Basically, “collective salvation” means “unless we are all saved, none of us will be saved” or “we as individuals must cooperate and sacrifice for the good of the whole.” Another way to state what collective salvation means is “I can’t be saved on my own. I have to do my part by cooperating with the group, even sacrificing, to ensure everyone else’s salvation. It is then that we’re all saved together.” Scripture, however, is clear that salvation is a process by which God saves individuals through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Each person must come to Christ individually, not collectively.
Collective salvation is also analogous to the ecumenical movement in that many mainline Protestant churches are willing to embrace Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Eastern mysticism religions, and the cults in order to achieve social and moral goals. Their thinking is that if enough godly people band together, they can win the war against godless paganism and evil in societies that have abandoned all sense of morality. The belief is that with all individuals cooperating and sacrificing for the common good, all societal ills will be eradicated. Adherents of ecumenism claim that the church is in a holy war to preserve Christian values that are intimately woven into the fabric of biblical teaching, and that we must desist in our disagreements over doctrine and join together to wage this war against a decaying world.
Advocates for ecumenism or collective salvation often use John 17 as their proof text. Their contention is that Jesus was praying for everyone to get along, not to fight amongst ourselves. But actually His prayer was for His disciples only—all those who would ever follow Him, to the exclusion of all others—that they would have a common bond, a oneness in God’s Spirit which was ultimately realized on the day of Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2). God produced this common bond among Christians when His Spirit came upon them and they were baptized with the Spirit into Christ’s body. Paul summed this up this way in 1 Corinthians 6:17 when he said, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in the Spirit.”
The problem with the concept of collective salvation is that it is nowhere found in Scripture. One of the key components of collective salvation has to do with the deceptive thinking that the church must band together in a concerted effort to rid the world of all the immorality that permeates our society today. However, there is no instance in the New Testament of either Jesus or any of the apostles ever attempting to fix the problems of their society, including governments. What they did teach is that one’s salvation is through the gospel of Christ on an individual level, not collectively. Christ comes to the heart of the individual, knocking to gain entrance, and by the power and the moving of the Holy Spirit, we open the door of our hearts to Him (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; Revelation 3:20).
One of the most troubling aspects of the concept of collective salvation or ecumenism is its claim that our purpose is to fight a cultural war, that we’re some kind of human power base that can influence governments by voting in large blocs or by lobbying or by creating institutions that can defend and endorse morality in our society. But Paul makes it clear that this is not the Christian’s role: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). Our Christian biblical mandate has nothing to do with any collective morality politically, organizationally, or religiously. Our mandate has everything to do with the Great Commission—calling others to individual salvation through Christ.