Clarence C. Gobbel
Here are some questions often asked by men: “Can one be saved outside the church?” and “does the church save anyone?” These questions are not the same, though they are considered to be so by those who ask them.
We agree that the church does not save anybody, but the question, “Can one be saved outside the church as well as in it?” is asked to bolster the denominational teaching that one may be saved before and without ever becoming a member of any church. Now, when spoken in regard to a denomination, it is true that one does not need to belong to any of them to be saved. The very ones composing them will admit that one can be, and is, saved before and without ever belonging to a denomination. Thus, according to their own admission, salvation is not found in any of them.
They try to explain this by saying that to become converted is to become a member of the “invisible church,” then afterward one may join the “visible church.” The Bible knows nothing of those expressions. I have not been able to find anything concerning the “invisible church” in the teachings of Christ or His apostles.
But in our present discussion, we refer to the New Testament church, the one of which the Lord spoke when He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). This one came into existence on the first Pentecost after our Lord’s resurrection, and it was immediately said, “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). It is the one over which Christ is the head. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23; cf, Col. 1:18).
Salvation is in Christ and not one of the denominations denies this. Notice the following: “That they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Again, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…” (2 Cor. 5:17). These, with other passages, show how important it is to be in Christ. The apostle tells how one gets into Him: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). Also, “For by one Spirit [authority of] are we all baptized into one body…” (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus to be in Christ is to be in His body, for the same thing that translates us into one puts us into the other. And we are told that the body is the church: “…the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). Thus to be in Christ is to be in His church. There is only one body of Christ, for we have that plain statement in Ephesians 4:4: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.”
Although the church saves no one, Christ promised salvation to those in Him, thus in His church. And to settle this beyond any quibble, we quote, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Again, “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). Salvation is for those who are in the church, or body, of Christ.
To illustrate this, when God created fishes, he also made the place in which they would have life. That place, or element, is water. They cannot live or find life outside that element. So it is, friends, the Lord placed salvation in His body, His church. To live spiritually, one must be in this spiritual institution.
If one can be saved outside the body of Christ, His church, then the following is true:
Saved out of Christ. “Even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). To be in Christ is to be in His body. Therefore, if one is saved outside of His body, one is saved outside of Christ. Not only that, but since He is the saviour of the body, or church, to be saved outside of it is to claim another as our Saviour.
Saved without His blood. “Take heed…to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Again, “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). We are also assured that we “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Eph. 1:7). The above quotation from Acts says He purchased, or gave His own blood for, the church. Thus to be saved before, or without, coming into this body is to be saved outside the pale of His cleansing blood. But that is an impossibility.
No spiritual blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Thus, there are no spiritual blessings for those out of Christ, and to be out of Christ is to be out of His body, the church
There is no salvation outside the church for which Jesus died. Those who claim the church is not necessary to our salvation are saying Christ died for something unnecessary, for He shed His blood for the church and gave Himself for it.