Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 14, 1963
NUMBER 28, PAGE 7,11b

Can I Be A Christian Outside The Church?

Robert Harkrider

We frequently hear the expression, "He was a good Christian but never was a member of any church." Many people have the idea that one can be saved outside the church as well as in it. They think that just so a person is morally good, honest, and upright, he will be saved eternally. Is it necessary to belong to the church to be saved? Does the church have anything to do with one's salvation?

It makes no difference what one might think on the above questions. The important thing is, what does God say in His word about it? When God speaks, that should settle the question for anyone. The Bible describes the church as:

The Fulness Of Christ

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23) A man who was describing how a person could be a Christian and not he in the church drew two circles for an illustration. He first drew a large circle which represented Christ; then inside the large circle he drew a smaller circle representing the church. The big circle was Christ, and the smaller inner circle was the church, and he explained that a person could be in the large circle without being in the small one, therefore his conclusion was that a man can get into Christ without being in the church. But what does this do to Paul's statement? Paul said that "the church is the fulness of Christ." Can the smaller, inner circle be the fulness of the outer circle? The inner circle is not the fulness of the outer circle, but the church is the fulness of Christ. The inner circle, to be the fulness of the outer circle, must be drawn the same size. A man in Christ is in the church, His fulness; one who is in the church is in Christ. It is impossible to be in one without being in the other.

The Bible also speaks of Christ being the "fulness" of God. (Col. 2:9) Can a person accept God and reject Christ? Inasmuch as the Bible says Christ is the fulness it would be impossible to get into one and stay out of the other. Take, for instance, the orthodox Jew, who believes in God, but does not believe in Christ. The Bible teaches it is impossible that any man come to God and ignore Christ, His fulness. For this same reason no man can come to Christ and ignore the church, His fulness. As a Jew cannot be in God without being in Christ, His fulness; even so a man cannot be in Christ without being in the church His fulness.

Bought By The Lord's Blood

The church is essential because Christ shed His blood to purchase it. "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28) For what was Christ's blood expended? The answer is, the church of the living God. ."Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." (Eph. 5:25) It stands axiomatic that if we get any of the benefits of the blood of Christ, we must get it by virtue of our relationship to that institution into which Christ's blood went.

To illustrate, suppose a man has a ten dollar bill and he walks into some store and buys a hat, giving in exchange for it the ten dollar bill. No matter where he goes nor how he acts, if he is ever to get any benefit out of that ten dollars, he must get it out of the use of the hat. Outside of the hat there is no benefit, there is no purchasing power of the ten dollars possible to be rendered for all of it is in the hat.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, purchased the church of God with His blood. Therefore if a man ever becomes the beneficiary of Christ's blood it will be due to the fact he has become a member of His church, Why? All of Christ's blood went into the purchase of His church. Outside of the church there is no benefit of the blood, there is no purchasing power of the blood possible to be rendered, for all of our Lord's blood was shed to purchase the church. How can men teach that Christ gave Himself for the church, and then declare this blood bought institution to be nonessential and unimportant? A man cannot be a Christian outside the church, for to be a Christian he needs the blood of Christ; but the blood flows only in Christ's body, which is the church. (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1:18)

The Body Of The Saved

The importance of church membership is understood in that the church is composed of all the saved. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) The idea of being saved in one process and then joining some church at another time is foreign to the New Testament. The Bible teaches that every Christian was a member of the Lord's church for the Lord Himself adds such as should be saved to it. Since the Lord has the power to know all who are saved, anyone that has not been added to the church by Him, must not be saved. Jesus is the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23); hence all the saved are added to the body, the church. (Eph. 1:22, 23)

The same thing that makes one a Christian makes him a member of the church. These are not two different steps. When a man obtains salvation the Lord adds him to the church. If you want to become a member of the church, you need to learn how to be saved. Jesus taught, "Ile that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Peter, when asked what to do to be saved, answered, "repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38)

Why not become a Christian? But do not think you can be a Christian while outside the church, for this is the fulness of Christ, the blood bought institution, the body of the saved.

Box 376, Pinson, Alabama