«. g. ron W is T ng H hi IG et R om ut IS S b E L B I B E H T We pray this booklet will aid your study of the word of God, “which is able to save ...»
No matter how many say, “You need not do anything,” the Bible teaches plainly that we must “do.” Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). We read in Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). Obedience marks the time when we are made free from our sins. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).
The inspired author asks the question in 1 Peter 4:17: “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” Are you willing to accept the Bible answer for this important question? Hear it! “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
4 God will not save you in disobedience. Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).
If you understand what you must do in order to be saved, do it at once. In the cases of conversion we have in the Bible, the Pentecostians who “gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). The eunuch said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36). The Philippian jailor obeyed the same hour of the night: “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:33).
Many contend the church has nothing to do with salvation. We hear much talk about “unsaved church members” and “saved non-church members.” Some questions are in order, and again, we must let the Bible supply the answers.
1. Does the church save?
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the One who saves: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). No, the church does not save.
2. Can one be saved outside the church?
The Bible teaches that all the saved are in the church, for the Lord adds to the church such as should be saved: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Since the Lord adds to the church such as should be saved, we must conclude that there are no saved outside the church. People who should be saved from their sins are those who will gladly receive God’s word and obey it, as did the Pentecostians.
What did these people do to become members of the church? Beginning in Acts 2:14, we find Peter preaching the gospel of Christ. Notice the reaction of the people: “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-41). Peter told these people what to do in order to have the remission of their sins. They that gladly received his word were baptized and added to the church (Acts 2:47).
Membership in the church of the Lord is not a matter of popular vote on who shall be a member of the Lord’s church. The Lord takes care of this matter Himself, and He makes no mistakes. He adds all that should be saved and adds no one who is not saved. Yes, one must be a member of the church in order to be saved. A clear concept of what the church is will make this fact apparent.
The church is the body of Christ, and He is the Savior of the body. The Bible teaches that the church is the body: “And he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). Ephesians 1:22-23 speaks of “the church, which is his body.” But, in Ephesians 5:23, we find that “He is the savior of the body.” The church, then, is that body which Christ proposes to save. We need to be members of it in order to be saved.
The church is the house of God. First Timothy 3:15 speaks of “the house of God, which is the church of the living God.” The saved are the children of God; and all God’s children are, surely, members of God’s house, or family. But God’s house is the church. Therefore, we conclude that all God’s children are members of the church.
5 Those who think the church is unimportant and unnecessary should remember that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). In Acts 20:28, we hear Paul speak of the church “which He purchased with His own blood.” The precious blood of our Lord is vested in the church. Let no one think He paid such a price for an unnecessary, unimportant institution. You need to be a member of that blood-bought body in order to be saved.
Of which church should I become a member?
This is an often-asked question today. The great number of different churches presents a confusing and deplorable situation. Some people advise, “Join the church of your choice,” as though it makes no difference which is chosen. The differences that exist between the various churches are undeniable proof that some are wrong.
When one contradicts the other, one must be wrong. Right-thinking people will desire to be members of the right church. Which is right?
1. The right church is the one you read about in your Bible.
Your Bible speaks of only one church. A multiplicity of churches from which to choose is completely foreign to the language of the Bible. Christ promised to build only one church, saying, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ did not promise to build “churches” (plural), but “My church” (singular). True to His promise, Christ built only one church (Acts 2). Christ purchased only one church: “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
Christ did not promise, build, or purchase a plurality of churches.
In order to justify the great number of different churches in the world today, some have pointed to the fact that the Bible speaks of churches (plural). This is true. We read of “the churches of Galatia” (1 Corinthians 16:1).
We also read of “the church at Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1), “the church in Smyrna” (Revelation 2:8), etc. But these were not different kinds of churches. They did not present a choice of different names and different doctrines.
They differed only in location. These were only congregations of “the church.” Various figures by which the church is identified in the Bible indicate the church’s undenominational character. For instance, as you have seen already, the church is called “the house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). This pictures the church as God’s family, but none of us would think of saying that God has many families. The church is called the “body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23), but the same letter asserts, “There is one body” (Ephesians 4:4). The picture drawn for us by inspiration, in Ephesians 5:25-27, is of a bride that Christ has sanctified and cleansed, “that He might present it unto Himself.” Who is willing to charge the Lord with polygamy? There is one bride, one body, and one family.
These things are right because the Bible presents them, and no person who loves the Bible will deny them.
The right church of which to be a member is the one you read about in your Bible. Any church about which you cannot read in your Bible is not the right church.
2. The right church is the one that has the right beginning.
The church Christ promised to build had its beginning in the city of Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection (Acts 2). From that day forward, the Bible speaks of the church as being in existence (Acts 2:47;
20:28). All this was according to plan. Hundreds of years before, Isaiah had prophesied: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3). Jesus had instructed the apostles “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
Any church which had its beginning at some other place or time cannot be the right church.
3. The right church is the one that wears the right name.
The church is the bride of Christ, and it is fitting and proper that the bride should wear the name of the husband. Christ is the head of the body, and it is right for the body to wear the name of the head. Christ said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, it is His and should wear the name of its owner.
In Romans 16:16, we read: “The churches of Christ salute you.” There are other scriptural names, such as “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), but these do not in any sense rob Christ of the honor and respect due Him in His church. Names mean something. They help designate and identify. If you cannot find the name of a given church in the Bible, it is good evidence that it is not the right church.
4. The right church is the one that recognizes the right authority.
God has given Christ absolute authority over the church you read about in your Bible. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22). His law is the law of the New Testament, of which He is the mediator (Hebrews 9:15). Human wisdom has no place in devising laws for Christ’s church. Hear this warning from Paul: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:8-10).
But many do not believe we are complete in Christ; thus, they have exalted human wisdom by their traditions, through creeds, church manuals, disciplines, etc. Not only do these deny the completeness of Christ but, many times, introduce that which is contrary to the law of Christ. Any church which has its authority residing in a creed, pope, council, etc., is the wrong church.
Christ must direct the worship of the church. Under the apostle’s guidance, the members of the early
church engaged in the following acts of worship:
(1) They partook of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).
(2) They gave of their material means (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(3) They sang (Colossians 3:16).
(4) They prayed (Acts 2:42).
(5) They taught (Acts 2:42).
This plan of worship cannot be altered without denying the authority of Christ. To introduce other items, or to omit those specified, can render our worship vain. Jesus said: “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Again, the Bible says: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Those who add the playing of mechanical instruments in the worship transgress the authority of Christ. When the Lord’s Supper is omitted from the worship on the first day of the week, it is by the authority of human wisdom and without regard for the authority of Christ.
Many believe that worship rendered in sincerity is acceptable, but Jesus said: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship in truth is to worship according to God’s word. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The true worship God requires is simple, free from the pomp and ceremony so apparent in most denominations today.
Christ must direct the work of the church. As the body of Christ, the church is to do the work of Christ. Its great work is preaching the gospel of Christ. Paul speaks of “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is to uphold and support the truth and see that it is preached to the whole world (Mark 16:15-16). The work of the church also includes ministering to the poor (Galatians 6:10; Acts 2:43-45). The church of Christ is not an entertainment establishment or a social institution. It is not in the recreation business, but in the soul-saving business. Christ does not direct it into these areas, where so many churches seem to be.
7 Christ must direct the terms of membership in His church. Churches that have their beginnings with men have man-made terms of membership—perhaps, the telling of an “experience of grace,” or the signing of a card, etc.
But Christ is the authority over the church, which He built, and He directs the terms of membership that are the same as His terms of salvation. When one believes, repents, confesses Christ, and is baptized, one is forgiven of sins; and the Lord adds to His church such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). Any church that fails to teach these terms of salvation and church membership is not the right church.
5. The right church is the one that has heaven as its destiny.