There are two things that have been swirling in my brain. (Actually, there are a lot more than two things in there, but I am going to limit myself today.) First of all, in worship I have been preaching on the Seven Churches of Revelation (Revelation 1 and 2). In my study on this passage I have been reminded of the emphasis that is placed on the corporate-ness of these congregations. They are addressed as churches, not as individuals.
My tendency is to read the Scripture- and probably everything else, for that matter- in a very closed, selfish way. I want to get right to the personal application. "What's in it for me," so to speak. But these letters do not allow for that.
When Jesus stands at the door, it is not the door to my heart. He is wanting to enter the church.
When Jesus says that he will spit out the lukewarm, he is not talking about lukewarm Christians. He is fed up with lukewarm churches.
When he says, "I know your works," he is declaring that the activities of the congregation are known to him. In this passage he is not looking at every detail of every member.
That thought led me to my second thing. When I was a boy, I was given a bad interpretation of a very familiar Bible verse. John 3.16 says this: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." When I was a child, in an evangelical Sunday school class a well-meaning teacher gave me the evangelical party-line. She said, "You can put your own name in there, you know. 'God so loves Dewey...'"
You see, evangelicals believe that every person is valuable to God. And that every person must come to faith in Christ of his own will and initiative. I agree with that, by the way. Every person must have a personal relationship with Jesus. I am an evangelical after all. The problem is that John 3.16 is not an individual salvation verse. It is a corporate salvation verse- just like Revelation 2-3.
So, there is a conflict in Christian circles between those who believe in individual salvation and those who hold to corporate salvation. Let me weigh in with my opinion on the subject: Yes.
Every person must come to faith in Christ. Romans 10.9 teaches that it is the responsibility of each individual to come to faith in Christ. I am thoroughly evangelical. Each person must confess and believe for him/herself.
But, Jesus came for all people. There are requirements, commands for the "church" of Christ. There is no getting around our responsibilities to the body of Christ, the church, and to Christ himself.
The right answer is not either/or, but yes/and.