Union with Christ and His People
“Unless you are born again and united personally to Jesus Christ, then you cannot be saved. But no one in the history of humanity has ever been saved who was not united spiritually both to Christ and His people. Christ is the second Adam who represented an entire group of people when He crushed the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Those people share a common destiny due to their common relationship to Christ. It is the worst kind of hypocrisy for a Christian to assert that he needs Christ but that he does not need the church for which Christ died (Acts 20:28). Many point to the fact that the thief on the cross was redeemed without baptism or church membership and that, therefore, they can be saved without baptism or the church as well. My dear friends, the only reason the thief on the cross was not baptized or brought into the church was because he died the same day that he was converted. Christ commands us to be baptized (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:38). Baptism by itself does not save you (Acts 8:13, 20-21; 1 Cor. 1:17), but it is a sign and seal of union with Christ and all of His benefits. Neglecting baptism is a “great sin” (Westminster Confession 28.5) because it demonstrates contempt for everything that baptism stands for, namely the glorious Christ and His work.” – p. 113 in Christ’s Glory, Your Good: Salvation Planned, Promised, Accomplished, and Applied by Ryan M. McGraw (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, copyright 2013 by Ryan M. McGraw)
“Becoming a Christian always has both an individual and a corporate aspect. People in Western cultures underestimate the degree to which they are the product not of their personal choices but of their families, communities, and cultures. Therefore, repentance and faith must be done both individually and communally. We do them when we personally approach God in prayer…and also when we publicly identify with Christ by becoming part of the church.
“…a person can be assured of belonging to Christ the very moment he or she makes that personal heart transaction with God. Nevertheless, everything in the New Testament indicates that Christians should confirm and seal that personal commitment through public, communal action in baptism and becoming part of the church. Hearts are unruly things, and to be sure that we have put our heart-trust in Jesus rather than in other things, we need to follow through and join a body of believers.
“I realize that so many people’s main problem with Christianity has far more to do with the church than with Jesus. They don’t want to be told that to become a Christian and live a Christian life they need to find a church they can thrive in. They’ve had too many bad experiences with churches. I fully understand. I will grant that, on the whole, churchgoers may be weaker psychologically and morally than non-churchgoers. That should be no more surprising than the fact that people sitting in a doctor’s office are on the whole sicker than those who are not there. Churches rightly draw a higher proportion of needy people. They also have a great number of people whose lives have been completely turned around and filled by the joy of Christ.” – pp. 246-247 in The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (New York, NY: Riverhead Books, copyright 2008 by Timothy Keller)