The Church, Salvation, and Assurance

In this episode of the Holy Joys Podcast, David Fry and Johnathan Arnold discuss the church’s role in a believer’s salvation and assurance, the church in God’s plan of redemption, various images of the church in Scripture and the Great Tradition (ark, bride, guardian, mother), and the robust ecclesiology of the church fathers and Reformers.

Quotes from Fry

  • God has something for the Church that is not incidental to my salvation.
  • When we enter into a personal covenant with God, we are entering into a body, a corporate covenant—a covenant God has made with the Church, the called-out ones. They are not only called out but called to gather together.
  • Our incorporation in the body of Christ, the Church, has several points of significance, and I want to point out two: (1) It gives us visible testimony of belonging to Christ and His covenant people. (2) The Holy Spirit bears witness and that bearing of witness, which is personal, is corporate because the Church is the witness of the Spirit. 
  • God works ordinarily through the ministries of a local church.
  • We have an understanding of corporate election, and we also need to have an understanding of corporate assurance.
  • Our salvation is ultimately corporate. We are saved as a group.
  • Pastors need to make sure that they have a good and proper understanding of the Church and its role.
  • Sin always isolates. The Holy Spirit does not lead people into isolation. He may lead us to solitude and quiet, but that is different. It’s not good for man to be alone.
  • To say that “the Church is salvation” is not to say that the Church saves us. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our Savior. But the Church is the vessel which is given to us as a gift from Christ, just as the ark was given to Noah.
  • When God sends the Son, and from them proceed the Holy Spirit, what happens in that natural sequence is the Church.
  • The role of the Church: (1) As the bride of Christ, the role of the Church is that it is the Church that is saved. I am talking about ultimate salvation. When Christ finally saves us, it is in the Church. Christ comes and takes His bride. (2) The role of the Church is to be the “ark” of salvation. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit build the Church, and it is God’s chosen vessel for our salvation, and with that, there is the corporate assurance. (3) The role of the Church is our guardian. Our faith is a corporate faith. The Church must pass on the truth that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit in God’s word. The Church holds us accountable and restores us.
  • We go to the Church for our health. God is extending His hands through the Church, and that has been understood as a motherly ministry that the Church has.

Quotes from Arnold

  • The Bible knows nothing of a Christian who is not a member of a local, visible body. If someone is saved, like the thief on the cross, apart from that, it’s an extraordinary circumstance and exception, not the norm. 
  • The Church has always agreed that personal salvation is not separated from participation in covenant community through the sacraments.
  • What God saves you into is a life in community, and what He saves you from is a life of isolation.
  • The Church is salvation in the sense that life in community—entering into the covenant people of God—saves us from a life that is individualistic, isolated, broken, and fractured, which was a result of the fall.
  • If we are going to reclaim a sense of the Church’s role in our salvation and salvation as something corporate, we are also going to have to work harder to emphasize the importance of visible unity with other believers in our community.
  • “The message of the gospel is directed not primarily to individuals but to this new community. God’s plan of salvation all along has been to create one human society as the bearer of the divine image. In that sense, the church isn’t just the way people respond to salvation; the church is salvation. The church is what God has been doing in the world from the beginning. It is a representative microcosm of what God intends for the whole human family.” (Ben Myers, The Apostles Creed105)
  • The church is our Mother. We see that in Cyprian, Augustine, Calvin, and throughout the Tradition: God our Father, the Church our Mother. You can’t reject your Mother without rejecting your Father. If my little boy rejects his mommy, he rejects me too, which would be a tragedy. If my little boy stops responding to his mother, he’s going to die, because his mom’s giving him food. She is his life-giving source. We see this with a nursing infant. And there’s a sense in which a spiritual child never leaves the breast of his Mother. We’re always drawing life from the church.
David Fry
Senior Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church. PhD in Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). MDiv in New Testament Theology (Wesley Biblical Seminary).