|Bryan R. Braswell
The question is sometimes asked, "does it matter what church I attend," or "do I have to be a member of a church to be saved?" In order to give the right answer to this question one must know the biblical teaching of truth relative to this matter. In this article we need to define what the church is, what salvation is, and where salvation is found, or how can one be saved-what process is involved in salvation. With the right source of information and the ability to ascertain this question no one should be misunderstood about the church and wherein is salvation. With this in mind, we turn to the Holy Scriptures for our answer.
What is the church? The word is actually found in the Greek Scriptures, i.e. the New Testament some 117 times. The word comes from a Greek word - ekklesia, ek-klay-see'ah meaning a "calling out" with the idea of a religious congregation, carrying the idea of an assembly of people, or church. Hence, the meaning of the word church refers to the people-plural, not singular, but in fellowship together. One person is not a church, but a part of the church. The question then is, who is the church? Who make up the church-people of the church? How can we identify with the church?
Jesus' first reference to the word Church in the New Testament is in Matthew 16:18. In this context Jesus is speaking of a future time when He states, "...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (ASV, 1901). Jesus therefore is in process of building His church. The church that we read about in the New Testament bears the name of Jesus, because it's His church-"My church" (Acts 20:28; Romans 16:16; Ephesians 1:22,23). From the context of the above mentioned text in Matthew (which is referenced three times in 16:18; 18:17...v.17 twice) the next time the word is found is in Acts 2:47. With a general reading through the Bible we see the fulfillment of Matthew 16:18 in this chapter setting (Acts 2). Thus, Jesus made good on His promise.
Now the question centers on how we identify the church. With the definition given we obviously understand that the church is not a building or a material non-essential entity. Jesus was not promising to build a fancy building, but a beautiful body-His body called the church, a people called out for a purpose (Romans 1:6,7; Ephesians 4:1,4; Colossians 3:15), called by the gospel of Jesus Christ to respond to His blood bought message and be added to His one church by God and not man (II Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 2:47; 20:28). This all occurs when a person obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God, and is saved by the blood of Jesus through the faith of the operation of God (Romans 1:16; Revelation 1:5; Colossians 2:12). The church is not a people who are made up of those lead and guided by false doctrine. The church is as Jesus stated, "...Sanctified by the truth," God's word (John 17:17).
Now to define salvation we again must consider the word of God. The word salvation is a interesting word when traced through the New Testament. The word first appears in the account of the gospel by Luke. In chapter 1:69 Jesus is referred to the horn of salvation raised up. In the same chapter Jesus is said to "give knowledge of salvation unto his people in the remission of their sins" (Luke 1:77). In the very next chapter of Luke's account when Jesus' parents bring Him to be circumcised, Simeon blessed God saying; "for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32, ASV, 1901). Jesus is salvation. Jesus Himself stated, He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
Jesus came into this world with a mission and purpose, which He fulfilled in His death (John 17:1-4; 18:36-38). Jesus was no accident and His purpose in life was not sidetracked. He came and fulfilled exactly what God sent Him to do (Daniel 2:36-45; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:3-11). The writer of Hebrews tells us in these last days God has spoken unto us through and by His son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4). Jesus is our salvation and when we are in compliance with His message-the gospel, we can understand and experience salvation. We draw near and nigh to God through Jesus Christ (James 4:8).
Wherein Is Salvation?
If Jesus is salvation and God adds those to the church based upon their obedience; wherein is salvation? Salvation is through Jesus into the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Romans 6:1-5; Galatians 3:26-29; I Corinthians 12:12-13; Acts 2:47). When one obeys the gospel that person is baptized "into" Christ body, and that same process is the same process we read about in Acts chapter two. Colossians 2:12 speaks of our burial in baptism (i.e. not sprinkled, poured, christened, or any other method of man), and it is through this process of the faith of the operation of God we are spiritually born again (John 3:3-5). When one is born again as Jesus spoke of in John 3; what is one born into? The Bible teaches that we are born into the family of God and that family is the church of the living God-the church of Christ. Salvation is indeed in the church. The church wherein is salvation is a correct and scriptural connotation. Those that say it doesn't matter where you go to "church" don't know what they are talking about. It does matter where you attend the services of the Lord's church. You attend where salvation is and that is where the other "called out" are assembled to worship God in truth and spirit (John 4:23,24). Those who are sanctified saints, which means called out of the world and called into Christ, are those who come together on the first day of the week to express the godly, reverent, spiritual, truthful, scriptural worship toward their God-the God of creation (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 1:3). The church is where salvation is (Ephesians 3:10; I Timothy 3:15). Are you in the church where salvation is?
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