Christianity implies the church. There can be no Christianity without the church. No one has ever “found Christ” since the days of His flesh except through the church. It would be as easy to find a ruling, reigning, king without a kingdom as it would be to find Christ without the church. There can be no such king without a kingdom; there can be no Christianity without Christ. And there can be no finding of Christ without the church.
The Head of the Church
Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, is the head of the church. God raised Him from the dead,
…and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:20-23).
And he is the head of the body, the church who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col. 1:18).
This Christ is seated, not in some man-made ecclesiasticism on earth, not in the Vatican at Rome, but at God’s right hand in heaven. His power and dominion are limited not to this world, but include also that which is to come.
That is not all. Paul says, Christ…
…being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phlp. 2:7-10).
It is by Christ that God hath in these last days spoken unto us. He it is whom God hath “appointed heir of all things.” It was by him that God “made the worlds”; He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. All things are upheld by the word of His power; it was He who purged our sins, and is now, seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He is by so much better than the angels as He hath “by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”
Yet some people suggest that the church amounts to but little, and that men can be saved without it as easily as they can be within it! Some preachers teach that in spite of Christ’s organic connection with the church, salvation is possible outside it just as quickly as it is inside it. They hold that, in reality, the church, bought by the Savior’s blood, is non-essential!
The Church—God’s Family
The church is the family of God. Paul said, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:14). There is one family (the church), some members of which are in heaven, some still on time’s side of eternity. But whether over there or over here, there still is but one family; and God is the Father thereof.
It would be just as reasonable to claim that one can be a child of God and not belong to His family as to claim that one can be a Christian and not a member of the Lord’s church. Paul wrote Timothy, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Either one is a child of God, a member of His family, or one is a child of the devil, a citizen in his kingdom, there is no middle ground. If one is saved, he is a Christian, a child of God, a member of God’s family, a citizen in the kingdom of Christ. If one stands with sins unforgiven, he is a member of the devil’s family and a citizen in Satan’s kingdom.
Obeying the Gospel
In order to become a child of God, to be translated from the kingdom of Satan into that of Christ, one must obey the gospel. Christ declared, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) To enter the kingdom of God is to become a member of God’s family; they are one and the same institution.
Consider the events of Pentecost. Peter stood preaching to the multitudes who had gathered there. He spoke as the Spirit gave him utterance, preaching the death, burial, resurrection, exaltation, and coronation of Christ, He calls David to witness concerning the resurrection of the Lord, “he (David) foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption.”
The Jews to whom Peter preached, believed and accepted his word. They cried out, “Men and brethren. what shall we do?” What shall we do for what? The answer Peter gave supplies the clue. He said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” They were obviously asking what they needed to do to have their sins forgiven. The record states, “They then that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.” (verse 41).
Whenever a man believes with all his heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, whenever he repents of all sins, resolving to turn away from them, whenever he is buried with his Lord in the waters of baptism, that man does then and there become a member of the church of Christ. In that selfsame act he becomes a Christian, a child of God, a citizen in God’s kingdom, a member of God’s family. He is by that act brought into covenant relationship with God; his past sins are remitted, and God adds him to the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”