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What Must I Do To Be Saved  
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By Jim Roberts

While preaching recently, one of the pastors of our congregation said, “Church is not something we go to or something from which we return home.” Despite the existence of the term “churchgoer,” the good pastor was right.

The average collegiate dictionary defines “church” in one or more of the following ways:

  • A building for public Christian worship.

  • A religious service in a church.

  • Christendom or the whole body of Christian believers.

  • Any major division of this body, e.g., a denomination.

  • A Christian congregation.

  • An organized religion as distinguished from the state.

  • The Christian Church prior to the Reformation.

  • The Roman Catholic Church.

Only one of the above definitions tends to be in agreement with the Holy Bible, and even that definition is somewhat ambiguous. While the New Testament makes mention of “churches,” it is quite clear on its definition of the one true “Church.”

Before establishing what the Church of Jesus Christ is, let’s be sure we understand what it is not. The Church is not a building. It is not a denomination. It is not an organizational institution created by man. It is not a sect or cult. The Church is not an accumulation of customs, traditions, policies and procedures. It is not something we “join.” It is not imagery, symbolism, stained glass and polished pews. The Church of Jesus Christ is not in any way connected with dead formality or the lack of spiritual godliness and vital salvation. It represents no form of superstitious folly, ignorance or bondage. It is not an organization comprised of a massive membership that possesses a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof. Finally, the Church is not an arena wherein differing opinions battle to the finish like gladiators of old.

Let’s pause here for a moment and consider some of the things those who claim to be God’s people feud and fuss about…things that have separated them into opposing sects. They (we) differ on both the meaning and method(s) of Baptism. Instead of being seen as the greatest gift God has ever granted mankind, we argue over salvation and how it comes about. We debate the issue of Communion, who should administer it, how it should be administered, what it truly represents, and who should or should not receive it. We dispute what day of the week to set aside as the Sabbath and whether or not we should praise God using musical instruments. We get into horrendous philosophical melees concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Second Advent, and how many Ordinances or Sacraments exist, as well as their proper nomenclature.

Observers describe “mainliners” as fanatical Pentecostals, hard shell Baptists, scripturally illiterate Catholics, laid back Lutherans, misguided Methodists, petty Presbyterians, etc., and often the members of these mainliners refuse to associate with one another. For example, when was the last time you saw a “holy roller” playing golf with Father Flannigan, or that woman who “speaks in tongues” sitting in on the same Bridge game with some of the ladies who identify with the local Episcopalian congregation?  

The church during apostolic times effectively avoided sectarianism by not making the mistake of “organizing” the church in the form of a human corporation, but instead it abided completely in the spiritual unity of the fellowship of Christ. It made no distinction between the visible and invisible church. In other words, the visible fellowship of local people consecrated to Christ was no different from that of invisible (non-local/unseen) believers all around the world who were part of the one Body of Christ.

The New Testament teaches and is solely based on one faith, one baptism, one body, one Church, one fold, one heart, one mind, and no division. All of Christ’s followers are to agree and be of the same mind and execute the same judgment,

1 Corinthians 1:10. I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

However, we have ignored the word of God and instead established more than 30,000 so-called “Christian” sects or denominations worldwide, to say nothing of the “cults” that have sprung up and which vaguely refer to Jesus Christ in some abstract and secondary manner.

The apostle Paul warned against dividing or segmenting Christ’s Church like the slicing up of a pie. Yet we can drive through even the smallest of towns and see a dozen or more steeples with people gathering beneath them on the Lord’s Day, professing to worship the same God. All the while the lost, who are witnessing this, are wondering where they should go, and asking, “Will the real Church please stand up?”

In the infant Church, the children of God…the followers of Christ, were all in one place and of one accord. They were unified, even unto a martyr’s death, and as new converts believed the gospel, the Lord added them to his Church daily as they were being saved,

Acts 2:46-47 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

While Catholicism lost its way long ago in a maze of man made doctrine, rules and regulations, Protestantism has presented division to those who seek life in Christ. Both are a problem as clearly described by Paul:

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Romans 16:17-18

Try to picture a city within which the untarnished gospel of salvation is presented and 1,000 people are converted to Christ. They are joined in the same love and by the same Spirit to the Lord through salvation and made “members” of the true, universal Church of Jesus Christ, the Church HE continues to build; the Church over which the gates of hell shall not prevail. Their names are recorded in heaven. The Lord gifts and calls some of them to serve in roles of leadership and upon proving themselves, they are ordained by the laying on of hands by their brethren, and a local congregation of the true Church is established.

Some years pass and the Lord adds more persons to this local congregation of believers. Five sectarian “missionary evangelists,” sent by their respective denominations to build new churches, arrive. Each has completed his sectarian seminary training. Each promulgates a slightly different version of the gospel. Each approaches individuals who are part of the original church in that city, and each persuades some of those individuals to join his sect.

Now instead of more than 1,000 gathering together in one place with one doctrine, the original congregation has been segregated into a half-dozen different groups. Instead of one faith, now there are six. Now they are   divided on doctrine, salvation, Baptism, Communion, as new and different traditions capture their imagination. They are becoming scattered as sheep and all the while being led to believe they are doing God’s service.

This is not what the Lord had in mind when he raised up much-needed reformers throughout the centuries. This is hardly the goal Martin Luther envisioned when he nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 in open defiance of the institutionalized “church” and its ever-growing heap of man-made nonsense.

Christians have been organizing the Body of Christ into divisions or sects for centuries. At this point in history I can see no escape from such organized sectarianism. The obvious solution is to refuse to “organize,” but rather recognize the Church as a spiritual fellowship of believers in Christ everywhere; but I am confident this will not occur until Christ returns and gathers his people unto himself for eternity.

In the meantime, we are stuck with sectarianism. It is my hope, and the hope of many throughout the true Church, that the children of God will strive for unification in the gospel as it appears in the Scriptures, come to a full understanding of God’s New Covenant with his people, and adhere to the word of God with more gusto than with their denominational dogma.

If there will be no denominations in heaven, what purpose do they serve here on earth? If a child of God is not welcome in a specific sect, unless that’s sect’s requirements for admission or membership are met, that sect is not a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. In Christ’s Church there is freedom from bondage; freedom from guilt; freedom from shame…freedom indeed. In Christ’s Church there is no altering or watering down of his gospel, no pressure to comply with anything other than the demonstration of one’s faith in Jesus and his word.

What is the Church of Jesus Christ? It is the aggregate of every man, woman, boy and girl of every race and every walk of life in this world who has believed the gospel and who has confessed with the mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. The Church of Jesus Christ is the saved, all the joint heirs with Christ who already enjoy eternal life, whose names are written in the Book of Life, and who will inherit the Kingdom of God. The Church of Jesus Christ belongs only to Him, and has no allegiance to any man made sect or denomination.

In Christ’s Church all are welcome, for Christ Himself proclaims with open arms:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11: 28-30


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