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Thursday, March 28, 2024

How Does One Get Into The Church Christ Built

Not a single denominational church was built by Christ for he built his church, one and only, in the first century hundreds of years before any denominations came into existence.  The New Testament scriptures, after the gospels and Acts chapter 2, all refer to the church as a then-existing institution.  Paul wrote to various churches in some of his epistles.  John in the book of Revelation wrote to the seven churches of Asia.  The church Christ built was established in the first century, not during the Reformation or the centuries thereafter.

The question men and women need to be seeking an answer to today is not how do I get into this denomination or that one but how do I get into the church Christ built?  Don’t ask how do I become a Baptist or a Methodist or any other such thing but how do I become a Christian?  How do I enter into Christ’s church? 

Being in the church Christ built is an entirely different thing than being in a denomination.  One can be in a denomination and yet outside the church Jesus built.  If being in a denomination is the same as being in the church built by Jesus then the denomination has no reason for existence and should drop its denominational name and associations and just call itself what it would be under those circumstances--the church of God, the church of Christ, the church, or some other scriptural name or designation.  It would be “the church” and not “a denomination.”  It would be the church Christ built.

Generally speaking, almost all denominations admit they are not essential for most freely admit that one can be in another denomination other than their own and be saved thus making the one they are in non-essential.  This is also an unintended confession that they are not the church Jesus built for his church is essential.

Many say Jesus is all that matters, the church does not matter.  Why do they say that?  Because they have a denominational concept of the church.  I am the first to agree that there is not a denominational church on earth that matters and every one of them ought to cease their existence.  But, that is a far cry from saying that the church Christ built does not matter.

In this article, I am not concerned about how one gets into X, Y, or Z denomination but with how one gets into Christ’s church.  Certainly, there are steps to be taken as there are steps to be taken before one can enter any institution.  One must be made aware of the institution, what it does, and what purpose it serves before any desire can be created to be a part of it.  So it is with the church Jesus built.

The church built by Jesus matters so much that you cannot be saved outside of it, without becoming a member of it.  It is “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 NKJV)  If you are outside that church it means you were never purchased with the blood of Christ.  It means you are not a part of the body that he is saving.  “He is the Savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23 NKJV)  What body?  “He is the head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18 NKJV)  The church is the spiritual body of Christ of which he is the Savior.  It is the body he is saving.

Christians are “members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.” (Eph. 5:30 NKJV)  “You (Christians--DS) are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Cor. 12:27 NKJV)  One is either in that body or he is not, you are either inside or outside, and where you are makes all the difference for salvation.  Yes, the church matters.  It is not Jesus yes and the church no. 

The church is what Jesus gave himself for on the cross.  “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27 NKJV)

Salvation is in Christ which is the same as saying in his body, the church.  “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:10 NKJV)  In Christ one is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  In Christ are found all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3).  “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13 NKJV)  That is in Christ and not out of him.  The list could go on and on but the point is that to be “in Christ” is absolutely essential to salvation but to be in Christ is to be in his body, the church.  The church is thus essential.        

One cannot join the church Christ built.  God adds the man or woman to it under certain conditions.  “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47 NKJV).  Who was added to the church?  Those who were being saved.  Who then is in the church?  The saved.  Who is outside the church?  The unsaved.

Does God just add whoever he pleases to the church unconditionally?  If so it would not be a man’s fault if he failed to obtain salvation.  There would be nothing he could do about it as it would be entirely in God’s hands.  It does not work that way.  At the close of the first gospel sermon ever preached Peter exhorted the crowd saying, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:40 KJV)  Other more modern translations use the words “be saved” but the thought is the same.  It is up to the individual.  The individual has something to do.  Salvation is not unconditional and God does not save men adding them to the church unconditionally.

Does this mean that all who are in the church are saved?  No, for some go astray and live in sin and hypocrisy, in indifference and unconcern, without a deep abiding faith and love, who have fallen away.  It does mean, however, that you must be in the church to be saved for that is where those who will be saved are placed by God.

Upon hearing the gospel before one can be added to the church, before God will do the adding, one must believe what he has heard.  Paul defines the gospel by which we are saved if we believe in 1 Cor. 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:  that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (NKJV)  This correlates with Peter’s confession of Christ in Matt. 16 when Christ asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15 NKJV)  Peter’s reply was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16 NKJV)  Jesus then says, “On this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18 NKJV)  It was by the resurrection that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4 NKJV)  Thus one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

Jesus Christ as the Son of God is the foundation upon which the church was built “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 3:11 NKJV)  He is the “chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20 NKJV) of the church.  So a man must believe these things about Christ to be saved.  Faith then is essential.  We are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV) being built up as “a spiritual house” (church - DS) (1 Peter 2:5 NKJV) upon the foundation that has been laid--on Christ Jesus.

But, is this faith enough by itself?  No, and all know it who are honest.  Why do I say that?  Because on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when Peter preached Jesus to the Jews he did not once command them to have faith in Jesus.  Why not?  He did not need to for their faith became evident when they cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37 NKJV)  Make no mistake about it these Jews believed everything Peter preached that day in preaching Jesus.

Here is my point—if we are saved by faith alone why not dismiss that crowd on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and go home?  If we are saved by faith alone there is no need for any further instructions as to how to become a child of God, a Christian.  There is no need for further instruction on what is necessary to be saved.  When the men ask “what shall we do” why not tell them to go home now and just continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world?

The answer is simple enough for an honest man.  Faith was not all that was necessary.  Peter tells them to, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV)  There are many who say that yes, in order to be saved, one must also repent of one’s sins.  However, that is where they want to stop.  They want to separate repentance from baptism in the passage and gladly ignore the fact there is a coordinating conjunction there, the word “and,” that joins the two words making one just as essential as the other.   It simply will not work.  Peter said they must do both.  If repentance is essential for the remission of sins the passage teaches that baptism is also.

Denominations do not practice this nor do they believe it.  But, remember this article is not about how to get into a denomination.  It is how to get into Christ which is the same thing as getting into his body, the church.  None of us should care how to go about getting into a denomination.  Who needs one?  It is the church Christ built into which one must enter for salvation.

The only man prepared to enter into Christ where salvation is found, to enter his body which is the church, is a penitent obedient believer.  He/she is obedient in the sense the person is willing to obey as he/she learns the Lord’s will which at this point is repentance and baptism.

In the Great Commission, the apostles were instructed to baptize only one group of people--those who were made “disciples.” (Matt. 28:19 NKJV)  One can only know whether or not a person who presents himself for baptism is a believer by asking him.  This brings us to another element essential for salvation--the confession of Christ.  “With the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Rom. 10:10)  Timothy was said to “have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:12 NKJV)  It is the good confession Christ witnessed before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13) which was that he was “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” (Mark 14:61-62).  See also Acts 8:36-38.

Thus the steps into Christ are (in order) faith, repentance, confession of Christ, and finally baptism into Christ.  How does one get into the body of Christ the church?  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV)  “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus .... .” (Rom. 6:3 NKJV)  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27 NKJV)  There is no such thing as a Christian in the New Testament that was not baptized for the remission of sins.  Why do I say that?

(1) Baptism was for the remission of sins.  (2) It was into Christ.  (3) Christ commanded it (Mark 16:16, Matt. 28:18-20, John 3:3-5) (4) Peter commanded “every one of you” to do it.  No exceptions on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Paul said to the Corinthians “we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV), no exceptions.  (5) The churches of Judea were “in Christ” (Gal. 1:22, 1 Thess. 2:14).  A church can only be in Christ as the membership is in Christ, that comes by way of baptism.

The individual who complies with the conditions that God gave will be added by God to the church for the same process that makes one a Christian adds him to the church when done from the heart.  Only God can know whether or not one truly believes in Jesus from his heart.  Only God can know if a man has repented from the heart of his sins.  These things being true a man can by all appearances go through the steps essential to salvation but God only knows the sincerity of the heart.  I cannot add you to the church even if you by all appearances seem to meet God’s qualifications.  That is God’s business, not mine nor man’s.  Since I cannot know or judge your heart I have to assume your sincerity and honesty and accept you as a child of God, a living stone in God’s church.  I would want the same treatment from you.  A faithful Christian will never deny such a one the right hand of fellowship.

I would remind the reader in closing that to be in Christ is the same as being in his body, in his church, and that is where salvation is found, in the body of Christ.  “He is the Savior of the body.” (Eph. 23 NKJV)  How does one get into the church Christ built?  The Bible provides the answer.  Denominations do not. 

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