Two millennia of theological discourse and debate along with the seemingly endless division of the Christian community into different sects makes it difficult for a newcomer to know where to begin. Yet the steps to a life in Christ are very simple. It is living the life that is the harder part.

I have emphasized a ‘solitary’ life because salvation is an individual experience. It is an intimate union with Jesus Christ mediated by God and an intimate union with God mediated by Christ through his death on the cross. Every believer has his/her own unique personal relationship of this nature. We can share our stories but each person’s journey is theirs alone.

Given this, I will follow it with a short commentary of how this life relates to the Church of Jesus Christ as I understand it. And the role that our churches can play for new believers.

Beginning the Solitary Life in Christ

If the goal of the Christian is salvation or the return to our Father and the attainment of the afterlife in heaven, the requirement is simple and is the only way:

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

John 14:6, KJV.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20, KJV.

Jesus is the only way to the Father and is calling all to receive him. Many are not listening. For those of us who the Father draws, and our Father knows who we are and when we are ready, by an act of grace he gives us the faith to open the door that Christ may then come into us.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 6:44, KJV.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”

Ephesians 2:8, KJV.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21, KJV.

So God helps us in two ways. Firstly, he disposes our hearts towards Jesus; that is we must want or need him. Secondly, by an act of grace, he gives us what on our own we cannot provide, the necessary belief or faith in Jesus.

In this moment, a number of wonderful things happen. We are made righteous or just. Our sins are forgiven transforming us into a New Creation. We know with an absolute certainty that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and finally, Christ comes into us and we come into him. Christ lives in us (along with the Father and the Holy Spirit) and we in him.

It is so simple! We only have to want Christ in our life and then we have to ask god to make it happen.

Living the Solitary Life

God did the impossible part for us: giving us a new life in Christ. We are left, then, with only the hard part, that of living a life in Christ. Jesus has simplified this for us, however, by giving us two rules to guide everything we do and think. These rules subsume all other rules and laws in the bible.

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40, KJV.

We come to Christ, deep in sin and entangled in all aspects of a fallen world. At the beginning of our new life, Christ’s presence maybe indiscernible. As we work to change our ways with the help of the Holy Spirit, our carnal nature begins to recede and the presence of Christ and God within us finds more room to manifest. This is the work that we have to do and it is hard.

At first, we will continue sinning in ways we may never have understood. The key is to turn to Christ admitting the sin and repenting of it. Then, as Christ instructed those whom he healed, “go and sin no more“, to which I would add do your best and keep trying. Christ has already forgiven it so each day we take the next step forward in our new life – baby steps at first.

Our new relationship with Christ and God is still a unique, personal and solitary one. The church, however, can provide a major supporting role for us, particularly if we are new to the faith.

Membership in a Church

A church as a worldly institution provides fellowship, teaching and instruction in the way of Christ, continuity of doctrine, moral and physical support and other benefits.

In the following biblical extract, Jesus gives us seminal information about his church.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 16:13-19, KJV.

Incidentally, Jesus confers the same authority that he gives Peter in verse 19 to the other disciples in Matthew 18:18, except for the keys to heaven.

In verse 18 he announces the construction of his church based on “this rock”. The Catholic church, as I understand it takes verses 18 and 19 to mean that Jesus founded his church on Peter and that the early church, with the apostles as bishops and Peter as the first pope, is in fact the Catholic church.

After much prayer and meditation, my discernment was that the “rock” that Jesus referred to was not the man named Peter but Peter’s grace-given faith in Jesus by the father. Further study including the Pulpit commentary on this section confirmed that this is the likely meaning. Since this is such a controversial point, I encourage the reader to read the Pulpit commentary on verses 18 and 19 in full.

My understanding then is that there are two churches. One is the worldly institution which has fragmented into thousands of separate denominations, all claiming to be Christ’s church. The other is the metaphysical union of believers known as the Body of Christ. As Paul said in his first letter to the church in Corinth: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Whether or not you are a member of an earthly church, if you are saved, you are saved in your solitary life in Christ into the body of Christ’s church. But if you are a member of an earthly church and are not saved, you are not a member of Christ’s body and hence his church.

In heaven, there are no Catholics. Nor are there Anglicans or Baptists, or any other denomination because we will receive perfect knowledge, resolving all doctrinal differences. There is only one Truth. As Paul says:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV.

In heaven, there are only your brothers and sisters in Christ from across the ages. You are saved alone but will enjoy a tremendous fellowship of all believers.

Articles in This Series

Refer to the series index in Notes on a Spiritual Journey.


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I started a blog in 2011 called The POOG, an acronym for "pissed off old guy". This is the current incarnation.


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