The body of Christ is a living worldwide organism, not a local church. The term body of Christ and Church are the same thing.
Paul the Apostle, said the following:
“For as the body is ONE, and hath MANY members, and ALL the members of that ONE body, being many, are ONE body; so also is Christ. For by ONE Spirit are we ALL baptised into ONE body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been ALL made to drink into ONE Spirit. For the body is not ONE member, but MANY” (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
Throughout the history of the Church, it was needful to re-affirm clear Biblical doctrines concerning salvation and how one received it. The early Church leaders correctly stated that only those in the body of Christ would be saved, i.e., outside of Jesus Christ, there was no salvation.
The Bible says that only sinners that are born again have been placed into the Church of Jesus Christ.
In Romans 8:9, we read:
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
These words declare that only those that are saved have the Holy Spirit residing in them, can also be cross-referenced to Matthew 13:24-31, where Jesus speaks about the wheat (saved people) and the tares (unsaved people) living side-by-side in all local churches, not the body of Christ.
Catholics, Mormons and other false religions make a major blunder, when they try and force on people, that salvation is wholly exclusive to only one religious institution, i.e., theirs! Jesus Christ is Saviour for cross-denominational boundaries. Hence it is impossible for any one group or organisation to restrict salvation to their members only.
The canon of Scripture
The body of Christ, some two hundred years before any church council had been called into session, quoted the New Testament, 87,000 times.
Athanasius lists all 27 NT books in his pastoral letter, and Gregory of Nazianzen lists 26 of them, save Revelation (Rev. H. S Miller, General Biblical Introduction, 1937, p. 191).
Polycarp quotes Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, and ten Pauline epistles.
Clement quotes Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and six Pauline epistles and Revelation.
Irenaeus quotes all four Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, I Peter, I John, Hebrews, Jude, James, and Revelation.
From the above church leaders and Tertullian, we find all 27 New Testament books cited and revered before 200 AD. Plus we have Latin and Syriac versions being used (150-180 AD). Therefore we have a COMPLETE New Testament in circulation, some two hundred years BEFORE any council met to officially ratify this (Miller, p. 133).
Some early Church leaders interpreted John 6 “eating of His flesh” and “drinking of His blood” as literal interpretations, but this should in no way be considered sound or logical thinking. The Bible states on many occasions how good Godly men erred, so one can be forgiven for comparing some of these same brethren with Biblical saints. However just because they erred, should not cause other believers to make the same mistakes too. Yet sadly man parts of Christendom have perpetuated this error.
“Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment” (Job 32:9).
It must also be stated that the first generation of Church leaders, were not the sole custodians of today’s Roman Catholic Church. Those that lived before Constantine and Augustine, were quite different to some of those leaders that preceded them.
Whether it is the eastern church or the western church, the body of Christ is quite capable of living in different areas and in different ways, with different doctrinal views, without having to be sneered upon or castigated. There has always been diversity in each local assembly, yet they are still in the one body and Church of the Lord Jesus Christ if they have truly been born again.
It is only by faith alone in the Son of God’s blood atonement that sinners will ever be saved. What does more damage to the body of Christ is when those of a different persuasion try and steal God’s glory, by enslaving ignorant and unlearned people into their system, and subsequently keeping them there indefinitely. When such people eventually find their way out, anathemas/curses are issued on them.
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