There are many fine people in today's world. They are good citizens, good neighbors and morally quite decent. Many of them pray and accept that the Bible is a book from God. They consider themselves "believers" and expect to go to Heaven someday. But for whatever reason church just isn't a part of their lives. After all, you don't have to go to church to be a Christian and get to Heaven. Or do you?
The Divine Beginnings of The Church
While Christ was alive on earth, He was preparing to "build His church" - Matthew 16:18b. But on the Jewish day of Pentecost following His resurrection, those who were saved were "being added" to "their number" (NIV, NASB) which was His Church - Acts 2:41, 47. As a matter of fact, the KJV & NKJV say (in verse 47) that they were added to "the church" (Gk. ekklesia). Notice that they were saved and added to the church at the exact same time.
Can Anyone Be Saved Apart From The Lord?
Of course not! But what does this have to do with the question, "Can people can be saved without the church?" Acts 5:14 tells us that the new believers were added to "the Lord" (KJV, NKJV). The Gk. in this place is "koo'-ree-os" (properly translated "Lord").
But in what sense are believers added "to the Lord" when saved? When saved they are added to Him, that is, to His body, the church - Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:24.
Christ was punished for our sins at the cross - punished in His body. If anyone is in Christ's body – the church is His spiritual body – the punishment Christ received in His body counts as their punishment.
A second way of looking at this is to recognize that there is life in the Lord - that is, in His body. The Life that is in the Lord becomes ours when we are in His body, the church. But no part of the body can continue to have life if separated from the body. For example, if a hand or a foot is cut off from the body, the body survives. The part that is cut off does not survive.
Those who are saved have been added to the church, to the Lord, to His body. This was done for us by God when we were saved. There is no life outside of the body, outside of Christ's church. If we desire the life that is found only in Christ, we must remain in His body where God placed us.
Can We Be Saved Apart From Christ's Protection
When Jesus announced that He would build His church, He also announced that "the gates of Hades would not prevail against it" - Matthew 16:18b.
"The gates of Hades" is a figure of speech rich with meaning. Theologians have discussed the subtleties of this phrase for centuries. But one thing that all are agreed on is that Jesus used this expression to represent powerful forces of evil - forces bent on the overthrow of men's immortal souls, forces that no man has the ability to stand against on his own.
Thankfully, we have the assurance that Christ's church provides a place of divine protection against those powerful forces of evil. The Lord's church is a safe refuge for those who are within it. But those who remain outside of the church's protective walls remain in danger. No one can be saved outside the protective fortress of Christ's church.
Can We Be Saved Apart From Christ's Blood?
The New Testament plainly shows that our salvation is connected with Christ's blood. His blood brings us atonement (Romans 3:25), justification (Romans 5:9), redemption (Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Ephesians 2:13) and cleansing (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5). Each of these biblical words has a specific meaning but all of them together are involved in our salvation - and all of them depend on Christ's blood.
In a general sense, Christ gave his blood for all mankind. But not everyone will be saved. The Bible says that many will not (Matthew 7:13-14).
The salvation that Jesus bought for us with His blood is available to everyone. But to whom is it applied? Acts 20:28 states plainly that Jesus purchased the church with His own blood. A very similar thought is seen in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul writes that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Is Anyone Saved Without Their Name Recorded In The Lamb's Book Of Life?
The scriptures are very clear on this. At the final judgment, anyone whose name is not found there is cast into the lake of fire - Revelation 20:15. Likewise, to be admitted to the Eternal City of God our names must be written there in the Lamb's book - Revelation 21:27.
When are men's names written there? Their names are written there - added to that book - in the instant of salvation - at the time they are saved, added to "the church" (Acts 2:47) added to "the Lord"(Acts 5;14)
Everyone knows this. I actually grew up in a church that had its membership role prominently displayed in the vestibule of the church. At the top of the page, in an ornate, old-English style script were the words, "The Lamb's Book of Life".
The true "Lamb's book of Life" is in Heaven, of course. The names written on it are the names of the saved. The Lamb's Book of Life is God's divinely kept "church membership role"; heaven's own "membership role" for the Lord's church.
But this "Book of Life" is continually updated. Names of the newly saved are added to the Lamb's book but other names can be blotted out - Revelation 3:5. Our own names were written there when saved & added to Christ's church. Can our names remain there if we forsake Christ's church? Any doubts about this question are removed by Hebrews 10:23-27.
Can We Be Saved Apart From Christ's Church?
Clearly, according to the biblical ideas outlined above, the answer is no. If you believe in Christ and want to go to Heaven someday, you need to be a part of His church. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.