Jerry C. Brewer
There is an idea extant among some members of the church that one does not have to know about the church in order to be saved—that we can just baptize people and the Lord will add them to a church about which they know nothing. That idea also gave rise to the notion that persons baptized in the Christian Church are “our brethren” because they have been baptized “for the remission of sins.” Can one be saved without knowing about the church of the New Testament? Is it proper for us to simply tell them they need to be baptized? That is closely akin to “baptismal regeneration” practiced by Catholics and some others. A few years ago, a woman whose son lay dying in a local hospital was overheard to say, “Well, he’s all right because he was baptized.” He was baptized many years before, but was a reprobate. He had never been faithful to the Lord in his adult life, yet his mother clung to a vain hope that he was “all right.” Her comment betrayed her belief that just because one is “baptized” he is all right regardless of whether he knew anything about the church or lived according to the Lord’s will.
It has often been urged through the years to, “Just preach Christ. Don’t preach the church.” Can that be scripturally done? The Bible answer is “no.” It is impossible to preach Christ without preaching the church for which He died. Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom” referring to the same institution in Matthew 16:16-19 and it is impossible to preach the kingdom of God without preaching the church. That is seen in the preaching of the apostles and others in the first century in the following examples recorded in the book of Acts.
Peter’s Sermon On Pentecost
Peter did not just tell his hearers on Pentecost that Jesus died for their sins and rose again. He preached the risen Christ as the ascended and crowned Christ (Acts 2:36). By declaring Christ exalted at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), Peter was preaching the kingdom (church) and Christ as King over it. Jesus was never preached as “Christ” until Pentecost. The word “Christ” is the Greek form of “Messiah” and that was precisely what the Jews expected—the Messiah descended from David to rule over His people. By the time Peter finished his discourse, his hearers understood that the Jesus whom they crucified was—and is—that Messiah who now reigns over His kingdom on the throne of David in heaven.
Philip In Samaria
When Philip went to Samaria with the gospel, following the persecution that arose after Stephen’s death, he “preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5), and, “the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). Philip preached Christ, the kingdom (the church) and the “name of Jesus Christ.” To preach Christ’s “name” did not mean he told them what Jesus’ name was. It meant that he preached Jesus as “Christ” or “Messiah” who was the King on His throne with all authority to rule over His church.
Paul In Antioch of Pisidia
On their first preaching tour, Paul and Barnabas preached at Antioch of Pisidia where Paul preached the risen Christ and quoted Isaiah 55:3, saying of Christ, “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” That was a reference to Christ’s exaltation to the throne of His kingdom (the church).
Paul At Corinth
“And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:5). It should be noted that the appellation, “Christ” is not part of Jesus’ name, but His title. It means He is Messiah, or the anointed of God. As such, the Jews understood that the Messiah was to be a ruler and that is precisely what Jesus is. He is the ruler over His kingdom—the church.
Paul At Ephesus
Paul followed the same pattern of preaching in Ephesus when he, “went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). He not only preached for three months, but he preached the church, or kingdom during that period. In his final meeting with the elders of the Ephesus church, he reminded them that the kingdom had been the focus of his preaching. “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God shall see my face no more” (Acts 20:25).
Paul In Rome
As Luke began his inspired history of the early church in Acts two with his account of Peter preaching the kingdom in Jerusalem, so he closed that history with Paul in Rome preaching the same thing. Of Paul’s preaching there, Luke wrote, “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:3031).
What must one know in order to be saved? He must know that Christ died, was buried, arose the third day, ascended to David’s throne, established His church on Pentecost and saves men only in that one church and that one church is the kingdom of God. (Eph. 5:23; Matt. 16:18-19). Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sinners don’t need to know about the church before they are baptized into it. It is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23).