“The church is one of those things that we can ‘take it or leave it.’ Right? As long as I read the Bible, live a life in tune with God’s will, do good unto others, keep myself unspotted from worldly things, and serve my fellow man, does it really matter if I am a part of the church or not?” Sometimes that is the sentiment expressed by individuals who do not believe that the church is an essential part of God’s plan for man’s eternal promise of heaven.
In the previous article, we noted the eternal significance and infinite value that God Himself has placed on His church. But we posed the question— “Does the church have anything to do with me going to heaven?” We discovered that Scripture teaches that one must be in the Lord’s church in order to be “saved” and go to heaven. Salvation and the church are inseparable, and they are equally essential for the obtaining of eternal life. In this article, let us take our study a step further.
Let us answer the question about the essentiality of the church for eternal life by asking another question: Does being “sanctified” have anything to do with me going to heaven? Do I have to be “sanctified” in order to go to heaven?
The Scripture teaches plainly that the “inheritance” of eternal reward is only for “those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; 26:18). In fact, those who have not been “sanctified” will “not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). One who has been sanctified is one who has been “set apart”—set apart “from” the world (2 Cor. 6:17) and set apart “unto” God (Heb. 9:14). Only the sanctified will inherit the joys of heaven! What does that have to do with the church?
The Scripture teaches plainly that the sanctified are in the church, and only those in the church are sanctified. Consider the depth and clarity of 1 Corinthians 1:2. “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1) The “church” is composed of “those who are sanctified.” (2) The “sanctified” are “in Christ,” in His body. (3) Those in the church are “saints,” from the same root as “sanctification.” (4) Those who “call on the name of Jesus Christ” are those who have been baptized “into the one body” (church) of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and have thereby been “sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11). It is impossible to be sanctified and to not be in the Lord’s church! God sanctifies His sanctified saints in His church!
One cannot go to heaven without being sanctified. One cannot be sanctified without being in the Lord’s church. Therefore, one cannot go to heaven without being in His church.