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Bible Comment: saved in a bad church

Saved in a bad church—

Remember Gaius?
The church in his town was bad

Are there really saved people in bad churches? Disturbing thought! Disturbing or not, we must face facts –whatever they are —even if they trouble cherished ideas.

Consider a church shamed by worship turned into a gluttonous feast; a church torn by factions, accepting a fornicator, divided by lawsuits against one another. Heresies trouble this church — some even deny there is a bodily resurrection. Sounds bad, right? It was bad! —at Corinth. Read First Corinthians. Yet the saved in Corinth were in that church! There was Apollos(Act.19:1), the household of Stephanas who “devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1Cor.16:15), along with Erastus, Paul’s helper (1Tim.4:19) –and Fortunatus and Achaicus, messengers commended by Paul (1Cor.16:17,18).

Surely there were many unnamed, devout people there —“those… sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord”(1Cor.1:2). Yes, they were “saints” —accepted by God — in a bad church. Paul did not even require them to “get out”!

Consider the church at Sardis. The opening words of John’s letter: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead”(Rev.3:1-). There was little good to say about Sardis — “…strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die for I have not found your works perfect before God.” No saved person in such a dead church, right? Wrong! Sardis was dead —and getting worse, yet there were “a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”

Remember Gaius? —whose soul prospered (3Jno.1-), who “walked in truth”, and was a “fellow worker” with gospel preachers. Yet the church in his town was bad —really bad. Diotrephes arrogantly ruled the church, rejected faithful brethren, even rejected John’s letter to the church, and was an open enemy of the apostle(3Jno.9-10). John calls him “evil”(v.11). Gaius, an exceptionally good man, was in that really bad church. He was joined by Demetrius who had ” a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself,” and even from John –“we also bear witness”(v.12). No one had a bad word for Demetrius! Yet these good men were in a bad church —and not condemned by it!

Salvation, faithfulness, and acceptance with God is not on a congregational level. We are not saved in groups, but individually. We are not deemed faithful collectively, but individually. An individual is judged –not a church. God deals with “every man.”

Even in a bad church, the saved stand out —surely to God and most often to even a casual observer.

The saved obey. They trust Jesus as Lord; they live by repentance’s code to do only what is right; they were baptized into Christ. Their loyalty is to the Father and to Jesus. No higher agenda, no person with priority, no party loyalties claim them. They may be in a bad church, but they will never be mistaken as rebels, infidels, or heathens.

They compromise neither doctrine nor practice; they “approve the things that are excellent” —are “sincere and without offense…. being filled with the fruits of righteousness”(Phil.1:10-). They surely do not just “go along” with the wrong. A church may be “dead” –like Sardis, but the saved agressively do right and “walk in truth”

Do not be surprised! Such saved people may not be appreciated at all by a bad church; they may be “cast out” —as Diotrephes “putting them out of the church”— because they are good people.

At some point, a bad church may arrange things that demand participation in wrong, or it may become obvious the respect for Jesus as Lord is gone, or ungodliness suggests that God has removed the candlestick. Then saved people can not stay. However, we often conclude we can only serve God if the church in our town is ideal —a “good church.” We too quickly “cut ties” and run — usually to another bad church with problems.

Given a choice, good people hardly prefer or choose a bad church –a Corinth or Sardis. Bad churches surely do not cultivate spiritual growth —the real purpose of a church. Yet be faithful to God where ever you are —no matter what others do!

Bible Comments, 27, a publication by Joe Fitch originally intended for distribution among small congregations in Texas.
Used here by kind permission.

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