Question:I have a friend that is a member of a denominational church. I am a member of Christ's church. We had a discussion about Christians. I told her that she is not a Christian because she has not been added to the Lord's one and only church of Christ. Do you have any Scriptures on this? She believes that there are Christians in ALL churches. How can I address this issue? Please help. Thanks!
The problem is terminology.
What does your friend mean by "Christian?"
Most people take a very broad view of what constitutes a Christian. This comes from decades of teachings by various denominations that all a person has to do to be a Christian is believe in Jesus. The problem is that you and I know that it isn't enough. "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!" (James 2:19). That is actually more than what most people who claim to believe in Jesus do -- they claim to believe, but they do not tremble.
Jesus stated that there were conditions to entering his kingdom, which is his church. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). So can a person claim to be a Christian if they aren't doing as Christ taught? "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14).
So when the Episcopalians claim that homosexuals can be members, priests, and bishops in their denomination, does that make them Christians? Or when a denomination says that two people living together but unmarried is acceptable in their churches, does that make them Christians? "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). I would hope that the answer is "no" because Jesus warned, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). A person cannot live in sin and be a Christian.
The majority of those calling themselves Christians have never entered into the covenant with Christ. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).
What I hope you are beginning to see is that there are actually far fewer real Christians than there are people claiming to be Christians. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
What does your friend mean by "church?"
Many churches claim to be a part of Christ's kingdom, but does the claim make this true? Jesus warned several of the churches in Asia that if they did not straighten up he was going to remove his recognition of them. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent" (Revelation 2:5).
So can a Christian attend a church which Christ doesn't recognize and still be faithful? "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (II John 9-11).
Churches are required to teach the doctrine of Christ. The greatest majority of those claiming to be churches don't teach what is taught in the Bible.
When you apply God's definition of a Christian, there probably aren't enough Christians to fill every denominational church. When you apply God's definition of a church, there aren't that many churches where a faithful child of God would want to attend or could attend and remain faithful to God.
If your friend wants to claim that there are Christians in all churches, then ask her:
- Do all churches teach the truth?
- Can a Christian attend a church that isn't teaching the truth and be a faithful Christian?
- Are all people who claim to be Christians truly Christians?
In essence you need to steer your friend back to letting Jesus decide who is a part of His kingdom, instead of using her own wishes and desires.