by Richard Mansel
We must be in the Church that belongs to Christ if we wish to enter heaven. In his church, we must conduct ourselves according to the New Testament plan. Since the New Covenant is not a list, we must read the New Testament and determine what he desires the church to do. Since it is not man’s church, we must seek above all to be pleasing to Christ. His will is the only criterion, as outlined in Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 8-10).
We are in the Lord’s church today if we have entered it as commanded in Scripture. If we continue in the Word of God, as he has given us in the New Covenant, we will be in the Lord’s church. The Church begun by Christ cannot be anything but right. Which is not the same thing as saying that the people in it are always right (Romans 3:23).
The person asking the question is actually wondering if those who have “Church of Christ” on their signs are the only ones going to heaven. This is backwards. We are in the Lord’s church by Christ’s standards, not man’s opinions. A name, sign, or label is not the defining factor. Not everyone who is in congregations with the name Church of Christ on their signs will enter heaven. There are those who are not living as Christians in behavior, attitudes, and doctrine in some of these congregations. If the sign were the only determining factor, we could practice all manner of evil and God would approve as long as we had painted the proper letters. Obviously, Christ has higher standards (John 14:15, et al).
Can we be outside of the Church of Christ and be saved? Once again, this is a bad question. A better question is, in light of the fact that in Scripture there is only one church (Ephesians 4:4), can one be saved outside of the Church Christ built? Obviously, not.
In our ecumenical world, many have a skewed view of Christ’s will concerning his church. We see thousands of denominations with their own signs and doctrines. Many take this distorted view and project it onto Scripture.
We can search the New Testament for a name of the Church. However, there was only one Church, not thousands. These children of God were in the Church Christ built. The one he purchased; the one that bears his name, the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28).
If we had only one church today, how important would a sign be? However, it is not the case that there is one church. Instead, there are thousands. A sign sets the Lord’s church apart [in addition to doctrine, etc.] from those who are simply borrowing a name. As we know, calling ourselves a lemon will never make us a lemon. We must give proper credit to the owner of the Church we are a member of. After all, it is all about him.
The name matters because it signifies ownership. Richard”s car is outside my door, for example. We all understand this concept in secular thinking. Why is it so difficult to grasp in Scripture?
We are a group of people who, despite our foibles, seek to be what Christ desires in his church in doctrine, practice, and service. We must remember that we seek to please Christ, not each other, and to be holy in all things.
We must not be ashamed of being in the Lord’s church or of bearing his name. Following Christ’s plan will always divide people, so we should not be shocked when people reject truth (Matthew 10:34). Christ said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38, NKJV). This also extends to being ashamed of his church.
by Richard Mansel