(continued from part one) So where does this lead us? Yes, the true believers are all of one universal unseen church, but we must assemble together as visible communities as well. What are the practical applications? As with all things Godly, the practical and the spiritual are forever intertwined. We must go where we are called. We must go where we can serve. We must go where we are needed. We must go where the Lord asks us to go. It might be a few blocks away or it might be on another continent, but those who live by true faith in the Resurrection will be led by the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself came not to be served, but to serve. We should do likewise in our relationship with our church.
While membership in a worldly, local church is imperative, it is membership in the universal church that is truly crucial as it means becoming a part of Christ Himself. No affiliation with an earthly church can provide this alone. No baptism by immersion or pouring, no sacrament, no testimony, no works whatsoever can do this without the grace of God working through the Holy Spirit.
Danger lurks in all this talk about a universal church. Membership comes from within oneself, or rather grace acting upon one's inner self, rather than from some manmade external source. You can be educated and informed about the gospel truths but in the end God's hand must turn the final screw. By this reasoning those of other religions might argue that the Christian experiences simple enlightenment, a spiritual awakening of sorts. The slippery slope angles down steeply from there. If interdenominational why not inter-religious as well? What differentiates the enlightened Buddhist and the believer in the risen Christ? What separates the deeply spiritual Muslim or Hindu from the devout Christian? Some even claim to embrace all faiths and worship the one true God. I say if you embrace all then you embrace none, and risk mocking some faiths or even embracing evil in some form. Christian faith is not an interchangeable entity like a pair of socks. It is non-transferable, non-returnable, non-refundable, and non-exchangeable. For those who claim equal substance of faith then let them come to the cross and behold. Let them come to the empty tomb and believe.
Invitation to join the universal church is available to everyone but few accept. Yes, God chooses and true belief is a gift, but the will to accept or reject this gift remains ours (another Christian paradox). I do not diminish the importance of doctrine within a particular church, yet in the end all believers live in the same country; all the faithful are headed home. My Baptist friend is my brother in Christ, both of us members of the same church – the body of the Living Christ.
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, "in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, "in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22</p>