A stock expression with preachers who hold union meetings, as well as some others, is, “We wish to see people saved, and then let them join the church of their choice.” Often you hear, “One church is as good as another; the church does not save you.” Many people hold the view that membership in the church the Lord built is not necessary to one’s salvation.
If one church is as good as another, it must follow that the Mormon Church, built by Joseph Smith, is as good as the church built by our Lord. Mr. Smith was finite, limited in knowledge, and imperfect in character. The Lord is infinite, perfect in character, and possesses all power. Do the two compare favorably?
The Lord ordained that through His church “the manifold wisdom of God” is to be made known (Eph. 3:10). Christ is the head of the church He built (Col. 1:18), but churches built by men exist by no higher authority than that residing in the men who built them. Unless a human institution is as good as a divine institution, it must follow that a church built by a mere man is not as good as the church the Lord built!
“Good Men in all Churches”
It is often said that, “There are good men in all churches.” As the world measures goodness, I grant that there are as good men in one church as in another. There are also good men in the world—men who are examples of moral rectitude and in acts of charity. But that does not prove that the world is as good as the church. A Christian possesses all the virtues possessed by the man in the world, and, in addition thereto, is a child of God, honors Him in worshiping as He directs, and gives Him the glory for the acts of charity performed.
If a man is saved because of his moral worth, it must follow that the death of Christ and the grace of God are not necessary to one’s salvation, for there were moral men in the world before Christ died to save us. Cornelius was a man of outstanding moral righteousness, just in his dealings with his fellows, and fruitful in acts of charity. But he was not a member of the church the Lord built, and it is declared that he was an unsaved man (Acts 10:1-6; 11:14).
Jesus said, “I will build my church…” (Matt. 16:18). He did build His church (Rom. 16:16). Did the Lord build a church that was useless in the economy of Jehovah and unnecessary in the salvation of man?
“The Church Does not Save”
Often you have heard, “The church does not save you.” It is meant by those who make such remarks that it is not necessary to be a member of the church to be saved. All who read their Bibles understand that God saves. To pardon is the act of Jehovah. True, one must believe in the Lord before God pardons him (Acts 16:31), but it is not faith that pardons. God forgives. God pardons.
Though one must repent to be saved (Acts 2:38), it is not repentance that pardons or saves the man—God saves! Repentance is an act the man must perform before God will save him.
One must be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16), but it is not baptism that pardons. God pardons—God saves! The church does not save you, but consider this: “Are the saved in the church or in the world?”
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” “justified in the name of the Lord,” and “saved” by the gospel (1 Cor. 1;2; 6:11; 15:1- 2). So certain as one is enjoying these blessings, that sure is it that he is one of the number composing the church. The church does not save, but the saved ones are the church.
The Church—the One Body
“There is one body”—there is “but one body” (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:20). What is the “one body?” “He is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18). Christ is the head of what? “He is the head of the body, the church.” If one is not of the number constituting the church; if he is not one of the number composing the body of which Christ is head, is he saved?
When one is prepared in heart and life; when he believes in the Lord with all his heart, repents of his sins, and is baptized as the Lord commands, he is baptized into the “one body” (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 12:13). In one verse it is declared that one is baptized into the “one body,”and in another verse it is affirmed that one is baptized “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Hence, to be baptized “into Christ” is to be baptized into the “body” which is the church. From this, it follows that if one is saved without being in the”body,” he is saved without being in Christ, for to be “in Christ” is to be in the “one body.”
In Christ “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…” (Eph. 1:7). Salvation is in Christ. That they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ…” (2 Tim. 2:10). Obtain what? Salvation. Salvation is where? In Christ. To be in Christ is to be in the “one body,” “which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
From this, it follows that if one is not in “the body” he is not in Christ, and if not in Christ, he is not saved. But to be in “the body”is to be in the church. “He is the head of the body, the church. The church does not save you, but the church is the saved ones.
The Church is Blood-Purchased
Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Though Christ died for the whole world, not all will be saved, because there are some who refuse to appropriate the blessings provided. Those who embrace the blessings are “loosed” from their sins by His blood (Rev. 1:5). Who are that number? “To feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Those composing the church are the ones who have been “loosed” from their sins “by his own blood.” They are the purchased ones. It is not the church that saves you. The church is the saved number.
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…” (1 Tim. 3:15). “The house of God” is the “church of the living God.” No one entertains the idea that the house of God is the meeting house in which His children meet for worship. God’s house is not composed of brick and mortar, but of men and women who are his children. Crispus believed on the Lord with all his house…” (Acts 18:8). His house was his family, not his residence
Of those saved in Ephesus, Paul said, “Ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19). Since the church is “the house of God”—“the household of God”—and one’s household is composed of his family, it follows that if one is a child of God, he is in the household of God. To affirm that you are a child of God, but not in the church, is to declare that God has children not in His household, or family! The church does not save you, but the church is the saved number.