Building Blocks Of the Church Of Christ (3)
God Has Told Us How to Enter the Church
Kenneth D. Sils
Long ago, a man named Nicodemus came by night to our Savior, Jesus Christ, expressing his belief that Jesus was a great teacher. He based this conviction on all the supernatural signs he had witnessed, saying, "No one can do these signs unless God is with him." At the beginning of John's gospel account, John said that Jesus, not only has God's presence with him, but that he, in fact, is God. The purpose for John's writing was to prove to the world that Jesus is the Word, the glorious Savior of men, who is full of grace and truth. He took on flesh for the express purpose of redeeming us from sin. As a result of his death, burial, and resurrection, man can once again enjoy a holy relationship with God by being a part of the church he was building (Matt. 16:18). In the first century, Christians were not seen as "strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
One of the most interesting statements one can find in the Bible is the response Jesus gave to Nicodemus that evening. In John 3:3, he said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!" Jesus wasn't mincing words with this teacher of the law. When Nicodemus failed to understand this statement, Jesus became more specific about this "rebirth" in verse 5 saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." To enter into God's kingdom, one must be "born of water and the spirit." To be among the members of God's house, one must be "born again." To walk the golden street which leads to the throne of God, one must be "reborn." Jesus requires a spiritual birth from all people.
Amidst all the modern religious confusion surrounding the topic of salvation, one may be prompted to ask, "Just how does one enter the church of Christ?" For one to enter the kingdom of God, the body of Christ or the church of Christ, man has no choice but to accept the provisions sup-plied by the New Testament. James tells us to "receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (Jas. 1:21). Peter reminded first century Christians, "since you have purified your soul in obeying the truth .. .having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Pet. 1:22-23). God's word explicitly tells us what we must to do to be saved and how one enters the church of Christ. He did not leave it to the modern TV evangelists or denominational rules and by-laws of men.
Jesus pleaded with the all people in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Every person can come to Jesus and be a part of his church if he is willing to obey the truth through the Spirit of God. One cannot be spiritually "reborn" with-out submissively obeying Jesus, the head of the church. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23, "Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Savior of the body." Friend, only one religious body, the body of Christ, will enjoy salvation from sin, death and eternal fire. Since this is the case, we must take every precaution to insure that we have done exactly what God requires in order to gain entrance into his church, his body, or his kingdom.
God has given us straight forward commands and examples in the New Testament demonstrating how people entered his church. Consider the example of Philip and the Samaritans in Acts 8:12, "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." These people believed in the things that Philip preached, prompting them to be baptized. This should not be a surprise if one will remember what Jesus told his apostles in Mark 16:15-16, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned."
Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and act upon his command in the New Testament to be baptized will be saved. Those who did such in Jerusalem were added to his church. Peter convicted the Jews of sin by telling them that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). When they asked Peter what to do, he replied in verse 38 saying, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." The text tells us that these obedient people were "added to their number." The word "added" here means to "join to, to gather to any company." They became numbered with the apostles. As a result, they were on the side of Christ, in his body, the church. Acts 2:47 tells us that those who were being saved were "added to the church." How were these people entering the church of Christ? The same way the Jews did in verse 41 by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, being cleansed through his blood.
God has chosen a very simple vehicle for man to gain entrance into his church. That vehicle is baptism. The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." Baptism is the only action which places us in the one body, the church of Christ. The same author tells us in Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church." Man has not been granted liberty to pick and choose his own plans of salvation, nor can he choose just any vehicle for entering Christ's church. The New Testament never asked someone to pray Jesus into their hearts through some "sinner's prayer," nor was any-one ever voted into the church of Christ. The Holy Spirit clearly tells us baptism puts us into the body, the church of our Lord.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that Jesus said, "Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This spiritual birth is directly connected with baptism. Paul reminded the Roman's of their conversion in Romans 6:3-7 saying,
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of his death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of his resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin, for he who has died has been freed from sin.
Baptism into the death of Jesus is the only way we can contact Jesus' life-saving blood, thereby killing the sin on our soul. When one is raised from the waters of baptism, one rises to a newness of life, one is reborn, one is added to the church, one is saved by the blood of Jesus ready to begin life as a Christian. Oh, the matchless grace of Jesus!
Have you complied with the Holy Spirit by being baptized into the one body, the church of Christ? In him, all spiritual blessings flow. In him is redemption and the forgiveness of sins. In him, man is alive again to God and has a bright hope of heaven after this life is over. Before Jesus died on the cross, he told his chosen few in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me." It is his way or no way, friend. Don't place your trust in the feelings and testimonies of modern man, place your trust in the truth of Jesus in the New Testament. Feelings come a dime a dozen, but the truth stands alone as a diamond in the rough.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 22, p. 22-23