When composing a series on salvation, I wonder how many people would have a lesson specifically on the church. However, when one reads through the New Testament, the connection between salvation and the church is undeniable. Before we get into that, a few things need to be established.
During the ministry of Christ, He taught about the coming of the church.
He said to them [the apostles], “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”Matthew 16:15–181
Jesus said He would build His church (future tense). He claimed ownership of it by saying, “my church.” It would belong to no one else. Although Christ promised to build the church, it would be a spiritual building. Peter later wrote to the church, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5). Never in Scripture is the church referred to as a physical building. As the saying goes, “The church is not the building. The church is the people!”
I recently saw a post online that said:
- Person A: “I don’t have to be part of the church. I read my Bible on my own time.”
- Person B: “The fact that you believe that shows that you don’t really read your Bible.”
Before I had read much of the Bible myself, I said more than once, “I don’t have to be associated with a church to be saved.” Many people today still say such things. It’s a fad to turn your nose up to “organized religion.” Is that what Jesus taught?
When Christ promised to build His church in Matthew 16, it was still a future establishment. The first time that the church is mentioned in the present tense is in Acts 2. Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching the first sermon of their mission (see Acts 1:8; 2:14–36). On that occasion, they preached the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and mankind’s sin problem.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:37–38
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. […] And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:41–47 NKJV
When people listened to the message of Christ and responded to it by repentance and baptism, the text says that the Lord added the saved to the church. Biblically speaking, one cannot be saved outside Jesus’ church. No, the church does not save anyone, but the church is the saved, since as soon as someone is saved by the blood of Christ, they are automatically added to the church, the body of Christ.
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.Ephesians 1:22–23
According to Ephesians 2, Sinners are brought together into the one body of Christ, which is the church, to be reconciled to God. Reconciliation to God is necessary for salvation (Romans 5:5–11). Reconciliation with God is impossible outside the church. Once a person is saved and added to the church, they can offer acceptable “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:4–6
Christ only has one body. He promised to build one church. Christ’s church is not a man-made denomination. In fact, denominationalism (which is, in effect, division) is destroyed when people follow the Bible carefully.
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.1 Corinthians 1:10
So far, we have seen the church mentioned in every chapter of Ephesians. Keeping the concept of the church being the body of Christ in mind, the modern-day denial of the church is fruitless when one continues to read chapter 5.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.Ephesians 5:23
Although the bulk of Ephesians 5:22–33 discusses God’s plan for the family, Paul claims that he is trying to relate to us the mystery of Christ and the church (verse 32). Notice this passage says that Christ is “the Savior of the body” (the church), “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). One simply cannot be saved without being a part of the blood-bought church—the body—of Christ.
When people pay attention to the salvation taught in Scripture, they cannot ignore the church, which is mentioned over one hundred times in the New Testament. Salvation and the body of Christ (the church) are eternally connected, no matter what is currently popular in religious circles. That is why the church appears as a highlight in a Bible study series on salvation.
If you want to be saved, do what those in Acts 2 did. Don’t “join” some denomination. Let the Lord add you to His church! More about that in the next lessons.