Does It Make Any Difference Which Church We Belong To? – Thomas Allen Robertson

Thomas Allen Robertson

It is quite common today to hear people say, “I don’t think it makes much difference which church a person belongs to, or whether one is a member of any church at all, just so one is sincere. The church doesn’t save anyway.” Perhaps the reason for this statement is a general lack of understanding as to what the church is and the position it occupies in the New Testament. Let us consider some positive New Testament teachings concerning the church:

Christ’s Body

The New Testament declares that the church is Christ’s body. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Here it is stated in so many words that the church is the Lord’s body. But consider another passage: “And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18). These two passages should be taken together; the first states that the church is his body, while the second states that his body is the church. It is merely an interchangeable way of putting the truth in both expressions and amounts to a positive declaration that the church is the Lord’s body. To say that one can be saved outside the church is to say that one can be saved outside of Christ.

What is in the Church?

Since the church is Christ’s body, all things that are in Christ are in the church. Among the things Paul lists as being in Christ are: (1) “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3), (2) “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7), (3) “an inheritance” (Eph. 1:11). There are many others which might be mentioned. Since all of these things are in Christ—in the church—the man who is outside of the church cannot have any of them.

Lest there be any confusion in the minds of any on whether the kingdom of Christ and the church of Christ are one and the same, observe these facts: In Matthew 16:18-19 and in Hebrews 12:23-28 we find the words church and kingdom used interchangeably. In Matthew 16:18-19 Christ said, “I will build my church” and “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom.” Did he build an institution and then give them the keys to something entirely different? The writer of the Hebrew letter says,

But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn…Wherefore, we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved… (Heb. 12:22-23, 28).

In Colossians 1:13, 14 and Ephesians 1:7 we have parallel truths expressed as follows: “Who bath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” and “in whom we have our redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Our redemption is through the blood of Christ, in Christ, in the kingdom. To be in Christ is to be in the kingdom, the church.

There is One Church

The New Testament teaches that there is one church. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6). There are exactly as many bodies as there are Gods, Lords, etc. The body is the church; hence, there is one body, one church. Men may build as many denominations as they desire, but in God’s sight there is one church and only one; there will never be more than one. That one is Christ’s church. It is just as scriptural to ask what God one believes in as it is to ask what church one belongs to.

The Church Doesn’t Save

Church membership does not save. We have, at times, been accused of preaching that the church (church membership) saves. Such is not true. Christ saves; redemption is through his blood. But Paul says that Christ saves the church, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). Only two verses before he had said that “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the savior of the body.” Since the body is the church, if Christ is the “savior of the body” it follows that he is the savior of the church. Those who are saved are in the church. All the saved are in the church, and there are no saved ones outside of the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). There is simply no such thing as a person who is saved not being a member of the church; hence, no man can “join the church of his choice.” If he is saved, God has already added him to his church.

If one is not in the church, he is not saved. Someone may say, “The church doesn’t save.” That is right. Christ saves. But how does Christ save? Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Take heed 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 purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Christ’s blood saved; for with it he purchased the church. It is through the blood that we have redemption. It is not a matter of the church saving, but Christ saves through the church. There is no salvation outside of the church, just as there is no salvation outside of Christ. Some other things to consider. If you are convinced that it doesn’t make any difference which church you are a member, there are some other questions you ought to study; and there are some consequences you may not have considered.

What One Believes

Does it make any difference what one believes? There are over 280 religious bodies (churches) in the nation, about 173 of them being considered orthodox but all holding and believing different doctrines. Now, if it doesn’t make any difference what church a man belongs to, then it must follow that it makes no difference what one believes. But Christ said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The truth concerning which Christ spoke was the word of God; for he said elsewhere, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth” (John 17:17). And concerning those who received “not the love of truth” Paul said, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Hence, it does make a difference to what church one belongs.

On Becoming a Christian

Does it make any difference how one becomes a Christian? Each of the more than 280 religious bodies in the nation teaches a different plan of salvation (way of becoming a Christian). Thus, if it doesn’t make any difference what church one belongs to and doesn’t make any difference what one believes, then it must follow that it doesn’t make any difference what plan one follows in becoming a Christian. But the New Testament teaches that there are certain definite, specific things one must do in becoming a Christian. For example, Christ said, “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). And again, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). He also required confession of him in these words, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). And in the great commission he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).

Now if it makes no difference how one becomes a Christian, he can ignore and set aside every single one of these specific things named by Christ. Who is going to assume such authority? The apostles dared not to set aside Christ’s plan. For we find them teaching exactly the same plan of salvation that he sets forth. They taught the necessity of hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17), faith (Acts 16:31), repentance (Acts 17:30), confession (Rom. 10:9,10), and baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). Now if you have read the scriptures referred to, it must be perfectly clear that it does make a tremendous difference whether one follows the Lord’s plan or not.

   Send article as PDF   

Author: Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *