By Olen Holderby
The above title suggests, and correctly so, that this writer does not believe that one can be saved in the denominations. As I go about from place to place, I am made to wonder just how many members of the Lord’s body believe this. All sorts of reservations and “maybes” are heard in regard to this question and the fallacious reasoning used says to me that there is a lack of understanding of the gospel. This is true, or there is an awful lot of disrespect for the gospel.
My reasons for believing this are no different than those of many others who believe the same thing; so, I wish to share with you three or four reasons why I believe this to be true that one cannot be saved in the denominations, not in any of them!
The first reason is, as most will admit, that denominations were begun by men, not the Lord. Did the Lord accurately state the case when he said, “I will build my church”? (Matt. 16:18). If he did, that 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 walketh 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 leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). “There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy…. (Jas. 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 a broad way. This is one reason why I believe that one cannot be saved in the denominations.
Secondly, the denominations teach a perverted gospel; and, 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 believeth; 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.
Please read Galatians 1:6-7. 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.” Please notice his use of the word “another” in vv. 6 -7 both. “. . .unto another gospel (of a different sort, Oh): which is not another (of the same sort as I preach, Oh).” 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.
Thirdly, the Lord established only one church (Matt. 16:18); he purchased that church with his own blood (Acts 20:28); 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. If the facts presented in this paragraph are true, how in the world can anyone argue for salvation in any denomination?
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.
A Brief Application
Let us, now, apply these thoughts to our brethren in error. Congregation A, over here, teaches and practices that the church can contribute to human institutions. Congregation B, though they do not practice such, believe and teach that the use of instruments of music in worship is accept-able to God. Congregation C pushes the idea of “unity-in-diversity.” Congregation D is very active in sponsoring social activities. Congregation E teaches that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for man today. Congregation F believes and teaches that the guilty party in a divorce can remarry with-out sin, and accept members who openly practice such. Congregation G believes and teaches that all these congregations should be in fellowship with one another. And, several of these congregations believe, teach, and practice a kind of cooperation that combines some of their efforts under the head of a “sponsoring congregation.”
Now, my friends, think about this! Think about all the perversion that must occur in the effort to defend all of these erroneous practices. Do such have a perverted gospel or not? Is not this the way that denominations came into existence in the first place? All students of history know that the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
I hear some one say, “I wouldn’t be a part of a denomination.” Great! Neither would I. But, would you be a part of one of these congregation which you know to be in error in one or more of the ways mentioned above? If it is wrong to be a part of a denomination, what makes it right to be a part of a congregation of our own people who are in error? What set of rules do we follow to exclude one and include the other?
Yes, my friend, it is true that we cannot be saved in any of the denominations; and, it is equally true that one cannot be saved in a congregation of God’s people who persist in error. If we cannot convince them to change their teaching and practice, we need to get out. If this is not the proper conclusion, please get your Bible and show me why. Do not permit anyone to take your crown (Rev. 3:11).