WILL ONLY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST BE SAVED?
Yes and no, depending on what is meant? In the book of Matthew when Jesus said “on this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:13-18), He was referring to “His kingdom” or those He would save and therefore “reign” over in order to guide and protect. His “kingdom” then consists of all of those He saves and who submit to His will (as they understand it at any given point) for their lives. So in that sense all of the saved are part of the universal “church” that belongs “to Christ” or church “of Christ.” He is going to save the “body” of saved people (Eph. 5:23) who come to Him for salvation and who submit to Him as Lord (Col. 2:6). If we have any view of the church of Christ that does not include “all” of the saved, then we do not have the right view when used in this sense. If our view is limited to one “sect” or “group” or “denomination” or “tribe” or “fellowship” or “segment” or “Church” that does not include all believers then we hold a view that is simply not true. God adds all of the saved to His church (the number who are being saved) the moment they are saved (Acts 2:47)….even if they are not part of our particular “group” (or any local organized “group” for that matter).
Seeking to be “Christians only” is not the same as thinking that we are the “only” Christians. There is a big, big difference in thinking that “only the ones who believe” are right with God… and in believing that we are the “only ones right” with God. All true “believers” are members of “Christ’s church” regardless of what we think or what they may call themselves or where they may be in the world. Therefore, it is important to understand that the one true “church” of Christ is not a denomination comprised of what some may refer to as locally organized “sound Churches of Christ.” Salvation is not based on a connection to a local church or group of churches or a particular segment of a “restoration movement/group/heritage/tribe/Churches.” Salvation is based totally on being “in Christ” who Himself adds all those He saves to the number who are being saved which composes the universal church or body of Christ.
We do not get “into Christ” through “the” local Church or through “a” Church. We get into the church through Christ and that is a big difference. It is interesting that not one of the local Churches that we read about in the Bible exists today, but the “church” (body of saved) that belongs to God/Christ does. Some of us who identify ourselves with a locally organized “Church of Christ” have left the impression that only those who “meet with us” are saved. This is just as denominational and sectarian as it gets and has never been true. When we hear our people speak of “Church of Christ members” or “Church of Christ preachers” or “Church of Christ Churches” they are obviously referring to the local organized group that we identify with, but if we think these are the only ones who comprise the universal “church” that belongs to Christ then we are sadly mistaken. And if we apply this local group concept to the church that Jesus promised to save, then we are mixing “apples and oranges” or “denominational/sectarian concepts” with the “Bible concept” as well as taking a “universal” reference and applying it to a “local” reference concerning who is in the church and who is not.
Any believer who has been “born again” (Jn. 3:3-5) is added to Christ’s church before/without having to “meet with us” or having our approval. As a matter of fact, there are some who “meet with us” who are not saved (Rev. 2-3) and there are plenty who do not “meet with us” who are. For example, the Ethiopian eunuch was added to “body of the saved” (church) because of his faith in Jesus before he met with any group (Acts 8:35-39)…if he ever did. Some of those who were in one of the local seven Churches in Asia were not in the real “church” of Christ even though they were part of a local congregation referred to as “the Church” (Rev. 2-3). We may join a local Church in one way or another (place membership/identify with/join, Acts 9:26) once we have been joined to Christ (Zech. 2:11; 1 Cor. 6:17) as part of His body…but the two are not necessarily the same. Paul was added to the Lord’s church (body of the saved) when he believed in Jesus (Acts 9:1-18), but later “he tried to join the disciples” in the local Church in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26), which is one way to illustrate the difference. All believers are saved and members of the “church” that belongs to Christ even if they never meet with a local group called the “Church of Christ.” I certainly believe that the Bible teaches that there is only one body (Eph. 4:4) and that “body” consists of all of those who are “in Christ” and that is the only “church/body” that He has promised to save (Eph. 5:23). And anyone, anywhere who has faith in Jesus Christ and is born again is part of that body or church. A person does not have to be a member of one of our “local Churches of Christ” to be saved but he/she must be “in Christ” and therefore be part of His (universal) church. So my answer to the question is: ‘Yes’ a person must be a member of Christ’s church to be saved. And ‘No’ a person does not have to member of a local “Church of Christ” or “meet with us” to be saved. We are saved by faith in Jesus not by membership in a local Church. Thank God for Jesus and His church/Church–all those He has saved (Acts 2:47)
Hope this helps!