Salvation and Counterfeit Churches

Jerry C. Brewer

Churches of men are counterfeits of the one Jesus built that is revealed in the New Testament. Any thinking person who studies God’s Word, knows that men’s churches are, “As phony as a three-dollar bill.” Dictionary.com says a counterfeit is “made in imitation so as to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine; not genuine; forged; pretended; unreal.” That precisely describes the religions of modern denominations.

It has always been Satan’s practice to take God’s Truth and counterfeit it in order to deceive men. When Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh to demand the release of the children of Israel, Aaron demonstrated to him that they were indeed called of God for that purpose by casting down his rod which became a serpent. “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods” (Exo. 7:10-12). The Egyptian sorcerers did not duplicate God’s miracle. They counterfeited it.

Satan’s greatest tools of deception through the ages have been counterfeits of what is true. He counterfeited God’s word in the beginning and deceived Eve, saying, “Ye shall not surely die,” (Gen. 3:4). He told Eve that God did not really mean what He said and she believed Satan’s lie. The wiles of the devil are as effective today in deceiving men as they were in the Garden of Eden and in Pharaoh’s court.

Satan continues to counterfeit and mutate the Truth in order to destroy souls, and no greater example can be found among men today than the proliferation of man-originated churches across the world. His oft-chanted mantra throughout the world today is, “One church is as good as another.” That is true regarding the churches of men. One man-originated church is as good as another, but none is as good as the one built by the Lord Jesus Christ and purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The church of Christ is a distinctive, divine institution, Christ established only one church, and all others are counterfeits designed by Satan to deceive and destroy. The Psalmist wrote, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psa. 127:1).

Most churches built by men teach that membership in the church is not necessary to salvation. Their mantra is that, “The church doesn’t save” and is therefore unnecessary to salvation. In one sense they are right. Christ is the Saviour, but they ignore Scriptural teaching that the church which is what He saves. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). The church is that which Christ saves and one cannot be saved outside of it.

One could as well argue that Noah could have been saved outside the ark as to say one can be saved without being in the church. On the other hand, if their meaning is that one can be saved without being in a denomination, they are entirely correct. Denominations are not the church, nor a part of it and when one is saved through obedience to Christ he is not added to a denomination by the Lord.

The general order for salvation and church membership in the denominational industry is for one to “get saved” in whatever way the denomination prescribes, then “join a church.” Those who so teach say salvation is not dependent upon one being in a church—that one can “get saved” and go to heaven without church membership. But the apostle Paul said that the church is the “fulness” of Christ (Eph. 1:23).

The idea that one is first saved by some mystical or mystified, unintelligible or intangible process, and afterwards “joins some church,” is a common religious delusion. Yet there is no truth more plainly emphasized in the Bible than the fact that the process of being saved is the process of entering the church (Acts 2:47). First, it is affirmed in Acts 4:12 that salvation is in Christ. Then, to have salvation, one must get into Christ. But Paul, by analogy, in Ephesians 5:23-32, teaches that as husband and wife are one, so Christ and the church are one. “I speak concerning Christ and the church,” he said. Christ and the church being one, how can one be in Christ and out of the church? Second, Paul makes the fact that Christ is “the Saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23) the ground of his exhortation to the Ephesians concerning the church as the bride of Christ (verse 25). He washed it and sanctified it; cleansed it and saved it; purchased it with His blood and redeemed it; reconciles us to God in it and adds all the saved to it. Therefore, out of the church there is no cleansing, no blood, no redemption, no reconciliation to God, no salvation. Third, the relation between Christ and the church is the same as that which exists between God and Christ. Christ is the “fulness” of God (Col. 1:19), and the church is the “fulness” of Christ (Eph. 1:23). Therefore, no man can come to Christ and ignore the church for the same reason that no man can come to God and ignore Christ (Foy E. Wallace, Jr., “Christ And The Church,” The Present Truth, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, Ft. Worth, 1977, pp. 26-27).

Denominational thinking is illustrated by drawing two circles, one inside the other. According to denominational doctrine, the outer circle represents salvation in Christ. Having entered that circle, man must then enter the inner circle which represents the church. But Paul said the church is the “fulness” of Christ. One cannot be saved in Christ without being saved in the church of Christ. The Bible knows only one circle and to be saved is to be in the body of Christ for it is His “fulness”.

The labors of men like John Wesley, Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Knox, and others who established their own churches through the ages were in vain. What they built was not the church of Christ. Their efforts lead only to eternal loss and those who follow their doctrines are doomed as well. Men’s churches are devoid of any spiritual power and are an affront to the Son of God who established His church on Pentecost immediately following His resurrection.

Denominations are a stench in the nostrils of God as surely as were Jereboam’s golden calves at Bethel and Dan when he changed true worship into one of convenience (1 Ki. 12:25-33). His religion was a counterfeit of the true religion delivered through Moses at Sinai and God rejected it. So it is today. Modern denominations are counterfeits of the church Jesus built. They promise much, but in the end their wages is death (Rom. 6:23).

There is no comparison between the church of Christ, purposed by God, promised and prophesied for 4,000 years, purchased by the blood of Christ and established by Him in the fulness of time (Gal. 4:4). It is our earnest hope and plea that men will seek out the Truth in the New Testament, heed its warnings, obey its commands, and thereby enter into the church which Jesus built.

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