Is there salvation apart from The Church?
Many people like to claim they are “saved”. Often times they ask others if THEY are “saved”.
I think it is at least worth the examination following my article HERE. With the organism of the Church, being historically traceable to the Apostles in the first century, many people who are hung up on their “organization” or mine, they will respond with offense. “You’re saying unless I’m in your “organization” I’m not “saved”. This really isn’t the conclusion to be made so let’s look at Salvation.
Salvation from what?
What are we “saved” from? Is there a simple answer to this question? Is there a universal answer to this question. Let’s look first at the Scriptures for an answer.
In Luke 7 when Jesus was visiting the house and table of a Pharisee, a woman who was known as a prostitute, judging from the context, came in and crying tears of repentance bathed the Lord’s feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. She kissed his feet in love as she cried tears of repentance. He declared that her sins, that were many, were forgiven. Jesus also told her that her faith had saved her.
In Acts chapters 10 and 11 is the story of Cornelius who was known as a devout man, who prayed to God and gave alms to the people. He was told to send for St. Peter, was told where to find him, and was told that Peter would tell him what he needed to know. Peter was going to tell him how to receive remission of sins.
In Acts chapter 16 when Paul and Silas were beaten and put in prison, an earthquake caused all the jail doors to be opened. The Jailer, fearing punishment almost committed suicide until Paul called out to him to reassure him that everyone was still in their cell. The jailer asked them,“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30 NKJV.
Each of these times, the response was to tell the listeners about Jesus, the good news about Jesus resurrection and forgiveness or remission of sins with believing and baptism.
On the Day of Pentecost 33ad, when Peter was preaching, those listeners that were devout were affected to the point that they also inquired about what THEY must do. Peter was clear, believe and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Church, founded on the testimony of the Apostles, built by Jesus,the same Church that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against, has been the primary place where this Salvation can be found. We enter the journey toward salvation there, not that we have obtained it or can presume to “be saved” but we begin with belief and baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, making us part of the Body of Christ, builds us up. Our goal is to become like Christ, what we call Theosis. We grow, mature, learn, experience God in our lives and in our worship.
Salvation is the end result of this life. We certainly are not saved from the weakness of our humanity, we are still human. We are not saved from ever sinning again because we still sin and need forgiveness. It’s part of our growth to learn how to avoid sin and we do get better but as long as we are here, we are not complete. So we have not obtained salvation and we still have the option to turn and walk away.
The main question above, is there Salvation apart from the Church? I cannot say for certain, I do know that within the Church, all that is necessary for salvation ultimately is provided. Will everyone in the Church be saved in the end? It is clear that not everyone will be simply because not everyone is truly growing. There are people that come into the Church and subsequently leave the Church. There are those who are raised in the Church and in a lifetime never learn or commit themselves to the goal of becoming like Christ. Some people seem to be trusting the fact that they were raised in the Church and think that no matter how selfish, or sinful they are, they are safe. So then, while everything necessary for salvation is available in the Church, not everyone in the Church will be saved in the end.
Take the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise, five were foolish. The wise virgins had abundant supplies of oil for their lamps, while the foolish virgins did not. The Fathers taught us that the oil was symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. Those with plenty, we’re living in such a way as to be continuously supplied, filled up with the Holy Spirit. Those who were foolish were not. When the Bridegroom arrived, those without oil tried to rush out and acquire oil. Those with plenty of oil were welcomed into the marriage and the doors were closed. Some will “make it” while others will be excluded.
God is sovereign over all, and to try to presume who will be saved and who will not is just as sinful. I cannot say at any moment that “I know that I will be saved” anymore than I can say another will not be saved. It’s up to God. I cannot say that someone cannot be saved if they are in that other group, or this other group over here, all I CAN say is that everything necessary for our ultimate salvation is provided in the Church.
The idea of salvation being acquired at a specific instance, through the recitation of a prayer, the declaration of repentance, a profession of faith is an idea that was born out of the reformation. The Church did not teach that from the beginning. Today we see it in evangelistic services, there’s an altar call, an invitation of sorts, and people are guided in what they should do according to whatever religious group is conducting the meeting. This ultimately requires the religious person to lead the new converts in a prayer with certain elements, recognizing the convert is a sinner, being sorry, apologetic, repenting (changing direction) and choosing not to sin, and the new convert is declared “saved” or they’re told they are able to claim that.
People will look at that date as when they were “saved” and are told that never changes. Often the “new” wears off, the excitement dies down, the person goes back to their life and nothing really changes. Their life does not become like Christ, the sins of their life stay with them, so nothing is seen or heard from them again. They might go to church infrequently, Christmas, Easter etc. but in reality nothing ever changed.
So CAN someone be saved in the end that was not part of the Church, that ancient, original Church? I believe that is up to God and He will save those who HE judges and decides are worthy. I cannot presume to claim that no one OUTSIDE the Church will not be saved.
Will everyone INSIDE the Church be saved? Clearly that would also be a presumption that I cannot make. There are those who, while they are sitting at the Lord’s table never eat and starve to death.
Because there is no guarantee, many will use this as an excuse to say, “I will stay in my religion because no one can say that God CANNOT save me here.” This is flawed thinking since the light has shown to the Church. It is God’s plan that men come to the knowledge of the truth and are saved. The Church has the truth, spoken by Jesus, taught by the Apostles, passed down through an unbroken succession of the bishops from the first century to the modern day. To ignore the truth and continue in the same religion, while everyone has the right to do that, it opens us up to the results, the consequences of ignoring this great truth.
Is there salvation apart from The Church?