Is Church Membership Separate From Salvation?
Let me put the question in the title this way. Do you get saved at one point and then join the church of your choice? After all, the right to choose is part of our lives. It’s woven in the fabric of living.
We are free to choose which political candidate to vote for, which school to go to or which restaurant to dine at.
The privilege of freedom of choice may have so impacted the mind of many people in post-modern societies that they believe it can be extended to religious choices. This belief possibly comes from the old denominational dogma that defines salvation and church membership as two different kinds of things.
But the Bible does not teach such dichotomy. Evidence for that is clear in New Testament Scripture.
First, the act that saves a person, known as baptism, also puts him or her into the church. Church historian, Luke, wrote concerning the Jews who heard the gospel on Pentecost, repented of their sins and were baptized that the Lord added them to the church (Acts 2:47).
Baptism automatically makes a penitent believer a member of the universal institution Jesus promised to build in Matthew 16:18 and which came into existence in Acts 2. After he has been baptized, he now has latitude to attend a congregation of his choice, preferably one close to his place of residence. A congregation, or local church, is the assembly of saints in a certain area.
In the second instance, the church is the location of salvation. Simply put, it is the place where the saved are found. It is the fold of safety as stated in the hymn “Jesus, the Loving Shepherd” and confirmed in Scripture.
This point is validated in Ephesians 2:16. The verse says that Christ, in His death, reconciled both Gentiles and Jews “to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”, Those outside Christ thus have “no hope” (Ephesians 2:12) as they are not saved.
Elsewhere in the same Ephesian letter, Paul, the author of the epistle, wrote that Christ “is the Savior of the body.” (5:23)
Thirdly, the body is under the authority of the Saviour who is Christ. It’s made up of people who have been called out of the world, the domain of reign of Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3). So, one is either in the church or in the world. Therefore, to choose to join a church other than the Lord’s church after baptism is to remain in the world.
To be in the world is to be under the domination of the devil, the originator of sin and death. Hence, Paul could say to the Ephesian brethren that prior to their being called out of the world into the church they were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). This is spiritual, not biological, death.
Dear reader, I hope you haven’t commenced to believe that church membership can be separated from salvation. It absolutely cannot.