THE WORD IS
God has created man as such a highly moral being that he is, independently of other people, solely responsible for his own deeds. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). Everyone is alone before God.
We do not have the right to hide under the shelter of public opinion. Nor do we have the authority to appeal to Civil laws or to the command of a superior, if we have done wrong. In this respect faith is an individual matter.
This presupposes freedom of conscience, not only in theory but above all in practice. For instance, physicians must have the right and the opportunity to refuse to perform an abortion. Parents must have the right to own their children and to teach them in the field of faith and morals. If faith is considered to be a social matter and if society cultivates the religious opinions of its citizens and demands a life?destroying morality from its public officials, then we are in a totalitarian society without freedom of conscience.
Religion, of course, is not an individual matter in the sense that society should, in the name of religion, tolerate murders, thefts, abandonment of children or some other apparent wrong doing.
Each person is saved through his own faith. One cannot believe for someone else. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be damned" (Mark 16:16). In this sense faith is an individual matter.
It is not, however, an individual matter in the sense that a person can himself decide what he believes and what he does. True faith is faith in the Triune God. He creates it and gives it its content. The Christian faith binds a person to God. It is properly speaking God's work. He has revealed His Gospel to us in the Bible, so that according to it we would believe in Him. God has forgiven our sins for Christ's sake. When we believe this, we are freed from human slavery. We know God as our Father, who takes care of His own. We can be courageous. Paul did not even fear a martyr's death because he trusted in "God, who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8,9).
A Christian cannot remain in his own corner and ignore others. If the Apostles out of fear had remained behind closed doors, the Gospel never would have spread throughout all the world. Love motivates a Christian to tell others the good news that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God's grace.
God's Word directs Christians to local congregations. The first Christians in Christian congregations assumed the responsibility of publicly administering the Office of the Keys: preaching, administering the Sacraments, calling pastors, disciplining the fallen and excommunicating the impenitent. Congregational fellowship was confessional fellowship. God's Word settled all disagreements. The members in a spirit of love took care of each other and especially of the less fortunate. The congregations of the different areas worked together in a fraternal spirit. This is how God wants it to be also today.
Is faith then an individual matter? From the standpoint of salvation and morality in God's sight it is, but from the standpoint of congregational unity, Christian fellowship and love it is not.