Can a Good Man Be Saved Outside the Church?
by N. B. Hardeman
Excerpts from “The Church- Its Unity,” Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume 2
I regret that there is such a teaching abroad as this – for instance, that a man does not have to become a member of the church in order to be saved; that there are just as good people outside of the church as there are in it. Now, I do not believe either one of those statements, and I am sure there would be controversy on the part of someone just there. Your standard of goodness when thus speaking is different from the standard of goodness that I have in mind. A person may be a good man with reference to his first duty toward himself; he may be a good man with reference to his fellow men – his treatment and kindness toward them; but in God’s eyes, no one is accounted as a good man who has not done his duty to God as well as to himself and others. When I talk about a good man from God’s point of view, I mean a man that is not only good to himself, good to his neighbor, but is good to God Almighty, in that he has bowed in submission to His will; and when he so does, he thereby becomes a member of the church of the Bible and is saved by virtue of that relationship with the God of his being. Let us, therefore, be exceedingly thoughtful and careful and not make the impression upon our children and those around about that the church is a nonessential, unimportant, and worthless institution.
If one man can be saved on the outside as well as on the inside, then, of course, two men could also be saved; and if two men could also be saved independent of the church, of course, two thousand could; and if two thousand, why not two million; and if two million, why not the entire human family, and thus render the church absolutely useless? Why should Christ establish it, fill it with his Spirit and become the head of it, if the human family can be saved without it as well as with it? I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that just such casual, thoughtless remarks as are frequently made are responsible at this hour for the unconcernedness and the indifference on the part of the great masses of the people of their failure to appreciate the value as they should this institution so prominent upon the pages of New Testament story…
Now, I do not say, and do not mean, that the church does the saving; but I do suggest and positively state that Christ Jesus our Lord, is the Savior, but that the place of salvation is in the church of God and in the family of high heaven; and outside of that family, God’s church, or the fold, he has no children.
There are just two departments in life, two governments, to which I bow in obedience and yield myself. Either I am a servant tonight of His Satanic Majesty, I am under the dominion of the devil himself, or I am a child of God and a member of His family. I do not occupy the middle ground. I am on one side or the other; and if I am saved, I am a Christian, if I can read my title clear to mansions over there, it is evidence prima facia that I am a member of the body of Christ, the church of God, the family of the firstborn. If, on the other hand, I stand tonight with sins unforgiven, and consigned to the regions of infernal abode, it is evident that I am a member of the devil’s family.
So, then, every person ought to recognize just what the church of the Bible is and who compose it. In it are all the redeemed, all the saved, all those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The thing that I now want to emphasize is the fact of its unity and oneness. That very statement itself denies and opposes the idea of its being a denomination. I know it is as common as can be that whenever you talk with men and meet with people they speak about different denominations all over the city, all over this land and country of ours. But put it down friends, for further study and for earnest consideration, that when you are reading in the Bible about the church, never get it into your minds that you are reading about some denomination; for no man ever did or ever can read from the book of God a single, solitary statement or even a hint at anything that smacks of denominationalism. That thing is modern, recent, and unknown to the book of God as certain as in your midst I stand, and there lives not a man in the city of Nashville who can take God’s book and turn to a single, solitary passage therein and find anything that even looks like a distant relation of modern denominationalism.