us through His Holy Spirit. But now the effect and fulfillment of all this is explained in order to give us greater certainty.
It is so.
Occasionally I run into a professing believer who curiously explains to me that he or she has no membership among a local body of believers, nor does he or she intend to, for it in not necessary to have membership in a church in order to be a Christian. I understand that the individual’s belief might be rooted in an experience in which he/she was wounded among a fellowship of believers, and then justified his/her distance from the church by the absence of a command in Scripture that says, “thou shalt be a member of a church and attendeth weekly.” I am sensitive to such people’s pains and pray for grace to be sufficient to lead them a healthy body of believers. However, when it comes to historic Christianity, as seen in the Catechism, the notion that someone can be a believer without membership in a church is foreign to orthodoxy and the Scriptures.
The elect are “[the] firstfruits of his creatures,” having been “brought forth by the word of truth” (Ja 1:18). We are also his body, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22). The writers of Scripture assume that we are a corporate people, part of the church. We must “believe this article” if we are to agree with the whole counsel of God. It is through the church that we gain “certainty” in our salvation, as the Spirit works among us to speak to us through preaching, sanctify us in fellowship among other believers, and use our gifts in the body to serve one another. The affect of Christ’s death is to form a people who “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [them]” (cf. I Pet 2:4-10).
If we do not believe in the church – with the local being mysteriously united to the universal and invisible – in effect we do not believe in Christ’s death for us. Instead, we must believe in the Church, expressing such believe in vibrant membership among a local body of believers. Therein is where he awaits us to have a personal relationship with the one who died and rose again for us—a relationship that even can provide healing for wounds that occurred among God’s people.