The Body of Christ is a worldwide living organism, not a local church or a sole denomination. The term body of Christ and the Church is, in essence, the same thing.
The Apostle Paul 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 early Church, it was essential to clarify clear Biblical doctrines concerning salvation and how one received it. Early Church leaders for the most part correctly stated that only those in the body of Christ would be saved, i.e., outside of Jesus Christ, there was no salvation.
Pointlessly and devastatingly, however, the church of Rome had up until recently twisted this to enforce mass conversions into their own church system resulting in millions being tortured and even murdered for refusing to conform! Only since the time of Muhammad’s arrival and subsequent spread of his ‘gospel’ in Islamic countries can one see an equivalent!
Today’s Catholic church has gone from one deadly extreme to another by now teaching how all those of ‘goodwill’ can be saved regardless of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! They started off as the church of Constantine and have now ended as the church of communism. Far-right wing fanatics to far-left wing fanatics.
The Bible says however that only sinners that are born again by their own free will and love for the Saviour have been placed into the one true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ forever. The church of Rome is basically a counterfeit church. And only believing adults are the ones regenerated not infants or children below the age of accountability (see John 1:11-13).
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 wonderful words of comfort declare that only those that are safe and sound in the Saviour 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 local churches or assemblies of believers but not in the body of Christ until the end of time when Jesus separates them. The wheat for Heaven, the tares for Hell.
Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, anti-Trinitarians and oneness heretics and all other false religions and sects make the blasphemous 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 anyone and everyone who has received Him ALONE for their salvation. He is a cross-denominational boundary Saviour if you will. Hence it is impossible and nonsensical therefore for any one particular group or organisation to take it upon themselves to restrict salvation to their members only.
The Canon of Scripture
The early Church/Body of Christ some two hundred years before any church council had been called into session quoted the New Testament over 87,000 times.
(Although not all of the leaders listed below would be considered completely reliable and orthodox in all areas of doctrine and faith, together there were at least united in honouring and defending the words of the living God).
Athanasius of Alexandria would list all 27 NT books in his pastoral letter and Gregory of Nazianzen listed 26 of them, except Revelation (H.S Miller, General Biblical Introduction, 1937, p. 191).
Polycarp quoted Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, and ten Pauline epistles.
Clement quoted Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, six Pauline epistles and Revelation.
Irenaeus quoted all four Gospels, Acts, five Pauline epistles, I Peter, I John, Hebrews, Jude, James and Revelation.
From the above church leaders along with Tertullian (excluding Athanaisaus who wrote in the third century), we find all 27 New Testament books cited and circulated before 200 AD. Plus we have Latin and Syriac versions of the New Testament widely used and circulated from 150-180 AD up until the dark ages. Therefore we have a COMPLETE New Testament in circulation some two hundred years BEFORE any council or conference of people met to officially ratify this (Miller, p. 133).
It must also be stated that by the second century AD the early Church had methodically and miraculously copied by hand over 25,000 copies of the word of God during times of extreme persecution whether on land or at sea. In prison or out. In other words, the true Church has ALWAYS had access to the Bible for edifying and evangelising. For soul winning and for solace. But sadly, however, Satan has also been very successful in counterfeiting the true Bible (Textus Receptus, meaning Received Text which later became known at the Authorised Version) with his ‘bible’ known as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. Put simply, all non-King James Bibles have been translated using the above corrupt Catholic manuscripts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus). Even the New World Translation that the JWs use has come from the same contaminated family of Greek manuscripts!
Some early Church leaders interpreted John 6 “eating His flesh” and “drinking His blood” as literal interpretations but this should in no way be considered sound or consistent thinking. The Bible states on many occasions how godly men erred so one can be forgiven for comparing some of these same brethren with Biblical saints. And just because they erred, should not cause other believers to make the same mistake too. Yet sadly many parts of apostate Christendom have perpetuated this error and as a result, turned such into an idol – the idol of the Eucharist!
“Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment” (Job 32:9).
It should also be stated that the first generation of Church leaders especially pre-Constantine cannot be held responsible for today’s Roman Catholic Church, and nor is today’s Roman Catholic Church custodians to the first generation of Church leaders. Those that lived before Constantine and Augustine specifically, are very different from those leaders that proceeded them.
The Body of Christ is quite capable of living in different regions and in different ways with different doctrinal views (called secondary issues) without having to be sneered upon or castigated. There has always been a rich 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, to begin with of course.
It is only by faith alone in the Son of God’s blood alone that sinners will ever be saved. What does more damage to the body of Christ is when those of a different persuasion and ideology try and steal God’s glory away from Him by enslaving ignorant and vulnerable souls into their system and subsequently keeping them there indefinitely! When such people eventually find their way out, anathemas/curses and shunning are inflicted upon them.
Those that do the most damage are condemned by Christ in the book of Revelation. They are the Nicolaitans and because they are unable to reproduce in a spiritual sense, meaning get unsaved people saved, so they have to recruit. The same thing is true of the LGBT but in a physical sense.
But for those that have the Saviour as their Sin-Bearer and the Scripture as their shield the word of God promises such are “MORE than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).