Will Good People in
All Churches Be Saved?
by Tom McLemore
Many are under the impression that one church is as good as another, and all that matters is if you are a good person. We ought to be concerned with the fact that many young people (and some older people) are not aware of the teaching of the New Testament on this matter.
Many youths and adults who have been members of the Lord’s church have joined denominational churches. Growing numbers of churches of Christ are seeking fellowship with, and extending fellowship to, denominational churches, assuming a denominational persona, and adopting denominational practices. No one who understands the teaching of the New Testament can conscientiously follow any of these paths! One approach to the truth on this matter is to consider the question “Will good people in all churches be saved?” in light of the facts revealed in the New Testament.
Christ has only ONE church, the church of the NEW TESTAMENT. “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” (Matthew 16:18). The New Testament speaks of “the church” (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6; Ephesians. 3:10; 5:25, 29, 32; 1 Timothy 3:15). The church is the body of Christ, and “there is one body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18, 24; Ephesians 4:4). Only the church about which you read in the New Testament is Christ’s church. (All others are churches of men).
ALL who are in Christ’s church came to be in it by being SAVED. The process by which one is SAVED is the process by which one is ADDED to the church (Acts 2:47). What are the implications of this statement? If one has been saved, one has been added to the church; if one has been added to the church, one has been saved. If one has not been saved, one has not been added to the church; if one has not been added to the church, one has not been saved.
Christ’s church is the body of those of whom he is the Savior (Ephesians 5:23). This means precisely the same thing as Acts 2:47. Everyone in Christ’s church came to be in it by being purchased by Christ’s blood (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; Acts 20:28). We must avoid an abstract, institutional view of the church (i.e., the idea that the church is something other than saved people or the idea that what Christ saved is distinct from the group of persons whom he has in fact saved).
One cannot, and does not, become a member of ANY OTHER CHURCH by being saved! In saving people, the Lord does not add them to any denomination. All denominations have been created since the close of the apostolic age, have been created as alternatives to the church of the New Testament, and are unknown to the New Testament. No denomination recognizes people as having been added by the Lord to that denomination in the process of saving them; it takes something in addition to being saved to become a member of any denomination. All of this indicates that it is contrary to the will of God for denominations to exist AND for people to become members of them!
HOW are those saved whom Christ adds to his church by SAVING them? On Pentecost, the apostle Peter’s discourse was concluded in this manner: “‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “ Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:36-41).
What do we learn? They are saved, not by being good, but by being forgiven. There is none righteous, not one (Romans 3:10, 23). Baptism is for lost people who want to be saved (Acts 2:37, 38–“for the forgiveness of sins”). They are saved, not by “receiving/accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.” (Peter made no mention of such). They are saved, not by a mere “profession of faith” or by praying the so-called “sinner’s prayer” (Peter did not call for such). Rather, believers are saved by repenting of their sins and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-41 [=“calling on the name of the Lord,” Acts 2:21; cf. Acts 22:16]).
It is not precisely correct to say that Christ BUILT his church (past tense). It more precise to say that Christ is BUILDING his church. As each person is being saved, a living stone is being incorporated by Christ into his church (1 Peter 2:4-5). Acts 2:41, 47 describe a process that occurs every time Christ saves a person.
The question, “Will good people in all churches be saved?” is not a New Testament question. (The New Testament knows of only one church, Christ’s church). The New Testament question is, “Will you be saved and thereby be added by the Lord to his church?” It should be emphasized that bad people in Christ’s church will be lost if they do not repent (Revelation 2:10). This article is the synopsis of a sermon presented at Houston Park Church of Christ, July 1, 2018.
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