Jerry C. Brewer
It’s common to hear people say, “I’m saved, but I’m not a member of any church.” Most folks believe salvation has nothing to do with the church—that it’s one thing to be saved, but quite another to be a member of the church.
But does the Bible really make a distinction between being saved and being in the church? Does it really teach that such an option exists? The answer to both questions is, “No.” One can be saved without being in a denomination, but the Scriptures teach that no one is saved who isn’t in Christ’s church.
The Bible describes the church in various terms, all of which link salvation to the church of Christ. For instance, the church is described as the “body of Christ” in Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18, and Paul says Christians—those who are saved—are members of that body. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:4-5). Therefore, our connection to Christ Who is the head of the body, is dependent upon our membership in that body. To say one can be saved without being in the body of Christ is like saying an arm severed from the body can still live.
The church is also called the kingdom. Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably in Matthew 16:18-19 when He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven..” If one is not in the church, one is not in the kingdom but Jesus said one must be born again to enter the kingdom in John 3:3-5. It is impossible to be born again without also being in the church or kingdom.
The Bible also calls the church the “house of God,” (Tim. 3:15). That means the church is God’s family. One rules his house by ruling his children, according to First Timothy 3:4. Therefore, the word “house” refers to one’s family. Must one be a child of God in order to be saved? Certainly! But God’s children are only in His family, so if one can be saved and not be in the church then one can be a child of God outside of God’s family. Think about that! The person who claims salvation outside of God’s family claims that God has children outside of His family and that makes God an adulterer! He has no children outside of His family. If one is saved, he is in God’s family, which is the church.
The word “church” in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word ekklesia which means “the called out.” Those who are in the church have been called out of sin. One cannot remain in sin and be saved. To say one is saved and not in the church is to say one is saved and still in sin. In Acts 2:47 the Bible teaches that one who is saved is added to the church by the Lord. No one is saved who is outside of the church and no one is outside of the church who is saved. When one believes in Christ, repents of his sin, confesses his faith in Christ, and is baptized for the remission of sins, he is added to that saved body which is the church.