W. Curtis Porter
The heading of this topic sounds familiar to people who have been accustomed to hearing the gospel preached in its purity. But it is unusual to find this idea coming from the source from which the following quotation is taken. But here is what a preacher tells us in his own words: “To be in Christ is to be saved; to be out of Christ is to be lost. There is no middle ground” (Paul Goodwin in Orthodox Baptist Searchlight).
This statement has the real gospel ring. It sounds like preaching done by preachers who adhere strictly to New Testament teaching. This statement of Paul Goodwin reminds me of some statement made by another Paul—the apostle to the Gentiles. He said: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Also he declared: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Thus the apostle Paul tells us that men do not become new creatures out of Christ; they must “be in Christ” in order to be “new creatures.” Likewise men do not obtain salvation out of Christ, for it was his desire that men may “obtain the salvation which is in Christ.” This all means, of course, that if a man is out of Christ, he is lost. To be saved he must be “in Christ.” Certainly there is “no middle ground.” He is either “in” or “out” of Christ, saved or lost. I am always glad to believe what Baptist preachers tell us if they agree with what inspired men have said, and Mr. Goodwin surely did it this time.
But I wonder if he didn’t think about what his statement did to Baptist doctrine. Remember now that a man cannot be saved out of Christ. Both of these Pauls agree on that point. “To be out of Christ is to be lost.” So, “to be saved” one must “be in Christ.” A man, however, cannot “be in Christ” unless he “gets into him.” And that leads me to ask: How does a man get into Christ? Whatever it takes to put a man ‘into Christ” is necessary to his salvation, for he is “out of Christ” till he gets “into him.” Do you know what the New Testament says about it? It mentions just one thing that puts a man “into Christ.” Notice the language of the apostle Paul: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). I wonder if Paul Goodwin will agree with the apostle Paul here. What does he say? “Baptized into Christ.” No preacher can find anything else in the New Testament that is said to put a man into Christ, and since a man cannot be saved out of Christ, he cannot be saved without baptism. If he can be saved without baptism, he can be saved out of Christ, for he cannot get into Christ without baptism. That principle will stand the test. No preacher has ever been able to overthrow it. So this Baptist preacher will have to give up his doctrine of “salvation by faith only.” Faith only does not put a man into Christ; that which puts a man into Christ comes after faith. So this Baptist preacher will have to admit that baptism is essential to salvation or go back on what he tells us.
Then it knocks him out of his “non-essential church” idea. His brethren have always claimed you do not have to belong to the church to be saved—that you are saved out of it. But that idea is blasted now by Mr. Goodwin’s statement, for he says a man must “be in Christ” in order to be saved. But how can a man be in Christ? Certainly by being in his body. We cannot be in the literal, personal body of Christ, but we can “be in his spiritual body.” Paul tells us that his body is the church (Eph. 1:22-23). So to “be in Christ” is to “be in his body.” But to “be in his body” is to “be in the church.” And since to “be out of Christ is to be lost,” then to “be out of his body, the church, is to be lost.” That puts salvation in the church, right where the New Testament puts it. Read Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: And he is the savior of the body.” It is an evident fact that if all men who are saved are saved out of the church (the body), then Christ could not be the Savior of the body. Hence, the statement of Paul puts salvation in the church, and Mr. Goodwin’s statement agrees. In this matter he has surely told us the truth, even though he may later tell us something that conflicts with it.