It is rather strange how some things appear to be—but turn out to be different. The other day I saw a man with his shirt on in-side out, something that I have done on occasion. However, I do not remember ever going out into the public that way. Yet, he stood there with the seams on the out side. I didn’t know whether to approach him and tell him that he had put his shirt on wrong, when I noticed that the buttons testified that he had it on properly. I then took notice that the shirt had been made to look like it was on in-side out, so, needles to say I went about my way minding my own business thinking why would anyone purchase and wear such a garment is beyond me. Getting in my car and driving away I thought about that when things took on a different meaning. Perhaps that is what we as members of the church should do, get the in-side out.
IN-SIDE THE CHURCH
- “All that are in the church are saved,” or, “all the saved are in the church.” Most people will immediately accept the first part of this statement; “all that are in the church are saved.” This is apparent by thinking about the practice of a large denomination. A person requesting membership is required to give his ”testimony” of the day, time and circumstances of his salvation.” The church then votes on whether he is in fact saved. If three members decline his testimony then he is rejected and cannot become a member. However, if his testimony is received as valid by all (less than three objecting,) then he is accepted for membership and is a candidate for baptism and may receive the Lord’s Supper. Even if one’s membership is rejected he may be regarded as saved especially with the passing of time. This procedure is followed to assure that “all members of the church are saved.” The latter part of the statement “all the saved are in the church,” is rejected by the majority of people claiming to be Christians and adherents to the will of Christ, because it is believed that there are saved people who are not members of the church. It needs to be said, when making the statement that I am not speaking of membership in some denomination, I refer to membership in the church promised, established and maintained by the last will and testament of Christ. With that in mind let’s see who was and who was not included in the church revealed in the New Testament. May I point you to Pentecost? Peter had stood up and preached to the multitude gathered, reminding them of the cruel deeds surrounding the crucifixion. He concluded this great sermon by suggesting that they concur with what had been preached proving that Jesus was the promised King and Messiah. “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made this same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36). By faith they were convinced and realizing the need for forgiveness inquired what they were required to do. “When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (V 37). The response to their question was quick and clear, “Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (V 38). They knew that repentance and baptism were necessary to obtain forgiveness. That being true they did not delay complying with Peter’s demand, because they “gladly received his word” therefore “were baptized.” The result being they were “added unto them” (V 41). The addition was performed by the Lord because they were saved. And what they were added to was the church, when they were saved. (V 47). When they were baptized they obtained “remission of sins or salvation by the Lord.” When they were baptized they obtained membership in “the church.” Remission of sins or salvation and membership in the church are not separate things, they equal the same thing and are obtained in the same way at the same time. Paul later confirmed this truth when writing to the Corinthians, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” (I Cor. 12:13). We cannot resist the conclusion—all who are saved are members of the church as the Lord adds the saved to the church.
- Christ saves only members of the church. The Apostle Paul wrote two epistles that explain the essence of the church—Ephesians and Colossians. In these he uses some synonyms that define the church showing our relationships to God, Christ, fellow Christians and the world around us. One of these that is quite an eye opener is the church being referred to as “the body of Christ.” While each Christian is a member of the body there is but one head Jesus Christ. This place or position was afforded Him by God the Father, who “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22-23). Then in the Colossian letter, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” (1:17-19). While the word “body” is used for the church in other epistles it is expressly stated in these. Therefore, when we read of the Body of Christ we can assuredly know he is speaking of the Church of Christ. With this before us notice these words, “Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Eph. 5:23). We can transpose the statement without altering the truth, “Christ is the head of the body: and he is the saviour of the church.” Jesus is the Savor of the church. Can you think of any other people given this promise? To avoid misrepresentation notice carefully I did NOT say, nor does the Apostle say, the church saves, rather I did say, and so says Paul, that Christ is the savoir of the body, the church. That being true do I want to be outside the church or do I want to be in-side the church? If I am not a member of the church that Christ is the head of do I have the promise of salvation? To ask is to answer, therefore the statement stands: Christ saves only members of the church of which He is the head. Furthermore, the twenty-fifth verse says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” What does he mean by “gave himself for it (the church)?” There was no doubt in the mind of these Ephesians because the writer when travelling through the country said to the elders over them, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Christ shed His blood to make the church His own, a horrible price to pay, the giving of His very life for the church. His blood was the price of redemption. Peter assures us of the same truth writing “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (I Pet. 1:18-19). Peter presents to his readers cause and effect. The cause is the blood of Christ, the effect is redemption. Redemption would not be possible were it not for the blood of Christ. Even supplying the precious things of earth will not and cannot provide it. Silver, gold and whatever else offered falls short. We all understand this. If a line was drawn and the redeemed were placed on one side and the lost on the other, that line is the blood of Christ. Redemption is precious and indispensable because the blood that makes it possible is precious and indispensable. To say that redemption is unnecessary is to say the blood of Christ that makes redemption possible is unnecessary. At the same time, Paul uses the same logic. The cause is the blood of Christ, the effect is membership in-side the church. The means of obtaining the benefit of Christ’s shed blood is becoming a member of the church. The church is precious and indispensable just as the blood that allows us membership in-side it is indispensable. To say that membership in the church is unnecessary is to say that the blood of Christ that made it possible is unnecessary. The statement stands: Christ saves only those who are members of the church that He purchased with His blood.
TURNING THE CHURCH IN-SIDE OUT
Many a young man has had a friend approach him inquiring about going on a “blind date.” The question eventually would come forth, “is she pretty?” The response might be, “Oh, she’s nice, really nice.” Well, that means that her beauty is not obvious, one must look into her soul to ascertain her true beauty, or she must be “turned in-side out.” This principle must often be followed in presenting the church to the world. The only conception of what the church is to be is thought of in denominational terms—terms that are not concerned with what is revealed in God’s word, but material and worldly concepts. Well the church comes up short if one is seeking that which is attractive in these ways. The New Testament church knows nothing of the things promoted by man-made churches. There are no gymnasiums, kitchens and dining halls, baseball diamonds, camp grounds, and appendages making up women’s auxiliary, men’s clubs or retreats for young people. When the church is turned in-side out her spiritual work is exposed and this and this alone is what we must show to the world around us. The church is a haven for the soul and physical and material consideration must be left to worldly enterprises and institutions.
Members of the church constantly invite non-members to gather with us when we worship God to observe that it is of the simplest in kind and nature. God has not constructed worship to appeal to the learned, wise and educated in the things of this world. Nor are the demands of worship made so that only the rich can pay tribute to God while excluding the poor. Worship that is pleasing to God takes into account men, women and adults and children of all nations, languages and race. God has demanded that we all worship Him, therefore it must be simple. As a visitor you will see that songs are selected that all can sing, those who have beautiful voices can blend together with those of us not so gifted. Preaching or teaching is done by men who have aptly prepared words of encouragement and exhortation and when necessary words of rebuke and correction. Since the word of God alone is preached these things come forth applicable to all present. A man on speaking terms with God (for He hearth not the prayer of sinners Jn. 9:31), leads the congregation as each heart wings its way to Heaven above. Then nonmembers of the church are asked to bear with us as we take a few brief minutes to commune together eating the Lord’s Supper. This is very important to each of us as we cast our mind back to the day Jesus offered Himself upon the cross for our sins—acts that we must be careful not to forget (I Cor 15:1-4). Once more your patience is indulged as each member of the church gives of our means as God has prospered us, funds that are used to assist the needy and to further the Gospel. No fanfare or appeals to the sensual nature of man is made. Each member takes great care that the things done by him are from a heart set on pleasing God without any regard for others and the means and manner of his worship. No member is neglected or over looked, as all are equally important. Friendliness prevails before and after worship.
IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF THE WORLD
Jesus taught His disciples this truth (Jn. 17:15-16). Physically members of the church are necessarily dependent upon the things of the world to exist and live physically, but the evil things of the world we want no part of. Members of the church conduct ourselves in such a fashion that non-members recognize that we are different. Oh, we are not different from any sincere person when it comes to being honest, speaking the truth, paying our debts, obeying the law, respecting those who rule over us and otherwise being a helpful neighbor and good citizen. But, we are different in the respect we give to the Bible, as we accept it as our sole guide in life. In respect to the church being the Kingdom of God on earth, therefore political affairs mean nothing to us. As difficult as it may be at times, we give honor to governmental officials (no matter in what country a Christian finds himself). Members of the church are not heard telling filthy stories or jokes, engaging in smutty language or carrying tales and gossiping about others. Your will notice that husbands and wives are committed to each other and respect the other for the work they do. The home is esteemed as the second greatest institution on earth, being second only to the church, each of which has been established by God. Members of the church instruct their children to be respectful of others especially those in authority—officers of the law and school officials. As members of the church we love other members and esteem them for the work they do in extending the borders of the Kingdom. We know that Satan can duplicate many things God asks of us, but one thing the Devil cannot counterfeit is love. We believe that we are reflectors of Christ when “allowing our light to shine giving the others the opportunity to see the goodness of our Savior,” (See. Mt 5:14-16). In this way the church is turned in-side out and can be seen to be the blessing to all as the Lord intended.
Barney Owens 1608
Love does not cause separation