"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold
all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17).
The word if always introduces a conditional sentence and always implies a condition or contingency in which one thing is made to depend on another. In the above verse, being a new creature is made to depend on being in Christ, showing that no one out of Christ is a new creature, that old things do not pass away, and that all things do not become new until one is in Christ.
"But," it will be asked, "is being in Christ necessary to salvation?" Let us see. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1). This verse shows that in order to be free from condemnation, one must be in Christ.
Again, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7). And again, "Giving thanks to the Father which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:12-14). From these passages we learn that remission of sins is found in Christ, and that therefore no remission is found out of Christ.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3). From this we learn that all spiritual blessings are enjoyed only in Christ and that none of them can be enjoyed out of Christ.
"Ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7). In order that prayer be heard and answered, one must enter into Christ and abide there. Therefore, the prayers of those who remain out of Christ will not be heard and answered. Furthermore, in order to be prepared for death, one must be in Christ, and live there. "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13).
Still further, in order to have a happy resurrection, one must be of the dead that are in Christ. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thess. 4:16).
From what has been presented, we learn the following:
But what does the phrase "in Christ" mean? That it is a figurative expression I think is clear, and does not mean literally in the person of Christ. But that it means some near and intimate relationship to him, I think is also clear.
The spirit of man is spoken of as being in him i.e., in his body. "For what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him?" (1 Cor. 2:11). And if there is anything in the scriptures that is called the body of Christ, and in which his Spirit or the Spirit of God dwells, then to be in that body is to be in Christ. Is there anything that is called the body of Christ? If so, what is it?
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22). "And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead." (Col. 1:18). "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1:24). Here we have three plain declarations that the church is the body of Christ.
In writing to the Corinthians, Paul says they are the church of God, (1 Cor. 1:2), and in the latter says to them, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Cor. 12:27). These passages settle the question that the church is the body of Christ and to be in the church is to be in Christ. But does the Spirit dwell in the church? "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16). Here he calls the church the temple of God and says the Spirit dwells in it. Hence, to be in Christ is to be in the kingdom of God, is to be in the kingdom of his dear Son, is to be in the church of God, in the temple of God, in the body of Christ.
But some man will doubtless ask, "Does this not attach too much importance to membership in the church? I have heard great and good men say it is not absolutely necessary for a person to be in the church in order to be saved, but that they can be saved out of the church as well as in it."
I have heard all this too, but not from inspired men. It may be true that salvation is not in those organizations called churches which uninspired men have gotten up. But inspired men have clearly taught that salvation is in the church of God, and nowhere else. And as it is true that salvation is in Christ, and in none else, it is important that we know how persons get into Christ.
We find that sinful men and women are represented in the word of the Lord as being away from him in some sense, and the Lord so represents them when he says, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matt. 11:28).
So they are invited by the Saviour to come unto him and take his yoke, that is, his government; and he promises that they shall find rest unto their souls. But how do they come to him and how do they take his government upon them, which is the same as to enter into Christ? In order to learn this, we must learn what Christ requires sinners to do that they may be saved.
After Christ rose from the dead, he commanded his disciples to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16). Here are two things the Saviour requires in order to salvation. When any number of conditions are expressed as necessary to salvation, the sinner cannot be saved with any less number than is there expressed. So the sinner cannot be saved without faith or baptism. We may find authority to add other conditions to these, but none to take either of these away.
Does the Saviour require anything else of the sinner? If so, what is it? He said "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47). As the Saviour required this, we have the right to add it to the number, and then we have three faith, repentance and baptism.
But are there any others, and if so, what are they? "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32). Here sinners are required to confess the Saviour as God's Son and, therefore, we must add that to the number.
Now we have faith, repentance, confession and baptism. We now ask, are there any others? If so, what are they and where are they to be found? I confess, I have not been able to find any others. But I am aware that the preachers around me many of them at least will say, "Sir, you have at least one non-essential in the number, and we think you ought to take that out, and put an essential in its place." Well, which is the "non-essential?" The answer comes from many voices, "Baptism is the non-essential." What then will you have me put in its place? And all those preachers answer with one voice, "Prayer." But I have been calling on these preachers for 40 years to show the place in the word of the Lord where Christ, or any of the apostles, ever required prayer of an alien sinner as a condition of pardon, and to this time they have failed to do it. And I conclude, they cannot.
And so, I will let the conditions remain as I have them. If a sinner complies with all these, they will bring him into Christ where salvation is.