“I hear people talking about the church and how important it is to them, but I have found that I feel closer to God on my own. I found a way that gets me reconnected with Him. I know that I am right with Him. I don’t need the church to be close to God.” This has been the general reaction of some folks when they are faced with the question of the place of the church in their lives. They are convinced that they can make it to heaven without the church.
In the two previous articles, we have noted that God’s saved people are in His church and God’s sanctified people are in His church. God Himself is the one who inextricably ties salvation, sanctification and the church together. Let us examine one further point in this article.
Let us ask one more question about the essentiality of the church: Does being “reconciled” have anything to do with me going to heaven? Do I have to be “reconciled” in order to go to heaven?
The Scripture teaches plainly that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). However, because of the precious blood of Jesus, “we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). When we were enemies of God, His eternal wrath awaited us in hell. But, “having been reconciled” to Him, eternal life now awaits! Only the reconciled will be free from His wrath and be saved eternally! What does that have to do with the church?
The Scripture teaches plainly that the reconciled are in the church, and only those in the church are reconciled. In Ephesians 2, Paul talked about those who were once “without Christ,” “having no hope,” “without God,” and were “far off” from Him (2:12-13). What did they need more than anything? To be reconciled to God! To remove the hostility (leading to wrath) and replace it with a friendship (leading to life)! Paul specified where such takes place—“that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (2:16). The reconciliation is “in one body,” which is the church (1:22-23). Paul continues that they are “no longer strangers” but now “members of the household of God” (2:19), which is His church (1 Tim. 3:15). It is impossible to be reconciled and to not be in the Lord’s church! God reconciles His reconciled in His church!
One cannot go to heaven without being reconciled. One cannot be reconciled without being in the Lord’s church. Therefore, one cannot go to heaven without being in His church.