By Mike Willis
This is an important question. We have many good friends who are not members of the Lord’s church. We love them and are concerned about their salvation.
Let me define what I mean by the question. A person may have heard someone say, “Good people can be saved anywhere.” While it is true that a person is not saved based on geography, that a person can be saved without reference to whether or not he obeys Christ is not true. What the world defines as a “good person” is not necessarily the one Christ so describes. What this statement affirms is that a person can be saved inside or outside the church. Who said so? How does one know that this is true? The only authoritative source for an answer to this question is the Bible.
Someone else may say, “The church does not save anyone. Therefore, it does not matter which church one joins.” Of course, Christ is the only one to save any person. However, where is the evidence that he will save anyone outside his church?
When we ask, “Can good people be saved out of the church?” we are not asking, “Can a person be saved without joining a denomination?” Most denominations admit that a person can be saved without being a member of their particular denomination. That being true, I would not recommend that anyone ever become a member of any denomination. However, the Lord’s church is not a denomination and a person cannot be saved without becoming a member of it.
What Is The Church?
When a person understands what the church is, he can better tell whether or not he must be a member of it in order to be saved. Here is what the church is:
1. The kingdom of God. The church is identified with the Lord’s kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19). Jesus is the King over this kingdom. There are only two spiritual kingdoms the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of Christ. Every man is a member of one or the other of these kingdoms. Paul wrote, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:12-13). Can a person be saved while a part of the kingdom of Satan? If not, he must become a citizen of the Jesus’ kingdom in order to be saved. But the kingdom is the church. Therefore, a person must be a member of the church to be saved. A person becomes a part of the kingdom of God by being born again (John 3:3,5).
2. The house of God. The church is the house of God. Paul wrote, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). There are only two spiritual houses. A person is either a child of God or a child of the Devil (Jn. 8:42-44). Can a person be saved with the Devil as his spiritual father? If not, he must be a son of God, a member of the house of God. But the house of God is the church of God. Therefore, a person must be a member of the church to be saved.
3. The called out. The word church is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, a noun which is derived from the preposition ek (out of) and the verb kaleo (to call). The ekklesia is composed of those who have been called out of spiritual darkness, out of the world. Jesus appointed Paul an apostle for the purpose of calling men out of spiritual darkness and into his spiritual light. Paul wrote, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou halt seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:16-18). Can a person be saved while in spiritual darkness? Can a person be saved while in the world of sin? If not, he must be called out of sin. The church is simply those who have been called out of sin. Therefore, a person must be a member of the church to be saved.
The Church Is Not the Savior
Lest anyone misunderstand me, let me assure you that the church is not the Savior. The church is composed of those who are saved. The Savior is Christ Jesus our Lord. Those whom he has saved are the church. A person is not saved because of his union with others who have been saved. He is saved by the precious blood of Christ. How-ever, Christ has ordained that those whom he has saved be in the one body, his church (Eph. 2:10).
How does one become a part of the church? Paul wrote, “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” (1 Cor. 12:13). When a person hears the gospel, believes it, repents of his sins, and is baptized in water, the Lord adds him to his church (Acts 2:47). If you have never done these things, you are lost. Like Cornelius, a man may be morally upright, but still he needs to hear words whereby he and his house can be saved (Acts 10:1-2; 11:14). Why not become a Christian today and the Lord will add you to his church?
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 21, p. 2
November 4, 1993