Was there salvation outside of the ark? Was there salvation outside of the nation of Israel? Is there salvation outside of the mystical teachings of Christ? The answer to all of these questions, per the Bible, is clearly “no”.
Before your emotions get the best of you, calm yourself down and consider two preliminary points; (1) I was raised in one of the largest, main-stream denominations in America – not in the church of Christ, so I can speak directly to this issue. What I’m about to share with you comes from years of personal study, debating, argumentation, and absolute struggle with idea that salvation is in only one church. (2) Jesus said in Matthew 22:29, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” Many “religious” people have formed their ideas about salvation on their own opinions, pre-conceptions, and statements that they’ve heard over and over since they’ve been children (rather than the Bible).
The Bible says that there is no salvation found outside of the church of Christ. The Apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:18 that Jesus is the head of the body, the church. The body and the church are one in the same. Paul told the Ephesians, in Ephesians 5:25, “…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” The church is singular in existence, and Jesus gave Himself for the church. In Ephesians 5:23, Paul said, “…even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” For a person to say that they can be saved without being a member of the church of Christ reveals their ignorance of the Scripture, because the Apostle Paul says that Christ is the “saviour” of the body, and the body is the church.
How many “churches” was Paul speaking of? Now watch this; the same Paul told the Ephesians, in 4:4, that there is one body. If the body is the church, as Paul stated, and, as he also stated, that there is only one body, then there is only one church. A child can understand this simple Bible teaching.
Although, this begs the question, “Which church is the one church?” Well, let’s use a simple example. Martin Luther was a fine man with the noble desire to get back to the Bible. After Luther’s death, his follower’s established the denomination bearing his name; the Lutheran Church. Now, was this the one church that Paul spoke of in his epistles? How could it possibly be – the Lutheran Church didn’t exist when Paul wrote his epistle. In reality, the Lutheran Church was established some 1500 years after Paul spoke his inspired words; therefore, it is not logical, reasonable, or biblical to conclude that the Lutheran Church is the one church of the Bible, because it simply did not exist at that time (the first century)!
We’re still at the original question…which church was the one church of the Bible? It is, of course, the church that was established on the Day of Pentecost, as written about in Acts chapter two. It is the church that Jesus bought with His own blood, Acts 20:28, and it is the church governed by Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:18.
Some argue by saying, “Paul was speaking of the invisible, world-wide church, and that includes all churches!” I am sorry, but this common response is biblically false. How do we know? Luke said in Acts 8:1, “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Men could not and cannot persecute something that was/is “invisible”. The church was, and still is, a visible entity on this earth.
Some say, “Well, my church is just as good as your church!” Friend, there are certainly good, sincere, loving, kind, friendly, well-intentioned, God-fearing, Jesus-believing, moral, right-living people in all man-made denominations, but the church of Christ is not a man-made denomination.” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus prophesied that He would build His church, and He called it the kingdom in verse 19. The church of the Lord was not an accident, or a “stop-gap” measure; it was God’s plan. Christ’s prophecy concerning His church was also “future tense”, and He said this after the death of John the baptizer; therefore, John didn’t establish the church of our Lord, nor did he John purchase the church with his own blood, as Christ did.
The church of our Lord began on the Day of Pentecost, and we can see that God added to the “saved” to the church, as found in Acts 2:47. No church existed in the Bible prior to that day. In Acts 2:38-47 Peter explained the terms of salvation and entrance into Christ’s one church. Peter preached to the entire house of Israel, Acts 2:36, but only 3,000 people gladly received his words and were baptized, simultaneously being added to the church of Christ by God Himself, as stated in Acts 2:41-47.
When men began to follow the teachings of other men at the church of Christ in Corinth, Paul rebuked them for the thought and practice. Paul said, in I Corinthians 1:10-13, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” However, 1,500 years after Paul spoke these words, men rose up and said, “I am of Martin Luther.” Doesn’t Paul’s rebuke apply to all men throughout time? Are we not all to “speak the same things and be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment”?