Must I Be A Member of the Church of Christ to Be Saved?

Tom Wheeler
Hodgenville, Kentucky

Any way we affirm the above title, we make the majority of our religious friends and neighbors angry. We must then explain to them that we believe basically the same thing they do, and that is, that one must please God to be saved. The problem then is a matter of understanding what pleasing God requires. Many people want God to be pleased with whatever they want to do.

We Must Obey God!

Adam and Eve didn't obey God and brought physical death to mankind besides being driven from the Garden of Eden. The people of Noah's day didn't obey God and He sent the flood to destroy them. The cities of the plains were destroyed because of their ungodliness. Jesus Christ came and suffered the cruel death of the cross because people were lost - in need of salvation. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

Some will read Ephesians 2:8-9 and conclude that man has nothing to do to be saved. They should read the next verse very carefully. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10). We are created unto good works. Are we to ignore what we are created unto? Surely, we have something to do. "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:17-18). Why was God thanked? When were they made free from sin? When did they become servants of righteousness? Everything is dependent upon obedience. If they had not obeyed, would God have been thanked? If they had not obeyed, would they have been free from sin or servants of righteousness? If we refuse to do what God says, we refuse His grace and therefore cannot be saved. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Tit. 2:11-14).

How Many Churches Are There?

According to the federal government records, there are more than thirteen hundred (1,300) different religious groups in the United States of America. That simply means that there are more than thirteen hundred (1,300) different doctrines being taught in the United States of America. But God gave only one Bible which is His word unto man today.

How many churches does the Bible, the Word of God, authorize? Jesus said that He was going to build one. "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Jesus did not say "churches" but "church." The body and the church are one-and-the-same-thing. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23). "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Col. 1:18). There is one body. "But now are they many members, yet but one body" (1 Cor. 12:20). "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). Since there is "one body" and the church and body are the same thing, then there is one church authorized of God. Men have many churches as is evidenced everywhere, but God has only one.

What Is The Purpose Of The One Church?

It is the blood purchased organization for the saving of souls. It was purchased by the blood of Christ. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). Its purpose must be very important for it to be purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ Himself. The purpose is plainly set forth in Ephesians 5:23, 25-27, 29-30. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body . . . Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish . . . For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the Savior of the church. The church is subject to, or in subjection to Christ. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it: therefore one must be a part of the church in order for Christ to have given Himself for that individual. He did this that he might sanctify (set aside for a special purpose) and cleanse it to Himself, a glorious church without spot or wrinkle.

People continue to cry out: "I can be saved and not be a member of any church." They certainly can be saved without being a member of any man made church. But the Bible says that God adds the saved to the church. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls . . . Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:41, 47). God makes no,mistakes in record keeping; therefore if an individual is saved, he is in the church you read about in the Bible.

How Does One Become A Member Of That Blood Bought, Christ Saved, Sanctified Church?

Look at the cases of conversion in the book of Acts. People heard the gospel, believed the gospel, repented of their sins, made known their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized in water as heaven commands, for the remission of sins. Those who were saved (those who obeyed from the heart, Rom. 6:17), were added to the Lord's church.

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:3-6). Notice that baptism is into Jesus Christ, that it is into His death; and then one is raised to walk in newness of life. The newness of life comes after one receives remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3;21). Being baptized into Jesus Christ or into his death (Rom. 6:3-6) is the same as being baptized into the one body. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many . . . But now are they many members, yet but one body" (1 Cor. 12:12-14, 20). Remember one body is the church (Eph. 1: 22-23; Col. 1:18).

God adds the saved to His church. One must do what God says in order to be saved. The church, that you read about in the Bible, and obedience are inseparable in God's plan. Yes, one must be a member of the church of Christ in order to be saved.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 20, pp. 615-616
October 18, 1984