Christ - Yes; The Church - No?
Most of us have heard the expression that is the title of this article. Those of us who preach and/or write have been quick to point out that the very idea is ridiculous from a Biblical standpoint, for when one accepts Christ properly in response to his gracious offer of salvation, one is automatically a part of the church. Sadly enough, most of our speaking and writing is heard or read only by those who already know that. It is probable that we have failed to properly appreciate some very important points.
First, those who use the expression, "Christ-yes; the church-no" do not mean by the expression what we mean. To them the church is merely a denomination that they have been taught has nothing to do with salvation (which is true with respect to the church with which they are acquainted) and mostly deals with empty rituals that have very little relationship to the problems of this life or the hope of the next. If we consider the expression from their viewpoint, instead of arguing with them and showing how wrong they are, we should agree with them -- that is the churches about which they are speaking are not related to Christ. Then we may be able to show them the difference between the Biblical concept of the church and what theirs has been.
Another problem arises, of which very few of us seem to be aware. When we are confronted with such a situation as described above, we launch into a discussion that relates to the greatness of the church, the glory of the church, the necessity of the church, the organization of the church, the work of the church, how to get membership in the church, and other such topics. We do not seem to be aware that one may learn all the rituals and doctrines about the church -- even the Lord's church -- without ever having Christ presented to them in such a fashion that they are constrained to love and obey him. 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." Let us examine an ordinary discussion and see if the point can be seen more clearly.
We are studying with a person who is willing to accept the Bible as his authority for his religious activity. We point out to him that Paul says in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." He readily admits it, and knows that he is lost. We rapidly turn to Acts 2:38 and show him that when lost persons wanted to know what to do, they were told, "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." They hear that, and are glad, and immediately ask, "Can I be baptized right now?" We rejoice and baptize them. How many times have you done this, or seen it done? But where in the story has the person really been made aware of the love of Christ, or learned the gospel message in such a fashion that he feels constrained to fall on his knees and say, "Thank you, God, for your gracious love! I want to commit my life to you, now and forever?" We may have explained to him that salvation is in Christ (Acts 4:12) and the way the Bible says to get into Christ is to be baptized into him (Rom. 6:3-4 and Gal. 3:27). We assume that knowing those facts will cause him to love the Lord, but it is not necessarily so. Paul gives a glimpse of what we are trying to impress upon you when he said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." The awareness and deep appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf is the thing that creates love for him, not simply an understanding that we need to be baptized in order to be saved.
Do you have any idea why many members of the Lord's church does not come for Bible study on Sunday morning, and does not come back on Wednesday night? Can you guess why the average member gives less than 5% of his income to advance the cause of Christ? Have you ever wondered why less than 5% of the average membership of the church are involved in any personal way with leading a person to Christ? One of the answers is that many have been converted to a plan of salvation, a safe church, a system of doctrine, a friendly loving fellowship, or any number of other things, but not moved to surrender their lives to the Lord because their love for Christ impelled them to do it. They, like the Samaritans of 2 Kings 17:26, know the "manner (or rituals) of the god of the land," but have not been so taught that the love of Christ impels them to do what they do.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive