Is a Community of the Faithful Essential for Salvation?
Are the faithful saved individually or as a community of believers?
A friend quotes this text: If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved (Rom 10:9). This kind of faith, she says, saves us, not doctrine or ritual. So, when we are told to accept Christ as our personal Saviour, do we still need the Church? L Parker
Indeed we do. St Paul’s words, as a kind of formula for salvation, cannot save anyone in isolation from membership of the Church. To be saved by Christ’s redemptive act of love, it is necessary to be baptised into the community of the faithful.
When St Peter was asked what must be done for people to be saved, he replied: Every one of you must be baptised (Acts 2:37).
Reading more of Acts 2, you will see that the early Christians went as a body to the Temple to pray and that day the Lord added to their community.
As a little community of like-minded men and woman, the Christians were visible and recognisable as such, and the sacrament of baptism was acknowledged as the initiation rite into their membership.
Eventually, the Church was seen as an established organisation of Christians, very much like any other organisation, having its own doctrine, discipline, officials and leaders, the bishops, priests and deacons, as well as other ministers to give it a sound community basis.
What is ‘Church’
Protestants do not have the same understanding as Catholics of what the Church is.
Mostly, they see the Church as a community of true believers known only to God and therefore essentially invisible.
Although their local congregations demonstrate their faith in Christ by upright behaviour, the preaching of the Gospel and the celebrating of the rites of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they do not feel the solidarity that Catholics experience in being one with the universal Church and its common leadership.
It is not unusual for some to fall into the trap of living their faith privately and hoping that this will guarantee salvation without involvement or the support and prayers of the Church. This is not Catholic teaching.
When we face our death and judgment, we do so as members of the visible Church in which each one has or has not suppported and prayed for the others, and so contributed to cementing the final union of all believers in and with Christ.