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First, we must consider what we mean by "the church." Surely a person can be saved outside the many man-made denominations. In fact, people in the Bible were always saved outside denominations, simply because denominations did not exist in the Bible! All denominations are human in origin and exist by human authority (read Matthew 15:9).
But although New Testament Christians were not members of any man-made denomination, yet they were members of the church that belonged to Jesus. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus promised He would build His church -- not many different churches, but just one church. What about that church? Can a person be saved outside that church?
We know that Jesus is the Savior, and that we can be saved from sin only through Jesus´ blood. But Acts 20:28 says that Jesus purchased the church with His blood. Who is it that is purchased by Jesus´ blood? The church! Ephesians 5:25 says that Jesus gave Himself for the church, and verse 23 says that He is the savior of the body (which is the church according to Ephesians 1:22,23). Who is it that Jesus gave Himself for? The church! Who is it that He will save? The church!
Yes, you can and should be saved without being a member of any man-made denomination. But if salvation comes only through Jesus´ blood, and if He shed His blood to purchase His church, and if He gave Himself to save His church, then how can you be saved outside that church? Christ is the Savior, but those whom He saves are in the church.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 12/2008
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.