Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 10, 1950
NUMBER 14, PAGE 1,12b

Saved Out Of The Church?

Morton T. Utley, San Francisco, Calif.

Regardless of the fact that the church was purchased by the blood of Christ and the church is "according to the eternal purpose of God," many people believe that a person can be saved without membership in the church. You do not need to talk with very many people before you find those who think they are going to be saved outside the church; there are millions right here in this nation who believe God will save them because of their good moral lives.

The thing that should be of importance to us is not how many people believe such an idea; but, what is right? What does the Bible teach on this subject? What men may think about the question may make little difference; what the Bible says about it is final and right. We must study that with an open mind.

Saved Without Forgiveness?

There are some very strange conclusions that must be reached if a man can be saved outside of the church. In the first place, one who holds to such an idea must conclude that a man can be saved without the forgiveness of his sins. Paul declares, "In whom (Christ) we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7) Thus, redemption from sin, and the forgiveness of sin is found in Christ. To be in Christ means to be in the church. No man can be in Christ without at the same time and by the same process being in the church. For to be in Christ is to be in his body; and his body is the church. (Col 1:24; Eph. 1:22, 23) Since these passages teach that Christ's body is the church, and the church is Christ's body, they are one and the same. To be in Christ means to be in the church; to be out of the church means to be out of Christ. If saved out of the church, then saved without Christ and without forgiveness which is in Christ.

Saved In Devil's Kingdom?

If a man can be saved outside the church, he can be saved in the kingdom of the devil. The church and the kingdom of Christ are the same institution. Christ told Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Thus, Christ uses the two words, "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably. The church is the kingdom of Christ; and the kingdom of Christ is the church. To be in the church is to be in the kingdom of Christ. To be out of the church is to be outside of the kingdom of Christ.

But there are only two kingdoms—Christ's and the devil's. There is no middle ground. If one is not in Christ's kingdom, he is in the devil's kingdom. Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me." (Matt. 12:30) If one is not in Christ's kingdom, he is a citizen of the devil's kingdom. Can such be saved?

Outside The Family Of God?

All Christians are children of God. All of God's children are in God's family. God's family is the church. (Eph. 3:10-15; Gal. 3:26, 27) Can one be saved who is not a child of God? You know that he cannot, for a man must become a child of God in order to be saved. God has no children outside of his family; he is not that kind of a Father. For one to claim that he is a child of God, when he is not in God's family (the church) would make him an illegitimate child. God has no illegitimate children. It is the act of baptism that puts one into the body of Christ, which is the church. (I Cor. 12:13) It is this same act of baptism which makes one a child of God. (Gal. 3:26, 27) If one is not in the church, he is not a child of God; and if he is not a child of God, he cannot be saved.

All Saved Are Added To The Church

No man can be saved without doing the things God has commanded him to do to be saved. Jesus said, "Not everyone 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." Since this is true, it would be impossible to be saved and not be in the church; for the very things that are necessary to save one will mean that God will add him to the church. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) But Paul teaches that faith and baptism will put one into Christ (which is into the church). (Gal 3:26, 27).

Thus, it is impossible to separate church membership from salvation. The Lord adds all the saved to the church. No saved man is outside the church. (Acts 2:47).

Christ Saves The Church

"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." (2 Tim. 2:19) Since salvation is in Christ, and to be in Christ means to be in the church, then salvation must be in the church.

But, someone may ask, "Do you think the church saves?" No, of course not. The church does not save, and cannot save. Christ is the Savior. But Christ is not going to save the whole world; he will save only certain people. Whom will he save? Paul gives the answer when he says that Christ is the "savior of the body." (Eph. 1:22, 23) The church does not save, but the church is the thing that is to be saved. Now you may think it is a ridiculous idea for God just to save the church; but what you or I may think about it is of little consequence. That Bible says Christ is going to save the church; we had better believe that.

When a person pays a huge price for something that is not very valuable, we consider him foolish. If the church is not essential to salvation, it would make God appear very foolish indeed to pay such a fantastic price for it. The blood of his Son was the price paid for the church. (Acts 20:28) Did you ever stop to think how ridiculous it makes God appear when a man says he can be saved outside of the church? He has paid the life of his Son for that which is non-essential and unnecessary! God is not that foolish. There was no other way for man to be saved. The church was absolutely indispensable. God would not have allowed Christ to suffer so great agony if salvation could have been possible by any other means.

Christ's Church

When I have used the word "church" in this lesson, I have not referred to the denominations or to any of the churches of men. I have referred only to the church that Jesus built; that wears his name; that is governed by his laws. I agree with any man who says he can be saved outside of a denomination. In fact, I have never been able to believe that a man could be pleasing to God until he got out of the denomination. It is the church of Christ, not the denominations of men, that is essential. And the Bible clearly teaches that outside of that church there is no salvation, and there can be no hope.