By Irvin Himmel
It is a popular opinion that one church is as good as another. Many people stoutly deny that church membership is essential to salvation. Without doubt, much confusion has arisen in the public mind pertaining to salvation and the church due to misconceptions of the church and misunderstanding of what one must do to be saved.
The New Testament teaches that membership in the body of Christ. which is the church, is necessary. To deny this truth would involve a rejection of a number of basic Bible facts. Let us suppose that one can be saved out of the church; then what?
1.1f one can be saved out of the church, he can be justified with-out being a part of Christ’s purchased possession. God does not remit sins without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). Justification is made possible by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9). We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18, 19). But Paul tells us that the church is that which was “purchased” with Christ’s blood(Acts 20:28). Our Lord loved the church and gave himself for it (Eph. 5:25). Paul told the people in the church at Corinth. “For ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). To affirm salvation apart from the church is to take one of two positions: either (I) salvation can be obtained without the blood of Jesus, or (2) one can be purchased with the blood of Christ independently of being a part of his purchased possession, the church!
2. If one can be saved out of the church, he can be reconciled to God without having his name enrolled in heaven. The redeemed have their names written in the book of life. In the judgment scene depicted vividly in the closing verses of Revelation 20, it is stated, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” But He-brews 12:23 informs us that the ones which are written (enrolled) in heaven are the “church of the firstborn.” To argue for salvation without member-ship in the church of the firstborn is to suggest some means of one’s being reconciled to God without having his name recorded in the book of life.
3. If one can be saved out of the church, he can be saved without becoming a child of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God .. . And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”(Rom. 8:14, 17). “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26, 27). Every responsible person is either a child of God or a child of Satan. But God’s children are in his family, since he has no illegitimate spiritual offspring, and the “house” or “household” or family of God is the “church of the living God” (I Tim. 3:15). If becoming a child of God necessitates one’s entering the household of God, which is the church, salvation outside the church would be salvation without being a child of God.
4. If one can be saved out of the church, he can be saved without baptism. The Bible teaches that baptism is necessary to the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Jesus made belief and baptism conditions of salvation (Mk. 16:15, 16). But baptism puts one into the body of Christ, which is the church of 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” (1 Cor. 12:13). The apostle Paul identifies the body as the church (Eph. 1:22. 23; 5:23: Col, 1:18). Since baptism puts one into the body, the church, to maintain that salvation can be obtained without ones entering the church is to argue for salvation without baptism.
5. If one can be saved out of the church, he can be saved and still not be among the saved. The English word “church” translates die Greek term ekklesias meaning the called out” or congregation As people are being called out of the world through the gospel, they are being added to the church, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47), Flow can one be saved without the Lords considering him one of the saved, or one of the called out, or one who belongs to the Lord? Since the church is composed of the saved, to suggest salvation outside the church is to say that one can be saved and still not be a saved one!
To many minds the word church” implies a denomination, a man-made religious body, an ecclesiastical organization or society with its own hierarchy. ft is reasoned that one denomination is basically as good as another. Furthermore, it is considered ridiculous that membership in a particular denomination should be thought essential to ones salvation.
How tragic that people do not understand what the church is in New Testament usage~ The church that Jesus purchased is not a denomination nor is it a mystical conglomeration composed of all man-made religious bodies. The church of God is the body of Christ, the family or house of God, the kingdom, the people belonging to the Lord. No accountable person in this age is promised salvation outside the church. To be saved one must submit to God by obeying Jesus, the Son of God. To be in Christ is to be in the church over which he is the head.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 18, p. 1
September 16, 1993