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Doing the First Works: Right Pew, Wrong Church?

I knew a wonderful Christian once upon a time who had a saying I have never forgotten. He would say it pensively and reflectively when referring to good, decent people he knew, some of them relatives, who were not Christians and who attended some denominational church. Quite sadly, he would declare: “They are in the right pew, but the wrong church!”

What he meant by this was that they had the right habit of going to worship each Lord’s Day and were good in their day to day behavior, not wicked and worldly in their ways, and believed basic tenets of the Bible, yet would not leave denominationalism for the truth of Jesus Christ and His church. How many of us have woefully considered the loss of such good people. Because we are saddened and concerned for lost souls and recognize the great value of the soul we may begin to fantasize a bit how they yet may be saved.

No doubt, we have been impressed in our own study of the scriptures with the concept of the great worth of the soul. Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” It is not unusual at all for us to adopt the same strong wish that the Lord Himself has expressed: 2Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Beloved, my question is this: Have you constructed deep in your secret heart some false, hopeful view that maybe, just maybe, no matter what the scriptures teach, these might can be saved without ever obeying the gospel of Christ? We must realize that wishing it so does not make it so. If God entertains such thoughts, He has never in the scriptures revealed them to man.

Here is what we know to be absolutely the truth…

The Bible plainly teaches, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). What is the church? In Colossians 1:24 Paul said, “for his body’s sake, which is the church.” He is over the process and has stated how it will be achieved. “There is one body” (Ephesians 4:4) and that body is Christ who “is the savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The only conclusion that can be drawn necessarily is that one must be in the Lord’s church to be saved. This means that anyone not in the Lord’s body will be lost and only those in His body can be saved.

Therefore, resolve in your mind any conflicts you may have entertained and allow God’s will to reign in your heart…

Is it possible that some of the agony that Christ was in as he prayed that last night before His crucifixion that some of these thoughts were in His own mind? He gave His life in obedience to the will of the Father so that mankind might be saved. He lovingly submitted to the Father’s will to accomplish this great benefit to man. Matthew 26:42, “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”

With such an example as that of Christ Himself, we need to acknowledge, that this is an absolute truth that is not to be achieved by any of our own second guessing or humanizing. Souls cannot be saved by our peddling false notions to the lost that soften the nature of truth in its godly purity.

Our era, which many refer to as the Post-Modern Age, strongly tends to destroy the truth of God’s word with subjectivism in every aspect of our lives. In our time, when anyone states a truth, instantly someone will say, “Who are you to judge?” We are now used to this undermining and this spreading miasma of pathetic secular humanism. How can believers simply parrot what the world with great evil repeats over and over till all numbly say and practice such impotent drivel? (Recall that scripture has already introduced this false notion for us to see clearly in all it’s sophistry in Pontius Pilate’s question: “what is truth?” John 18:38.)

With the knowledge of what our souls have cost to redeem, how can we so unwisely take away the greatness of what has been purchased to save our souls from eternal damnation with our desire to somehow “fix” the doctrine of Christ for salvation with our own weakness and any false notions of a tolerance for sinfulness? No matter the age we live in: 2Timothy 4:2. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”