IS IT ENOUGH TO ACCEPT CHRIST
AS ONE'S PERSONAL SAVIOR
WITHOUT MEMBERSHIP IN HIS CHURCH?
By Cipriano P. Sandoval
Pasugo God's Message
John 3:16, WHICH STATES: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (New King James Version), is conveniently used by the exponents of the concept that it suffices that man believes in Jesus, and he is entitled to life everlasting.
True enough, this verse does not contain specific message with reference to Church membership, but it must be noted--for goodness' sake!--that this verse is not the totality of gospel teaching regarding salvation and the attainment of eternal life. We have to search the Scriptures for the fullness of knowledge about salvation. In truth, those who advocate nonmembership in the Church thrive on the ideas and concepts that grew out of their private interpretation of some portions of the Holy Scriptures, and I say that this is dangerous because a good number of people subscribe to such interpretation as authoritative, in total disregard of the essential teachings of God relative to salvation.
To say that it suffices for one to accept Christ as one's personal Savior, is to disregard the Church outrightly. Could it be the exponents of such belief are unaware of the existence of the Church established by our Lord Jesus Christ? And if they are conscious of the fact that our Lord has established a Church, but despite their knowledge of it they hold on in their allegation, that Christ is all that is needed, they would fall into the indictment pronounced by Apostle Jude, who said:
"But THESE MEN REVILE whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as IRRATIONAL ANIMALS do, they are DESTROYED." (Jude 1:10, Revised Standard Version, emphasis ours)
Then again, what is ridiculous about these people is that, while they advocate salvation through belief only in Christ without the benefit of church membership, we find them membered in different churches. What an irony! May I ask: Do they mean, seriously, that the churches which they belong are useless? The logical and sensible thing to do, if they are honest in their view, is for them to say that their membership in their particular churches is superfluous, or they should first denounce themselves for having sought membership in their churches. But, would they? And if they come across in this analytical point, they will find themselves without any leg to stand on.
However, for the sake of those whom they have persuaded to subscribe to their unscriptural concept, I shall venture to answer their allegation, not through the niceties of argumentation, but with the clear-cut teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Is it scriptural to say that there is no need for the Church when it comes to the subject of salvation and the attainment of eternal life? If it were any of the churches to which the advocates of such belief belong, I would say, without fear of contradiction, that there is really no need. Is it true that Christ does not command entrance into the Church? The answer to this question will be given in the course of this dissertation. Is it enough that Christ be accepted as one's personal Savior without the benefit of membership in the Church, and attain salvation? Let me lift up the pronouncement of the Savior Himself. In Matthew 16:18, it is written: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build MY CHURCH, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." (Ibid., emphasis ours)
What does the verse say? The Savior, Christ Jesus, built His Church. Note His statement: "I will build my church."
Should we detach the Savior from His Church by saying, we simply accept Him as our personal Savior, without the benefit of Church affiliation? Does not this belief impugn the work of Christ? Would Christ allow Himself to be detached and divorced from His Church when it is related to Him, and possessed by Him, for He said, "my church"?
The very fact that Christ has a Church, His very own, points to us, and to all men, that the Christ-only concept is deceitful, unscriptural, and against the mind of Christ Jesus. The pronouncement of our Lord projects the vital and essential truth--that he who may properly accept Christ as His personal Savior must be in that Church which our Lord called "my church". He who in this Church can validly claim Christ as his personal Savior, for, certainly, he is embraced by the grace of Christ's ownership.
CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH
Why did Christ call the Church He established "my Church"? How did Apostle Paul portray the connection and relationship between Christ and His Church? In Colossians 1:18, it is stated:
"He is the head of the body, the church ..." (Ibid.)
What is the connection and relationship between Christ and His Church? What is Christ's position in His Church? He is the Head of the Church, and the Church is His body. With this set up in mind, what sense would there be if one would say Christ is all that is needed, and there is no need for the Church? This would be tantamount to rejecting Christ. Why? Christ will never reject, nor disown His body or the Church. When our Lord said, "I will build my church", it was one way of saying, "I will build my body". Therefore, he who rejects the Church Of Christ, or the body of Christ, and this is precisely what is being done by those who say it is enough that they accept Christ as their personal Savior, minus the Church.
Why did Christ make the Church His body? Is there a law of God which Christ took into consideration, in order to give reality to what is stated in John 3:16--that those who believe in Christ may not perish, but have life everlasting? What has God decreed for all of mankind? In Hebrews 9:27, we are told:
"And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Ibid.)
What is appointed by God unto all men? Two unavoidable certainties hang upon the lives of all men--death and the judgment. It is on Judgment Day that God does not want men to perish, so He sent Jesus our Lord as a Savior.
Why has mankind been plunged into this calamity? Why has death crept into the life of man? The answer is provided by Apostle Paul, in Romans, chapter 5, verse 12:
"Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death passed unto all men, for that all sinned," (American Standard Version)
Why has death crept into the life of man? Death crept into man's life because of sin, and all have become helpless victims of death, because all have sinned.
Does it mean that if man dies, he is already cleared of his sins? Why does the Bible say there is yet going to be Judgment Day? What is God's sentence upon the sinner? God's decree is written in Romans 6:23:
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Is man cleared of his sins upon his death? No. He has yet to pay for his sins, and the payment is death, as God's law states: "For the wages of sin is death."
Is there a possibility for any one man to answer for the sin of another? God answers us, in Deuteronomy 24:16:
"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for the fathers, but EVERY ONE SHALL DIE FOR HIS OWN SIN." (Douay-Rheims, emphasis ours)
Does God allow anyone to answer for the sin of another? The law of God is clear: every one shall die for his own sin."
What death is imposed by God as the wages of sin? This is the second death, in the lake of fire, as the Bible tells us, in Revelation 20:14:
"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." (RSV)
The sinner must pay for his sins in the lake of fire, and all have sinned. Therefore, God requires that all should be punished in the lake of fire. Under this law of God, no one could be saved. So in order to accomplish His mission as a Savior, without violating divine justice, Christ made the Church His body, He being its Head, and with such set up He is in a position to answers for the sins of those who are in His Church. Do the Scriptures prove this as a fact? For whom did Christ die? Was His death intended for those who have no regard for His Church? Apostle Paul clearly pointed out, in Ephesians 5:25:
"Husbands, love your wives, as CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP" - He died - "for her." (Ibid., emphasis ours)
For whom did Christ die? He died for His Church. How, then, could a man say he does not need the Church? No one can love Christ if he does not care for the Church. Why? Because the Church is the object of Christ's love; He took upon Himself the sins of the people in His Church. As Head, Christ's death is for His body, hence, anyone who disregards the Church Of Christ disregards the death of Christ.
Because Christ died for His Church, are the members of the Church Of Christ assured of their freedom from the curse of the law, in the lake of fire? In Galatians 3:13, Apostle Paul pointed out:
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law ..." (Ibid.)
What did the apostle assure the members of the Church Of Christ? They are redeemed from the curse of the law, through the death of Christ.
As documented in the Scriptures, which one wil be saved by Christ? In Ephesians 5:23, it is clearly pointed out:
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and is himself its Savior." (Ibid.)
Which one will be saved by Christ on the day of Judgment? Christ will save His body, or the Church Of Christ. So, if there are people who would legitimately say that they have Christ, as their personal Savior, these are the members of the body of Christ or the Church Of Christ. People who say that they accept Christ as their personal Savior should first ascertain that they are in the Church which is to be saved by Christ. To believe otherwise is to think and speak outside the scope of salvation. We must not forget, Christ is the Savior of His body. He has nothing to do with those who are outside of His saving function and authority; He will not use His power to save those who are not in His body. In the light of this scriptural teaching, we not know that those who believe in Jesus that shall not perish but have life everlasting, as pointed out in John 3:16, are found in the body of Christ, or the Church of Christ.
Why is it unlawful for Christ to save those who are outside His Church? How did Christ effect the redemption of the members of His Church from the curse of the law, which condemns sinners and confines them to the lake of fire? Why is the saving function of Christ exclusive for the Church Of Christ? In Acts 20:28, it is pointed out:
"Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood." (Ibid.)
According to the verse, Christ obtained or purchased the Church of the Lord with His own blood. The Lord referred to is Christ himself Acts 2:36, hence the Church of the Lord is the Church Of Christ. With what, then, did Christ redeem the people in His Church from the curse of the law? He redeemed them with His own blood. Therefore, the saving function and power of Jesus Christ is exclusive for the Church Of Christ, and it is unlawful for Him to save those who are outside. The death of Christ sealed this truth, this gospel truth. No amount if rationalization and theological views can stretch the jurisdiction of Christ's power of salvation. I repeat, the record of the Scriptures is clear, and can never be explained away: Christ is the Savior of the body, or the Church Of Christ (Col. 1:18; Rom. 16:16).
Contrary to this teaching of the gospel is the allegation of those who say that it is enough that Christ be accepted as their personal Savior, without regard for the Church. What does the Bible say about these people? What should be done with what they teach? In Galatians 1:6-9, the apostle's warning is:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a DIFFERENT GOSPEL - not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to PERVERT THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel CONTRARY TO THAT WHICH WE PREACHED TO YOU, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed." (Ibid. emphasis ours)
What should be done to a teaching which is contrary to the teaching of the apostles? It should be accursed, and that is what I am doing in this dissertation: to expose those who bring in our midst another gospel. What do the exponents of another gospel do with the Bible? Do they use another Bible? No, they use the same Bible, but they do pervert it. In what way? The perversion they do is easily demonstrated by their view of salvation, as I have already shown: they want Christ as their personal Savior, but they want to detach Him from His Church. Let us not be awed by the profundity of the theological knowledge of those who preach another gospel. As the Apostle enjoined us: "But when we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed."
Did not our Lord Jesus command those who want to be saved to enter the Church Of Christ or Iglesia Ni Cristo in Filipino? In John 10:9, it is written:
"I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (Ibid.)
What should we do in order to be saved, according to the command of Jesus our Lord? Those who want to be saved are obliged to enter Him, and only in this way could one be saved, according to the Savior Himself. How, then, should one enter Christ? What condition is laid down by the Scriptures? In Ephesians 2:16, it is pointed out:
"And might reconcile us both to God IN ONE BODY through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end." (Ibid., emphasis ours)
The condition prescribed for man's salvation is to be, reconciled first with Christ Jesus in one body, thereby effecting reconciliation with God, by virtue of His death on the cross. What has Christ done to those who are reconciled with Him in one body? In verse 15, we are told:
"By abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself ONE MAN in place of the two, so making peace." (Ibid. emphasis ours)
What is this one new man created by Christ in Himself wherein there is peace with God or salvation? The one new man created by Christ in Himself is He Himself as the Head, and the Church, which is His body, as Apostle Paul testified: "He is the head of the body, the church ..." (Col. 1:18)
Since it is the body, or the Church Of Christ that is to be saved by our Lord Jesus, and to enter Christ so as to be saved is to be reconciled first with Him in one body, or the Church Of Christ, what is the status of those who have entered? In I Corinthians 12:27, it is written:
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually MEMBERS of it." (Ibid., emphasis ours)
What is the status of those who have entered Christ so as to be saved? They are members of the body of Christ. Hence, the necessity of becoming a member of the Church Of Christ, in order to be saved.
What is the fate of those who are outside the Church Of Christ? Could they expect salvation, even if they strongly claim that they accept Christ as their personal savior? In I Corinthians 5:13, the judgment of God is written:
"God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you." (Ibid.)
What awaits those who are outside the Church Of Christ? God judges those who are outside, said Apostle Paul.
Why did Apostle Paul say God judges those who are outside the Church Of Christ? Upon what did he base his teaching? What is Christ's pronouncement for those who are not in His body, or the Church Of Christ, which has been the object of His death and His shed blood? In John 8:24, it is written:
"I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." (Ibid.)
Christ will not answer for the sins of those who are not members of His body, or the Church Of Christ. They will not be saved, for they have to answer for their sins in the lake of fire. Therefore, if any one wants to be redeemed from the curse of God in the lake of fire, the second death, to which all sinners are consigned, the only way is to become a member of the Church Of Christ, and persist up to the end, as our Lord demands:
"But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 24:13, Ibid.). He who endures to the end as a member of the Church Of Christ will be saved, and it is he who can say with sense that he has Christ as his personal Savior.
Published in Pasugo: God's Message
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