THE CHURCH OF THE LORD'S
If you are familiar with the teaching in the religious world today concerning the church, you will immediately see the contrast between the title to this article and the statements often heard by people who express a desire to come to Christ. When people express a desire to come to Christ today, most preachers will tell them to receive Christ as their personal Savior, repeat the sinners prayer after them, and then they will tell them to "go out and join a good Bible believing Church," or in other words, go and "join the church of your choice."
Our lesson title is in direct contradiction to this statement. It is our desire to point out that in New Testament times when people became members of a church, it was the church of the Lord's choice rather than being a church of their own choice.
We all know that many "churches" or denominations exist today. We know that when people are urged to join the church of their choice that they are urged to do so because they believe some benefit may be derived as a result of joining such an institution. If there are benefits that one receives by joining a certain denomination, then why does it make no difference which denomination people join? If they don't join that certain denomination would they not miss the benefits of that denomination? If some have a certain kind of benefit and others have different kinds of benefits then why not join all of them to receive all the benefits that each one has? Can you imagine what people would think of a person who when ask what he was religiously, would reply "I'm a member of all the denominations. One week I worship at the Baptist Church, the next week I worship at the Methodist, the next week the Seventh Day Adventist. I'm a member of all the denominations so I can enjoy the benefits of all of them." My friend, if there is benefit to joining each of these denominations, why not join them all and receive all the benefits of each?
Now there are many preachers who teach that one can be saved without joining their particular denomination. If this is so, then there can be nothing in their denomination that is necessary to man's eternal salvation. If there is nothing in these different denominations that is necessary to man's eternal salvation, then why have them at all? It seems to me that if belonging to a specific denomination is not necessary for the eternal salvation of a person, then that denomination is a useless institution.
WHERE IS THE AUTHORITY FOR JOINING A DENOMINATIONAL CHURCH?
This is a question that must be asked. I know that many denominational preachers just wave this question off as if it were not worthy of consideration. Yet, the apostle Paul said,And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17). To do something in the name of the Lord Jesus is to do it by His authority. So Paul tells us that whatever we do in word or deed must be done by the authority of the Lord Jesus. This means that if one joins the church of his choice, he must have authority for doing so from Christ.
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, ...All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Jesus has all authority. We must only do that which Jesus gives us authority to do. And so the question, "where has Jesus given us authority to join the church of our choice?"
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Jesus here promised to build His church. We have a record of Him building His church on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. In fact, the first time the church is mentioned in the New Testament as being in existence is in Acts chapter two. ...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47).
Now a very important question: What church did the Lord add these people to? What denomination was in existence at this time? Did they have a choice of joining the particular denomination they desired to join? Did they even know what a denomination was? My friends, the answer to all of these questions is this: Jesus added them to His church because no other church was in existence. No denominations were in existence on Pentecost day. Thus the people did not have a choice of joining a denomination. They did not even know what a denomination was, for none existed. If Peter had told the people on Pentecost day to receive Christ as their personal Savior, repeat the sinners prayer after him, and then tell them to go join the church of their own choice, there could be no doubt that authority for such would exist. But Peter did not tell those people any of these things (Read Acts 2:1ff and see for yourself). In fact, there is no where in the whole Bible where people are told any of these things. Thus, there is absolutely no authority for telling people to do these things today. The people on Pentecost day were added to the Lord's church by the Lord Himself when they obeyed Peter's directions given in verse 38!
In Colossians 1:18 the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write, 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. Here Paul teaches that Christ is the head of the body and he says that the body is the church. He defines the body as being the church. The body of Christ is the church of Christ.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:18 concerning the members of this body or church: But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. Notice the language used. God has set the members, each one of them, in the body. Who are the members? Not different churches, but people. Individuals who had obeyed the gospel. And where were they set? In the body! In the church!
Now the point is this: It is the Lord who adds people to His church. It is God who has set the members in the body. If the Lord adds people to His church - if He sets the members in the body - how could anyone conclude that this is an act of the members themselves? If you "join the church of your choice" that's your action. That's something that you do. But if the Lord adds you to His church, that's something that He does. Every time the Bible speaks of people becoming members of a church in the New Testament, it is always the Lord who adds them to His church. It is never said that the people "joined" themselves to Christ's church. People who obeyed the Lord in New Testament times were added to the church that Jesus built. It was the only one in existence and they were added to that church by the Lord Himself! They did not have a choice as to which church to join. First, because they couldn't join the Lord's church - they had to be added to the church by the Lord - and second, because there were no other "churches" in existence for them to join.
Who does Jesus set in the body or add to the church according to Acts two? "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:41). "...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Those who were added to the Lord's church by the Lord Himself were those who were baptized, those who were being saved. This tells us that no one is in the church of our Lord but saved people, and that all saved people are in His church! They didn't become members of the Lord's church by joining it, but by being saved! Our desire and concern should be to saved so that the Lord will add us to His church.
Acts 2:47 teaches us that the Lord was doing this adding "daily," or as people "were being saved." He added them to the church without waiting for any action on the part of the church, or any decision of the elders, or anything else. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 12:18 makes clear that He set them in the church "just as He pleased." He didn't ask the saved man what church he wanted to join - what pleased him, but, rather He pleased Himself in the matter. The preacher who advises you to "join the church of your choice" is tragically mistaken in that advice. It is poor advice to say the least. We must let the Lord add us to the church of His choice, rather than trying to join the church of our choice.
Let's read 1 Corinthians 12:18 again, But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. Notice that Paul says that "each one" of the members were set in the body or church. Each one means that each person who is saved is set in the same body. Any one who attempts to join a church by his own action is surely not of the saved.
As a rule, people who have "joined" the church of their choice, have never taken the steps the New Testament teaches that we must take in order to be saved. Most of them claim that the Holy Spirit operated on them in some direct way and saved them, or that they underwent some emotional experience, or that they just felt something in their heart the day they were "saved."
But the Bible teaches that there are five steps necessary to salvation and when one has taken these steps he knows that he is saved because Jesus has said he is:
One must hear the gospel: So then faith comes through hearing, and hearing from the word of God. (Romans 10:17).
This hearing of the gospel produces faith and belief that Jesus is the Son of God: Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." (John 8:24).
This belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins makes us ashamed and sorry for our sins which leads us to desire to turn away from them in repentance: For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10). I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. ( Luke 13:3).
This belief that Jesus is the Son of God makes us desire to confess Him before men as He commanded: Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33). ...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10). Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).
This faith causes us to submit to the Lord's command to be baptized to be saved. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins... (Acts 2:38). There is also an antitype which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ... (1 Peter 3:21).
Those who are saved and added to the church by the Lord are those who have taken these steps. If you have not taken these steps, even though you may feel saved, even though some preacher may have told you that you were saved, you cannot be saved because you have not obeyed Christ.
CAN ONE BE SAVED OUTSIDE OF CHRIST?
Every believer will answer NO to this question. A person cannot be saved outside of Christ. But how does one enter into Christ?
There are only two passages in all of the New Testament that uses the phrase "into Christ."
1) Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
2) Galatians 3:26-27 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
The word "into" means passing from the outside to the inside. It is equal to being transferred or conveyed into the kingdom of Christ or the church of Christ (Colossians 1:18). Before a person is "baptized into Christ" he is necessarily outside of Christ. You cannot be in a building, until you have entered that building. It is also a fact that you cannot be in Christ until you have entered into Him. The Bible teaches that one enters into Christ when he is baptized (immersed) into Him.
If salvation is IN CHRIST as the Bible teaches that it is, and one enters into Christ by this final step of initial obedience (baptism), then the Lord adds the immersed believer to His church. It is significant that Luke's record in Acts 2:47 where it says "the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved," was immediately following his account of the baptizing of 3000 people, who had been commanded according to Acts 2:38, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins... Those people, on that day who were baptized were added to the church by the Lord. This is why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13, For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. Everyone who hears the teaching of the Spirit which was in inspired men then, and is now in the inspired book (the New Testament), and who were baptized as a result of hearing that taught in God's revealed word, were baptized into one body -- that one body being the church. They were baptized into one church.
You see, in the New Testament there was only one church people could become members of. Since this is so, and since people could be saved in the one body or one church then, why do we need any other "churches" today? Why can't we be saved in the church of Christ just as they were then? The fact of the matter is, that this is the only way we can be saved today.
BUT PEOPLE DO JOIN CHURCHES
It happens all the time. Were the inspired writers mistaken? We've already seen that Jesus built ONE church; that the one church is the body of Christ; that those who obey the gospel are added to that ONE church by the Lord Himself,
Where did all of these other churches come from that men attempt to get you to join? My friends, they come from human beings. People established them, people built them, people control them, and people have the say as to who will join them.
But this is not true of the church of Christ. It is Christ's body and salvation is in Him - in His body. All spiritual blessings are in His body. He is Head over His body. He is the one who dictates the manner and means of entrance into His body. If you do not enter into this ONE body (Christ's body - the church), then you cannot be saved. If you are saved you cannot avoid being in Christ, in His body, in His church.
Christ's attitude toward His church is seen in the following passages:
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.
5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ
also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and
cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her
to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
but that she should be holy and without blemish.
How important is the church to Jesus? He "purchased" it "with His own blood." He "gave Himself for her." My friends, the people who say that it doesn't make any difference what church your are a member of just don't understand Jesus' attitude toward His church. You don't give your life for something that is of little value. Jesus died for His church! That's how important it is to be a member of His church.
My friends, I am not asking you to join the church of your choice. I am not asking you to join "my church" because I don't have one. I simply ask you to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe that Jesus is God's Son. Repent of your sins. Confess your faith in Him. Be baptized (immersed in water) for the remission of your sins, When you do these things, the Lord will add you to His church. You don't join anything, and you have no choice in the matter. You are added to the church of Christ's choice - to His church by the Lord Himself.
Those who seek to please God will quit seeking to "Join the church of their choice," and will do those things necessary to be added to the church of Jesus' choice. What about you? Will you become a member of Christ's church today by obedience to His will?
If we can help you in your obedience, please contact us by writing the email address given on the main page.