By Franklin T. Puckett
One of the most widely held beliefs of our day is the teaching that a man is saved by faith alone. Nearly all of the denominational creeds have the idea imbedded in their articles, either clearly stated as in the Methodist Discipline, or else clearly implied. It is taught that man is saved miraculously, the very instant he believes in Christ, and that this belief is wrought in his heart by the action of the Holy Spirit. Man, in this view, is wholly passive and unable to do anything at all to bring about his salvation. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit. Neither the man’s obedience, nor the commands of Christ are taken into consideration. It is purely a miracle.
This is surely one of the most damnable of all false doctrines which curse the land this day. It does more to produce indifference in the hearts of the people toward the church, and to diminish respect for the church, than anything I know. It leads men to deny the essentiality of the church altogether. So strong a grip has the doctrine secured on the hearts of men that it is a very common experience to hear devoted religious people say, “Oh, the church is not important,” “The church does not save,” “One can go to heaven just as well without being a member of the church as he can in the church,” etc. Now if by the word “church” such people mean some denominational institution, then surely no Bible student anywhere would argue with them. On the contrary, every informed person will agree fully with the idea that membership in a denomination (any denomination) is not essential to salvation.
But no person who has reached the age of accountability, and has transgressed God’s law either by omission or commission, will ever reach heaven without being a member of the church which is revealed in the Bible. I call your attention to the fact that Jesus Christ is the “Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). It is Christ who saves; Christ who is the Savior; and not the church. “The church” does not save; the church is the thing saved! “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Savior of the body.” What does Christ save? He saved the body. But what is “the body”? It is the church (Col. 1:18, 24; Eph. 1:22, 23). Christ is the head of the church — his body. And it is this body which is saved by Christ.
The conclusion is clear from this that if one does not belong to the church, he does not belong to that of which Christ is the Savior. It was the church which was purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28); and it is “to the church” that the saved are added (Acts 2:47). There are no saved out of the church; there can be none. For everyone who is “saved” is “added” to the church by the same one who saves him — God.
The church was purchased by the blood of Christ. Un less we are willing to say that Christ was swindled when he bought the church, we must recognize that the value of the church is equal to the value of the blood of Christ. If the church is not valuable, then Christ was cheated when he purchased it with his own blood.
The church is a “blood-bought” institution. If one is to be saved by the blood of Christ, one must be a part of the church, his spiritual body, which was purchased by that blood. If one is a sinner, at enmity with God, then salvation and peace and reconciliation are to be had only in the church, the blood-purchased possession of Jesus Christ. “For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace, and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:14-16).
Where are people reconciled to God? In the one body, the church. Where is peace found? In the one body, the church. The Bible says that the body is the church, and that peace and reconciliation are to be had in the body, and not out of it. Talk about being “saved by the blood of Christ!” My friend, if you are ever saved by the blood of Christ, it will be because you have come into that body where you are reconciled to God by the cross of Christ. The blood which was shed for our redemption can save us only in the church. There is no other way.
Does the church save? Of course not! It is Christ who saves! But what does he save? He saves the body, the church. God exercised great power when he raised Jesus Christ from the dead and “made him to sit at his right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23). So the church is the fullness of Christ. It was not some human institution, or some man-made denomination which he purchased with his blood; it was “the church.” It is over this body that he reigns as head; it is here that the fullness of God dwells. It is here and here only that salvation is promised to the penitent sinner.
We are pleading with people to become members of the New Testament church. We are pleading that men and women in our day do exactly what they did in the days of the apostles. These people then heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, and were buried through baptism for the remission of sins. And when that happened God added them to the church. Here they were reconciled to God, washed and made clean by the blood of Christ; they were then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. They were in the church — the saved of God.