If you have ever told anyone that you are a member of the church of Christ, you have probably had to field the above question. How would you answer the question? In reality, as I see it, it is a loaded question with built in prejudices. The challenge with such a question as the above is that it can’t be answered with a simple yes or no without being misunderstood. If you answer, “yes,” you will viewed as judgmental and leave people thinking that you believe that anyone with a “church of Christ” label has a free pass to eternal life. If you say, “no,” you open the door to let them believe that God has little concern for wide variations in doctrine and religious practice and will let any good person into heaven. If you are reading this, then be honest, as I seek to answer the question truthfully and tactfully.
First, notice that I said the question has built in prejudices. Most of the time the person asking the question already has a preconceived idea of what he/she wants to hear, so regardless of the answer he/she will not deal with the answer logically or rationally. Prejudice is defined in the dictionary as “a preconceived judgment or opinion, especially an opinion or learning adverse to anything without grounds, or before sufficient knowledge.” It saves time since it condemns before investigation. It enables a person to form an opinion without first carefully examining the facts. As someone has written “it is a loose idea tightly held.” The Jewish leaders often asked Jesus loaded questions, not because they wanted to really hear His answer, but because they were trying to trap Him into saying something they might use to turn the people away from Him.
Secondly, in answering the question, one needs to define what is meant by “the church of Christ.” What I mean by the term and what the religious world means is often two different things. For example, when I speak of the necessity of one having to be baptized, I then have to explain that baptism is by a burial in water for the remission of sins because the majority of people understand that baptism can be done by sprinkling or pouring or immersion, and it can be done after one is saved, not before. In the same fashion when answering the title question I must define what is meant by the term “church of Christ. Most religious people do not understand that the term “church of Christ” is not the designation of a denominational group of believers, but a designation of possession. In the Bible it designates a group of people who belong to Christ and belong to God. If you don’t belong to God and His Son, then you will not be saved. This raises the question, “Who belongs to Christ?” Only the word of God can reveal the answer. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal.3:26-29). That’s pretty clear isn’t it? Those who have faith in Christ Jesus and have put on Christ in baptism belong to God and His Son. But God has more to say about this. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal.5:24). Who belongs to Christ? Those who have put off the works of the flesh, walk by the Spirit and thus produce the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Gal.5:16-23). These are those who belong to God and His Son. They are the church that belongs to Christ. They are the ones who will be saved.
But somebody may ask, “Will Baptists be saved or will Methodists be saved, etc.?” Well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about these groups, so we can’t assume that they will be saved as such. Those who are saved are God’s group of people – the church that belongs to Him and His Son. The question that each person must answer for himself is, “Do you belong to Christ?” And the only way to answer that question is to ask, “Have you come to God in the way He has prescribed in His word, the Bible?” If so, then the Lord has added you to His church Acts2:41, 47. If you try to come to Him any other way, then you are not part of His church, for He saves only those who follow His instructions Jn.14:6; Lk.6:46. There is no other way but His way.
That may sound pretty harsh and exclusive but once again, what does the Lord say about it? Listen to an inspired apostle, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Either you are saved by Christ in the way He has prescribed and belong to Him, or you are not. Either you are in the Lord’s church, through the grace of His blood and faith and obedience in His name, or you are not. Please understand that in answering the title question in the affirmative, I am not saying one is saved by an attachment to a name or a group of people, but by surrender to the Lord. One may identify oneself as a member of the Lord’s church, but if he hasn’t surrendered his heart, his mind and his will to the will of God, then he can call himself whatever he wants, he will not be saved. Jesus said,“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt.7:21-23). One is not saved by confession alone, but by active obedience.
While the salvation of the Lord is now open to all, God saves those who have accepted His salvation on His terms. Those who have done so, He adds to His church, His group of people, who reside with Him eternally. If a person wants to be saved, he will search the New Testament and examine the church he reads about there. He will seek for truth, not for silly things that mean nothing as far as the Lord is concerned.