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Vol.  9  No. 12 December 2007  Page 16
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Ken JoinesA No-Church Salvation?

By Ken Joines

    For as long as I can remember, there have been people who say, “Jesus I love. God I love. But I don’t want any part of this thing called ‘church.’ Too many hypocrites. Too much inconsistency.” They are simply turned off by the word church. This mindset is still very much alive with people who say, “I can take Jesus, but not the church.” In an effort to reach such people, I am hearing some disturbing things. Like, “we’re going to try to convert these people to Jesus and then gradually introduce them to the church later on.” There are some serious basic flaws in this reasoning.

    First, let’s look at a few relevant scriptural matters. (1) Ephesians 1:22-23 says Jesus is the head of the church and the church is His body. (2) Acts 2:47 says the saved are added to the church. (3) Colossians 1:13 says we are in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and Matthew 16:18-19 equates the church with the kingdom. (4) 1 Timothy 3:15 says the house (family) of God is the church. Together, these passages forcefully teach that when one is saved, he is a member of Christ’s body, he is added to the church, he is a subject of the King and he is a part of the family of God. In other words, all of this is a part of being a Christian, a necessary part. The very idea of becoming a Christian without becoming a part of this thing called church is foreign to biblical teaching. To say that one may be an obedient follower of Jesus Christ without being a part of the church is to say he could be controlled by the head without being part of the body, or be subject to its king and not be part of the kingdom, or be a son without being related to his siblings.

    Any effort to convert people to Christ without their knowing they are in the same process becoming part of the church is dishonest and deceptive. When I was young, we had horses. Sometimes the horse did not want to be bridled. I would sometimes have to hide the bridle behind me and hold out an ear of corn to trick him into being caught. This was deceptive, but I don’t believe it was a sin because I wasn’t dealing with a human. But when I try to hide the church from a person and trick him into following Jesus, I am not being honest.

    Or, suppose a man is thinking of adopting a boy of 15. The boy has had bad experiences with families. But he develops a liking for the man. So, the man decides to pretend he has no family. He’s going to gain the boy’s confidence and then later tell him he’ll have these siblings. Fact is, if he adopts the boy, this boy will be in the family automatically. The same process that makes him a son also makes him a member of the family. So it is with the salvation and the church.

    And any “gospel” that tries to save someone without that person knowing he is being brought into the church is not the Gospel of Christ. If you are saved, you are in the church. Read your New Testament. There never was any such thing as a person being saved without being a part of the church. The saved are the church. And if anyone is not ready to accept the church and love the church, then he or she is not ready to be a follower of Christ. The Bible says Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28).

    The key to reaching the “un-churched” is for the church to model integrity, consistency and genuineness. When our neighbors see our good works, they will glorify the Father. And we won’t have to pretend that we are “converting them to Jesus and introduce them to the church later.” A religion that does not include the church in the plan of salvation is not the religion of Jesus Christ.

    Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. Judas led the way for that crowd. Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) fell in line right behind him. They have been joined by thousands of others down through the years. And I don’t want to be compared to such people for the same reason a rancher doesn’t want his herd judged by some sick, skinny maverick of a horse or cow. Yes, we Christians are sometimes grossly inconsistent. We are human. But Jesus loves us still. Aren’t you glad?

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