by Dan Goddard


One of the marks of identification of the church of Christ of which we read in the New Testament is the way one becomes a member of the church.  When we speak of the “terms of entrance” we have reference to the conditions that God has established to which people must conform before they are a member of Christ’s church.

One is not a member of His church by virtue of his physical birth or ancestry.  One must be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5) to belong to the church, the house of God, which is the kingdom of God (I Timothy 3:15; Matthew 16:16-18).

Neither does one become a member of His church by making application to some committee of men, or by being elected by a vote of the existing membership, nor any other of the various ways that men become members of denominations.  We can be sure that when requirements for belonging to some church varies from those requirements in the New Testament, that church is not the New Testament church.  Man’s ways are not God’s ways (Proverbs 14:12; Isaiah 55:8-9).

Salvation is “in Christ” (2 Timothy 2:10).  All spiritual blessings are “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).  One cannot be “in Christ” without being in the body which is the church (Ephesians 1:22, 23).  Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18); the church is His body (Ephesians 1:22, 23); the members of the church make up His body (I Corinthians 12:27).  One cannot be in fellowship with the head without being a member of the body, which is the church.

It is the church that the Lord will save (Ephesians 5:23).  The saved were added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47).  Some complain that the church does not save you, as if it makes no difference to which church you belong.  They miss the point.  The church is the saved.  Unless one is in the church that belongs to Christ he is not saved.

Contrary to much denominational doctrine, you do not do one thing to be saved and something else to “join” some church.  Man is not called upon to “join” anything.  He is taught to obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8) because Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).   When one obeys the gospel, God adds him to the body of the saved, the church (Acts 2:41, 47).  Every person can be a member of the Lord’s church without asking the permission of any other human being.  What one must do to be saved is exactly the selfsame thing that he must do to be added by the Lord to the Lord’s church.

Men may hear the plea—”Be saved and join the church of your choice.” Such a plea is as foreign to the teaching of the Bible as sin is from righteousness.  Such a cry is a false doctrine of man.  Our choice is to obey God or disobey God.  When we obey, God attends to the matter of church membership.

Men may “join” denominations.  But the church which Christ established is neither a denomination nor is it composed of the total of denominations.  Scripture reveals no authority for the existence of any denomination that has, does or shall ever exist.  But it does reveal the church which He purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28).

It is not a question, “Does Christ save?”  He does.  But what is the relationship between salvation and His church?  The answer is simply that salvation in Christ is in His church.  When we turn our sincere attention to the Scriptures, we can learn what people were taught and what they did in New Testament times to be saved—to be added to His church.  This is exactly what people must do now to be saved—added to that same church.  What was taught and what did they do?

In the book of Acts we read of several instances of conversion.  The messengers of God went forward preaching the gospel in obedience to His charge to preach (Mark 16:15).  People heard the gospel of salvation, believed, obeyed and God added them to His church (Acts 2).  Romans 10:13-17 outlines the way man is saved.  Hearing the gospel produces faith—a faith that demands “calling on the name of the Lord.”  This is more than simply saying, “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21).  There must be the doing of His will.

As one studies the conversions of those on Pentecost, the Samaritans, the Ethiopian, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, Lydia, the Jailor, the Corinthians (Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 16, 18), he sees God’s terms unfold before him.  Those people heard the Gospel, believed it, obeyed it in repentance, confessing their faith in Christ, and being baptized into Christ.  In every instance the conversion began with preaching of the Word and was completed with obedience in baptism.  Those on Pentecost did this and “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).  Today, when people will do as they did, people will be as they were—namely, members of the church, the body of Christ, the saved, the family of God. God’s way is the right way and no other can supplant it.

Every Christian knows any number of people who are lost, and will die lost, unless they are members of His church—the saved.  Is there any greater duty that we have; any more wonderful privilege that is ours, to already be a member of the church and convey to others these simple, plain, irrefutable truths of salvation?