Contrary to contemporary Christian myth, salvation is not simply a one-time event. It is true that someone is either saved or not, that he is part of Christ’s Church or not. Yet, simply because someone is saved doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t need the fullness of Christ’s salvation.
The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians, wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is a gift of God, not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This shows that salvation is a past-time event completely achieved by the grace of God.
Yet, Paul still has more words on the matter. Elsewhere, he wrote to Christians, those who had been saved, “For the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). So, even those within Christ’s Church are still being saved. This shows that salvation is also a present-time event.
And the Apostle Paul still had even more to say. He wrote to the Christians at Rome, “Since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). So, those who have been saved, and are being saved, will still be saved. This shows that salvation is also a future-time event.
So why are we to go to Church? It’s simple: to be saved. That’s why God tells His people to be where He comes to save them. That’s why the book of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
Well, if salvation isn’t simply a one-time event, then how does God keep saving us? That’s a reasonable question. He saves us where He gives to us His forgiveness. We come to church to be where Jesus the Savior promises to give us eternal life through His Word.
Think about all of what Jesus commanded His Apostles to do as the New Testament Church’s first pastors. Jesus told them to disciple others into the Church by baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus told them to preach, not only to bring others into repentance, but also into the forgiveness of sin (Luke 24:47). Jesus told them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-23). And Jesus told them to forgive (and if needed, retain) the sins of others (John 20:22-23).
All of what Jesus commanded involves the forgiveness of sins. That’s because where Jesus forgives your sins, that’s where He is also saving you. And where do you get Jesus’ forgiveness? Where He says you do from those He commanded to deliver His forgiveness in the here and now.
That’s why Christ’s Church to this day calls and ordains pastors to do what Christ has commanded them to do. That’s why—even to this day—a pastor’s primary duties are to baptize, preach, teach, absolve others of their sins, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Those are the activities that are still the central focus of what takes place at Church.
God saves us in the Divine Service. That’s why we get to come to church: for Jesus to serve us and so be saved! And only after that do we respond back to God with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
Yes, it really is that simple. We go to Church to get saved and to keep getting saved.