A question that is often asked is the question of wether we need the Church. I want to reflect a bit over that in this post.
I believe a case can be made for the claim that being a Christian necessarily includes being part of a Church; that a Christian without a Church is an oxymoron. And I believe that we don’t need to go further than St. Paul to find that out.
In the Pauline Corpus we find a some key phrases regarding the Church. We see that the Church is the body of Christ (1Cor 12:27; gr. σῶμα Χριστοῦ), that this body is “the pillar and ground of truth” (1Tim 3:15), and, most importantly, that this Church is referred to by the noun ἐκκλησία. Ἐκκλησία isn’t a mere abstraction (the ‘Church’ as apart from ‘one of the denominations’). Ἐκκλησία was used in the Septuagint as a translation of Qahal, the congregation or assembly of Israel. And to me it is absurd to use Qahal as an abstraction apart from the actual, concrete assembly of Israel.
It seems quite clear to me that the Church of the New Testament is a concrete, palpable Church, outside of which there is no salvation. This follows from the fact that there is no salvation outside of Christ, and that the Church is his body. When we are in Christ, we are in His Church. And His Church, being His body, is concrete. As Taylor Marshall wrote in his ‘apologia’ for his conversion:
The Church is not the “invisible Soul” of Christ, she is the visible “Body of Christ.” There is no such thing as “an invisible Church,” because the Church is defined as “the Body” which is a visible, empirical reality.
Being Christian is being in Christ. Being in Christ is being part of His Church. A Christian without a Church is indeed an oxymoron; a member without a body.