The Lord built what he promised he would build (Matt. 16:18). In English we call it a church. It is not made of bricks or wood, but of living stones, of redeemed people (1 Peter 2:5).
The old saying, “You can’t join the church, the Lord adds you to it,” is true and needs to be repeated often. It is reduced to a meaningless quibble, however, when some say, “You should become a member of the church to be where salvation is.” There is no definable distinction between setting out to join something and setting out to become a member of something.
We are not to seek to a church and join it to be saved. We are to seek the Lord (or yield to being sought by him), and he redeems us. When we are added to the number of the redeemed, we are added to the church. The saved are the church. The difference is more than semantics. There are not forty-two different reasons why I am a member of the church of Christ. I am not a member of it because it teaches this or practices that. I am a member of it because, when Jesus saved me, he added me to it.
There are many religious denominations. From the standpoint of an outsider, the church of the Lord may appear to be one of them. The Lord’s church, however, is not one among many. Like Jesus as Son of God, the church is one-of-a-kind, unique.
The church is God’s family. Every child of God is a part of it. It is the kingdom of God on earth, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. God saves, and God adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:41, 47). God delivers from the power of darkness, and God translates those he delivers into the kingdom of the Son of his love (Col. 1:13). He makes no mistakes. Everyone whom God has saved has been added to the church, and they, and only they, are the church.
If we narrowly define the church to include only those we know about, or only those who came in contact with Christ through someone we know, or if we broaden it so as to include those who have never been born into God’s family, we denominationalize it. When we talk about “Church of Christ doctrine,” “Church of Christ preachers,” “Church of Christ schools,” or even, God forbid, but as I have heard, “the Church of Christ Church,” we hide from those, who hear our speech, the biblical truth of what the church is.
The church is not the ark of safety. Christ is, but the church is IN the ark of safety. The church does not save us; Christ does, but Christ saves the church. “He is the savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23)
Cecil May – reprinted from 7/ 3/98 Oracle