With which of the following statements do you most agree?
“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
“Away from [the church] one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.”
For the average evangelical Christian, the first statement may lack some balance, but the second sounds downright Romish. If this describes your reaction, then your ecclesiology is closer to the author of the first, Lenny Bruce, than to the author of the second, John Calvin (Institutes, 4.1.4).
Here we have a very helpful article on the forgotten Reformation doctrine of sola ecclesia. It is a balm in an individualistic culture that increasingly despises “organized religion.” It shows the link between the kingdom of God and the church.
Gospel means “good news”… Popularly, people believe the good news is different things: Jesus dying for sin, grace, justification, adoption, reconciliation, and peace with God… But biblically, the good news is the good news of the kingdom of God/heaven. The things mentioned above are implications of the coming of the kingdom. Biblically, the response is to repent and believe the good news that the kingdom has come in Christ… Once we understand that the gospel is about the kingdom, we must ask ourselves, What is the kingdom of God? … At its most basic level, the kingdom is the reign and rule of God, administered through Jesus Christ. The good news is that this kingdom has been brought to bear through Christ. Seeing the unbreakable connection between gospel and kingdom, we also see how Christ’s roles as Savior and Lord are inseparable. To repent and believe the gospel is to acknowledge Christ as King, to submit one’s will to his, and to be ruled over by him in his dispensation of mercy, justice, and love. But how does Christ rule over his kingdom? How does he administer his kingship? He does so through the church, to which he has given the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19), the gifts of office (Eph. 4:8-13), his own Shepherd’s voice in the preaching of the Word (Rom. 10:14, 17), his faithful Shepherd’s care (1 Pet. 5:1-5), and the means of grace (Acts 2:42). To be outside the church is to be at odds with Christ’s rule, his protection, provision, and tender discipline.