Salvation and Church Membership

        God does the saving! Salvation is a pardon or forgiving by God. It is the blotting out of our sins. The church, then, does not do the saving. Our question at this time is: Can one enjoy this salvation without being a member of Christ's church?

        The importance of the church is seen in Christ's attitude toward it. In Acts 20.28, after sending to Ephesus for the elders of the church, Paul told them, “Take heed to 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.” (See also 1 Peter 1.18-19.) These passages tell us that Christ thought enough of His church to buy it at the expense of His blood! Dare we puny men call His church unimportant?

        In Ephesians 5.25, Paul, telling husbands how much they should love their wives, said it was to be “even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” If we are to be Christ-like, we must also love the church and give ourselves for it, even as Christ did.

        The above scriptures show us that the church is not some small, insignificant thing in the eyes of our Lord.

        Second, we find that one cannot be in Christ without being in His church. Christ is the head, and the church is His body. Individual Christians are members. In Colossians 1.18, we read, “And He (Jesus Christ] 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.” (See also 1 Corinthians 12.12, Ephesians 1.22-23.)

        Christ is the king and the church is His kingdom. In 1 Timothy 6.13, Jesus is called “the blessed only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” In Colossians 1.13 we see that the Father “delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love: in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.” One cannot be a subject (as a citizen) of a king without being a citizen of his kingdom.

        Christ is the bridegroom and the church is His bride. (See Ephesians 5.23-32.) In this passage the church and the bride are equated; the bride and the church are the same. A child belongs by birth to the families of both his father and his mother; and he is likewise a citizen of the nation into which he is born.

        “But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2.13) His blood makes us near to God.

        Speaking of the former separation between Jew and Gentile, Paul says that Christ “brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the 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 [Emphasis added] unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Here, as in other passages, we find that there is ONE BODY! To be in Christ is to be in His body; and since the body and the church are the same (Re-read Colossians 1.18), to be in Christ's body is to be in His church.

        In Colossians 1.3 we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with EVERY [Emp. added] spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.” There are NO spiritual blessings to be found anywhere else; yet to be in Christ is to be in His body, and, since the body and the church are the same, to be in His body is to be in His church. Therefore, absolutely NO spiritual blessing can come to us outside the church of our Lord Jesus.

        God made Christ “to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1.22-23.) The church, therefore, is the fullness, or completeness of Christ Jesus.

        To be a member of Christ's church is to have one's name enrolled in heaven. We read in Hebrews 12.22-23, regarding the Hebrew Christians, “but ye are come to mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ones] who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all and to the spirits of just men made perfect.”

        Conversely, NOT to have one's name enrolled in heaven (in the book of life), means to have eternal punishment in the day of judgment. See Revelation 20.15: “And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.”

        Those who will be saved are members of the church of Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 5.23 that “Christ also is the head of the church being Himself the savior of the body.” If I am to be saved, therefore, I must be a member of Christ's body, the church, even though the church itself does not save me; CHRIST DOES THE SAVING!

        The same process that saves one from sin also makes one a Christian and adds him to the church. In Mark 16.15-16, we see that faith + baptism = salvation. “ And He [Christ] said unto them [the apostles], Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

        But faith + baptism also = putting Christ on. Galatians 3.26-27 tells us, “For ye (members of the churches of Galatia) [Galatians 1.1-2] are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” NOTE: This is the only scripture in the New Testament that tells one HOW to put on Christ!

         Furthermore, receiving the word + repentance + baptism = membership in Christ's church. Three verses in Acts tell us, “And Peter said unto them, 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...Then they that received his word were baptized; and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls...And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.” (Acts 2.238, 41, 47.)

        Therefore, there is no such thing taught in God's word as being saved by one process and joining the church of your choice by another. In fact, in the entire Bible there is not such a thing as “joining the church.”

        So, although the church does not save one, one must be a member of Christ's church in order to reap salvation. We invite you to study this matter futher with us and to become obedient to the commandments of Jesus Christ.