It is a sad fact that many liberal and misguided members of the Lord’s church believe that there are good in every denomination who will be saved. I want to share with you three reasons why this is not truth and why one cannot be saved in any denominational church.
Denominations are Institutions of Men
The Lord accurately stated the case when he said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Thus, this settles the matter; not a single denomination was begun by the Lord. Therefore, not a one of them belongs to Him. This fact is given emphasis in many Scriptures. “It is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).
The New Testament is even plainer on this point. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). “There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy…. (Jam. 4:12). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Each denomination has its own way, its own lawgiver, and normally accepts many churches as being right. This is one reason why I believe that one cannot be saved in the denominations.
Denominations Teach a Perverted Gospel
A perverted gospel will not save anyone. Listen to Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). This passage makes the gospel of Christ God’s power, his only power, to save the souls of men.
Paul warned, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6-8). Most of these people appear to have accepted the false teaching that one had to be circumcised after the manner of the law of Moses in order to be saved. In doing this they had removed themselves from God, and had gone after what Paul called “another gospel.” Paul called this insertion of circumcision into the gospel, a perverted gospel.
A perverted gospel is precisely what the denominations teach, adding one or more points to what they would like to think is acceptable to the Lord. They add to, take away from, or change the teaching of the gospel of Christ in one or more ways: in teaching men what to do to be saved from sin, in offering a system of worship, and in the functional aspects of the church. Only God’s truth (obeyed) will save the soul from sin (1 Pet. 1:22). When this truth is mixed with some error, it is no longer God’s power to save. Obeying God’s will, and his will only, is what will take men to heaven (Matt. 7:21). Their teaching of a perverted gospel is another reason why I believe that one cannot be saved in the denominations.
The Lord Established Only One Church
Jesus purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28); he is the head of the church (Col 1:18) and, he saves that one church (Eph. 5:23). Lest someone think that I am saying just being a member of the Lord’s church will guarantee a home in heaven, please read Matthew 13:41-43. Despite the fact not everyone in the Lord’s church will be saved, it is safe to say not anyone separate and apart of the Lord’s church will be saved.
Could we put all three of the above reasons together and simply say, “One cannot be saved in the denominations because they are in error, one way or the other”? I do not think that anyone who believes the three reasons would argue with such conclusion.
If it is wrong to be a part of a denomination, and it is, then what makes it right to be a part of a congregation which bears the Lord’s name but is in error? Yes, there are many liberal churches of Christ who have perverted the gospel and doctrine of Christ. What set of rules do we follow to exclude one and include the other?
It is true that we cannot be saved in any denominational church, and it is equally true that one cannot be saved in a congregation of God’s people who persist in error. If they pervert the gospel, they shall be accursed (Gal 1:6-9). If they abide not in the doctrine of Christ, they have not God (2 Jn 9). If they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, their worship is in vain (Matt 15:7-9). If they add to or take from the Word of God, they will have their name removed from the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev 22:18,19). If we cannot convince them to change their teaching and practice, we need to get out of it (2 Cor 6:17). Do not permit anyone to take your crown of life (Rev. 3:11).