It has long been the conviction of most denominational religions that one does not have to be a member of any church to be saved. One should then not be surprised to hear members of denominations say that it is not the church but Christ which saves. If a church cannot save, then why persuade people to become members of a church? If one is convinced that a church is not connected with one’s salvation, why take the time and expend the energy to attend church services?
It must be pointed out that manmade religious churches have nothing to do with saving a person. Our Lord built His church (Matthew 16:18) and promised to save only His body (Ephesians 5:23). This is the one body (4:4) of which the Lord is its head and it is unmistakably called “the church” (1:22-23).
This denominational attitude has rubbed off on many members of the Lord’s church. There are an ever growing number of brethren who no longer respect the Lord’s church and have no loyalty to it. The Lord’s church in the minds of many has become a social club where people can meet for recreation, entertainment, and parties.
Have people not considered the truth that salvation is indeed found “in Christ” (2 Timothy 2:10), but the Lord adds to His church those that are saved? (Acts 2:47) The saved are thus added to the body (church) that Christ promised to save (Eph. 5:23). One who is outside the body (church) cannot be saved for salvation is found only in the body (church)!
The apostle Paul taught the young preacher Timothy the importance of the church. Paul states, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The house of God is the church and is composed of each person that the Lord adds to it.
The Lord’s church and His kingdom are one and the same. Christ made this truth obvious when He stated, “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
One will surely notice that Christ built His church and then gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom.” Does one believe that the Lord built one thing (the church) and gave Peter the keys to something entirely different (the kingdom)? Peter had the keys to the kingdom on the day of Pentecost, and upon preaching the gospel three thousand people who obeyed were added to the kingdom or church of our Lord. It is essential to grasp this point because of Paul’s statement to the brethren at Colossae. Paul declared, “Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13). In obeying the gospel plan of salvation, one is delivered from sin and the power of darkness and translated into the Lord’s kingdom or church! Why does the Lord add to His kingdom or church if it has nothing to do with one’s salvation?
One will also observe that no one was added to the Lord’s church until he was baptized for the remission of his sins. Let us return to the book of Acts and the Day of Pentecost. The question to Peter after listening to his sermon is this: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s answer was, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). How would one who knows anything about language and grammar not understand that both repentance and baptism are required for remission of sins? The 3000 who repented and were baptized for forgiveness of sins were then added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47).
The Lord’s church was purchased with the Lord’s own blood. Paul admonished the elders at Ephesus in saying, “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). What can be more valuable than that which is purchased with the very blood of Christ? Was it not necessary for Christ to purchase His church with the shedding of His blood? Who can rightly believe that the blood bought church of Christ has nothing to do with one’s salvation? Can one really believe that Christ saves, but His head and body have nothing to do with such salvation? (Ephesians 1:22-23)
Representing all of humanity, both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled unto God only in the Lord’s church. Paul makes this truth crystal clear in saying,
Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:11-16).
This reconciliation takes place in the “one body” which is the church (1:22-23; 4:4; Col. 1:18). Reconciliation is an impossibility for anyone today who is outside the Lord’s church and not “in Christ” and a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
How it must grieve God and His Son for one to declare that the Lord’s church does not save! Churches founded by men do not save, but the blood bought church of our Lord will be saved (Eph. 5:23). One day the Lord will “present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing … holy and without blemish” (verse 27). May we honor, respect, and cherish the Lord’s church.
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