The Edifier

West Allen Church of Christ

The Edifier Index

Can One Be Saved Outside the Church?

Stan Cox

Numerous passages of scripture reveal Jesus Christ to have authority in the church. Authority, or "headship" is shown in such passages as Colossians 1:18, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence"; and Ephesians 1:22-23, "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

Christ, as Head, exhibited his love for the body by dying on the cross. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her", Ephesians 5:25. In verse 23 of that same chapter, Paul refers to Christ as being "head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body."

With these scriptures in mind, the sectarian mindset is shown to be invalid. Sectarians are driven to relegate the church of God to the category of unimportant, unecessary and optional. Today the emphasis is on a "personal relationship with Christ", and the concept that salvation is to be found only in one body, or church is repugnant. If only one church consists of the saved, then one church can't be "just as good" as another! In our day of diversity and tolerance, such a view is unacceptable.

In addition to the preceding verses, which affirm that 1) Christ gave himself for the church, and 2) He is the Savior of the body; other verses point out the fact that one must be a member of Christ's church in order to be saved.

Acts 20:28, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." If a man is saved without being "in the church", then he is saved without being purchased with the blood of Christ. Who can believe it?

Ephesians 2:16, "And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in the body, the church. If you can be saved without the church, you can be saved without being reconciled to God. Again, who can believe it?

1 Timothy 3:15, "But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church is the house of God. If you can be saved without the church, you can be saved without being in God's household. Such an idea is ludicrous!

The Baptist admits that you can be saved without being a member of the Baptist church. If this is so, the Baptist church is not the Lord's church, and is unworthy of our membership. The same is true of any other man-made denomination.

Often you hear the ridicule, "You guys think you are the only ones going to heaven. You think you have to be a member of the church of Christ to be saved!" Such statements show ignorance. Everywhere in the Bible such an affirmation exists. Only those who belong to Christ are saved! Everyone who belongs to Christ is a member of His church. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

We should never forget that the church is the blood-bought institution of the Lord. It was conceived in the mind of God before the world began, and is an integral part of God's scheme of redemption. The voice that speaks lightly of the church is guilty at the least of ignorance, and at the worst of blasphemy.

When Paul persecuted the church, he was persecuting the Lord Himself. "And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'", (Acts 22:7).

No thoughtful Christian would ever consider belittling the importance of the church in the redemption of men's souls. Nor should any Christian be guilty of harming the church through divisive actions or attitudes. The church is the bride of Christ, and is loved tenderly by Him. Let us never be guilty of harming by pride, strife or deceitfulness our Lord's bride.