Can One Be Saved Outside of the church of Christ?

No doubt that the title of this article will cause the ears of some to be twitched, as the implication of this rhetorical question is that it is essential for one to be a member of the church which Christ built in order to inherit eternal life. Indeed, if this is an essential aspect of salvation, then this question must be answered precisely and accurately, because the souls of men are dependent upon a clear understanding of this Bible question.

This is probably the main criticism of members of the church of Christ. You know, “They think they are the only people going to heaven.” “Surely,” one might contend, “they cannot be so arrogant and blind to think that just because someone doesn't believe the same way as they do, that he would be rejected by the all-loving and merciful God.” Indeed, God does love mankind, and Christ did die for the sins of the world; but we should let Them decide whom will be saved, and whom will be condemned. What does the Bible say about this? After all, we know that He will keep His word. Jesus said that those who reject him have one who will judge them: his word (Jno. 12:48). We also know that the words that Jesus spoke were not his own, but were those of the Father (Jno. 17:17; 14:10).

Let the reader take note that the title of this article does not capitalize the word “church.” This is to relate that the church is not a title name for a religious group nor denomination, but is a common noun (grammatically speaking); and that the prepositional phrase “of Christ” modifies the noun, “church.” So then, the church of Christ merely means that body of believers who have been added by Jesus, who built it, and for which he died (Acts 2:36-47).

First, let us understand just what the church is. Very quickly it can be established that it is not the building where Christians meet. The scriptures teach that it is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). After reading Acts 2:36-47, the reader should clearly see that the church is none else but that body of believers to which the Lord has added other obedient believers.

The church is to submit herself to Christ (Eph. 5:23-24), his being the head of the body. This would make sense in that we, ourselves, have only one head and only one body. Would it not follow from this figurative example that Jesus, the head of his church, has only one body, which is the church? It also makes sense in that he promised to build his church (Matt. 16:18), and that he died for it, having purchased it with his own blood (1 Pet.1:18-19). Surely, it is understandable that those whom he purchased with his own blood should submit themselves to his will, since they no longer belong to themselves, but to Christ (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

Anyone who is a Christian has obeyed the gospel in believing, confessing Christ as the Son of God, repenting of sins, and being baptized for the remission of sins. At this act of obedient belief the Lord adds that one to his church (Acts 2:36-47). Learn from Queen Candace's treasurer (Acts 8:26-38). Do not leave out that good confession which he made in verse 37 (which many modern versions do), where Philip says, “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The church is not an afterthought, but was integral to God's scheme of redemption even before he said, “Let there be light.” (Eph. 3:10-11).

There is only one church about which the Bible speaks (Eph. 4:4-6). Consider the following:

  1. Jesus promised to build his church (Matt. 16:18).
  2. Jesus built his church by adding those who obeyed him to his church (Acts 2:41).
  3. Jesus adds to the church only those who have obeyed his commands to:
    1. believe (Jno. 8:24).
    2. confess him (Matt. 10:32-33).
    3. repent (Lk. 13:3).
    4. be baptized (Mk. 16:16).
  4. Only those who obey him will be saved (Heb. 5:8-9).
  5. Only those who are saved are in the church (Acts 2:47).
  6. Therefore, only those who are in the church which belongs to Christ will be saved, and go to heaven.
The important question is not so much, “Is the church of Christ the only group of people going to heaven?;” rather, “Am I a member of that blood-bought institution, the church of Christ?” If one is a member of the church of Christ, then by definition, he has been baptized for the remission of sins, just as Peter proclaimed to them on the day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2. In his obedience to the commands of Christ, the believer has become one of Christ's disciples: a Christian. If one has not obeyed the commands of Christ, then Christ has not added that one to his church, and that one is not saved.

Perhaps by now the reader understands that the church which is discussed in this short article is not a denomination by the name of “The Church of Christ.” It is important to understand, neither do those who are members of the church of Christ believe that it is a denomination, but is in actuality the church of Christ as found in the New Testament, where each congregation is one of many worldwide congregations of the one church that belongs to Christ, uniquely identified by those properties which are declared in the Bible and which distinguish it from any and all other organizations and denominations: it is founded upon God's word as revealed in the Holy Bible. These distinguishing properties will be discussed in more detail in future articles.

Curtis A. Little - Royse City Church of Christ
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