Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 11, 1950

Which Church? Does It Make Any Difference?

Thomas Allen Robertson, Mclean, Texas

It is quite common today to hear people say, "I don't think it makes much difference which church a person belongs to, or whether one is a member of any church at all, just so one is sincere. The church doesn't save anyway." Perhaps the reason for so many people's making this statement is because of a general lack of understanding as to what the church is, and the position it occupies in the New Testament. Let us consider some positive New Testament teachings concerning the church:

Christ's body

The New Testament declares that the church is Christ's body. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22, 23) Here it is stated in so many words that the church is the Lord's body. But consider another passage: "And he is the head of the body, the church." (Col. 1:18) These two passages should be taken together; the first states that the church is his body, while the second states that his body is the church. It is merely an interchangeable way of putting the truth in both expressions, and amounts to a positive and undeniable declaration that the church is the Lord's body. To say that one can be saved outside the church is to say that one can be saved outside of Christ.

What is in the church?

Since the church is Christ's body, all things that are in Christ are in the church. Among the things Paul lists as being "in" Christ are: (1) "all spiritual blessings;" (Eph. 1:3) (2) "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins;" (Eph. 1:7) (3) "an inheritance." (Eph. 1:11) There are many others which might be mentioned. Since all of these things are "in" Christ, in the church, the man who is outside of the church can not have any of them.

Lest there be any confusion in the minds of any on whether or not the "kingdom" of Christ and the "church" of Christ are one and the same, observe these facts: In Matthew 16:18, 19 and in Hebrews 12:23-28 we find the words "church" and "kingdom" used interchangeably. Christ said, "I will build my church," and "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom." The writer of the Hebrew letter says, "But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn ... Wherefore, We, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved... " Christ promised to build his church, and to give to his apostles the "keys of the kingdom." Did he build one institution, and then give them the keys to something entirely different? In Col. 1:13, 14 and Eph. 1:7 we have parallel truths expressed as follows: "Who bath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love," and "in whom we have our redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Our redemption is through the blood of Christ, in Christ, in the kingdom. To be in Christ is to be in the kingdom, the church.

There is one church

The New Testament teaches that there is one church. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:4-6) There are exactly as many "bodies" as there are Gods, Lords, etc. The body is the church; hence there is one body, one church. Men may build as many denominations as they desire, but in God's sight there is one church, and only one; there will never be more than one. That one is Christ's church. It is just as scriptural to ask what God one believes in as it is to ask what church one belongs to. There are just as many Gods as there are churches. The Bible says there is one of each.

The church doesn't save

Church membership does not save. We who preach the gospel without addition or subtraction have at times been accused of preaching that the church (church membership) saves. Such is not true. Christ saves; redemption is through his blood. But Paul says that Christ saves the church, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it." (Eph. 5:25) Only two verses before he had said that "the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, being himself the savior of the body." Since the body is the church, if Christ is the "savior of the body," it follows that he is the savior of the church. Those who are saved are in the church. All the saved are in the church, and there are no saved ones outside of the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) There is simply no such thing as a person who is saved not being a member of the church; hence, no man can "join the church of his choice." If he is saved, God has already added him to his church.

If one is not in the church, he is not saved. Someone may say, "The church doesn't save." That is right. Christ saves. But how does Christ save? Paul told the Ephesian elders, "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28) Christ's blood saved; for with it he purchased the church. It is through the blood that we have redemption. It is not a matter of the church saving; but Christ saves through the church. There is no salvation outside of the church, just as there is no salvation outside of Christ.