The Church & Denominations

Will Only Members of the Church of Christ Be Saved?

To most, it seems presumptuous for one church to claim to be superior to all other churches and self-righteous for it to teach that one must be a member of that group to be saved. Many are offended because they misunderstand what members of the church of Christ teach. I do not want to be arrogant or rude, but plain and truthful, in stating my convictions about what the Bible teaches concerning the church and salvation. I do not believe one is saved simply because he worships at a place where the words "Church of Christ" appear on the building or on a sign in front of the building, but neither do I believe that "joining the church of your choice" is right! Indeed, one who is saved is a member of the church that Jesus built--the church that belongs to Him, His church—“the church of Christ.”

The church was a part of God's eternal plan (Ephesians 3:10,11). Christ promised He would build the church (Matthew 16:18), and did so by purchasing it with His blood (Acts 20:28). This church is sometimes referred to as His body and Jesus is its head (Ephesians 1:22,23). Furthermore, GOD PURPOSED ONLY ONE CHURCH, JESUS BUILT ONLY ONE CHURCH, AND ONLY ONE CHURCH BELONGS TO CHRIST AND GOD (Ephesians 4:4). This one body of Divine origin is rightfully called the church of Christ since it belongs to Christ. The Bible also refers to this group of the saved as the church of God (Acts 20:28), the church of the Lord (Acts 20:28, ASV), and other such designations (Hebrews 12:23) that give honor and glory to God and to Christ, its founder and Savior.

Jesus built the church when He shed His blood on the cross and sinners obeyed the gospel on the Pentecost after His resurrection (Acts 2:47). The Lord adds those who are saved to the church (Acts 2:47). The church does not save us; the church is the saved! The church is not our Savior, but Christ is the Savior of the body, the church (Ephesians 5:23). You cannot separate the saved from the church nor the church from the saved; they are one and the same. Hence, anyone who is saved is a member of the church that belongs to God and Christ.

If Christ built and purchased His church, and everyone who is saved is added to that church by the Lord, then only members of the church of Christ are saved. Membership in the church is not the means of salvation; it is the result of being saved. People worshipping in a building with the words "Church of Christ" on the front of it or on a sign out front may or may not be the church that belongs to Jesus. The sign has a name that honors and glorifies God, but have the people been saved as the Lord directs, and do they teach and practice the gospel? Many do, and perhaps, a place with such a sign out front is a good place to begin to look for the church. One should not be offended by the phrase "Church of Christ" when used scripturally.

It is not presumptuous to teach the truth about the church and salvation, nor is one being self-righteous who seeks to be saved through Jesus and to be added to His church.

Is Christ's Church Denominational?

Many think that the ONE CHURCH is denominational. The word denomination means "a name or designation, especially one for a class of things" (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.) In religion, denominations are organized groups of congregations that can be denominated (named) or classified together because they have formed a collective entity. Denominationalism is made up of religious groups such as Methodists , Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians , etc. -- religious sects seeking to distinguish themselves from one another by different names because they have different doctrines, practices , and organizations. People espouse denominationalism when they join one of these religious groups, suggest that "one church is as good as another," or encourage people to "join the church of your choice."

Some think that Jesus sanctioned denominations when He said, "/ am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). They contend that "the branches" are different denominations. However, a careful reading of this verse and the verse that follows precludes such an interpretation. Jesus said, " I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned" (John 15:5,6). The pronouns, " he," "him," " anyone," and " he," show that the branches are individual disciples, not denominations . Furthermore, it is unfruitful disciples whom they gather and throw into the fire, and who are burned.” In this scripture, Jesus did not endorse denominations!

The Bible does speak of "churches:” "the churches had rest" (Acts 9:31); "the churches of Christ salute you" (Romans 16:16); "the seven churches which are in Asia" (Revelation 1:4). However, the word "churches" in the New Testament never refers to denominations. The word church sometimes refers to the saved in a given locality, such as the "church at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1) or "the church of God at Corinth" or "the church of Ephesus " (Revelation 2:1). In the New Testament , " churches" refers to the saved in a plurality of locations. For example , we read, "then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria" (Acts 9:31). The same doctrine was taught in all of these churches (1Corinthians 4:17; 7:17; 16:1). Members of these churches all obeyed the same gospel to be saved (Galatians 1:6). These "churches" were not denominations. Denominationalism is not taught or approved by the Bible.

There is much that is wrong with denominationalism. Jesus prayed for unity among His believers (John.17:20,21), and Paul condemned division saying that we should all be joined together in the same mind and same judgment (1Corinthians l:I0). Denominationalism thrives on division, different doctrines and names, and is, therefore, wrong. Paul admonished brethren not to call themselves after himself or others because Christ is not divided; it was Christ who was crucified for us, and it is in Christ's name that we are baptized (1Corinthians 1:12,13). We err when we divide and call ourselves after men and points of doctrine as denominations do. ln the New Testament, one reads of the church universal (all of the saved) and the local church (the saved in a given locality). Denominationalism is neither; a denomination is an organization of churches greater than a local church, but smaller than the universal church. Such organization is foreign to the scripture and cannot be right. Furthermore, denominations often have synods, councils, conferences, etc. that meet to determine their beliefs and practices. This, too, is wrong. We cannot establish church doctrine by vote. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22); He is the only law-giver. We must look to His scriptures for doctrine (2Tlmothy 3:16); they are authoritative and cannot be broken (John 10:35). We should not change them by adding to them nor taking away from them (Revelation 22:18,19; Galatians 1:6-9). We must reject denominationalism and all of its error in favor of the true church and truth.

There is one New Testament church; it belongs to the Lord and is not made up of denominations. When people are saved, the Lord adds them to His church (Acts 2:47), not to a denomination. Christ's church is not denominational.

"Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted." (Matthew 15:13)

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