A while back, when I was considering the biblical defense for local church membership, I happened upon a brother named Cody. He was a young believer, at least younger than I, and was passionate for the truth of the gospel. I enjoyed his company very much.
Eventually, he asked me about church membership and where I attended, but was surprised when I told him I was not sure of the biblical basis for local church membership. He expressed concern for my thinking and I offered him the opportunity to defend his position biblically, and thus help me in my beliefs.
Cody sent me a pamphlet from “9Marks” ministry, detailing the biblical teaching supporting local church membership. What follows is our discussion.
Thanks for the document.
As I mentioned in the previous email, I would appreciate your feedback on the comments below. Although this reply may seem lengthy, it is primarily the passages referred to by Mr Devers in the document you sent me. I find it very helpful to consider the texts when a teacher is trying to guide me in a life decision.
As a believer, I am sure you will agree that the Word is the final authority for the believer’s life. As I considered some of Mr. Dever’s arguments, (and yours by extension, I suppose) I have found some questions about the local church membership concept being argued for. The logic seems airtight, and yet a Biblical justification seems to be without much support. I do hope you will agree with me that logic is not the basis of our faith, but the Word of God and the Person of the Son of God. Of course, if you see any weakness or blind spots in my considerations, I would gladly hear them and consider your counsel from the Word of God.
As I considered the pamphlet, Mark Dever stated, “The collection of people committed to Christ in a local area constitute a church”
I think this is a generally good definition of a church within a city, as defined in the New Testament (to the Church of Colossae, the Church of Thessalonica….)
He then states three components of a true church
- The right preaching of the Word
- The right administration of the ordinances
- The right administration of church discipline (He refers to Matt 18 in this item)
Where does Mr Devers find these three components for the true church defined in the Word? Although I have no serious argument with these points, Mr Devers seems to lack justification for them. Could there be other components of a true church? In two of the three components he does not even refer to passages for argument. The third is a general reference.
Mr Dever then implys that without church membership, we can not be sure “that we are truly saved”, and supports his statement with 1 John 4:20. (Of course I am assuming that by church membership he is referring to the local church membership concept that is the theme of his document.)
1 John 4:20
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Where in this verse is there any mention of church membership? If importing foreign concepts into general passage11 is allowed, then I could use this verse to justify any activity I want another believer to perform. I am not sure that is very responsible.
Mr Dever then gives 6 reasons to join a local church. I would like to discuss the passages he refers to with you, and consider the direction the Word gives.
I will be posting my response to each of the 6 reasons in following days. I do hope you will join me in my discussion with Cody, and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.
If you read something in this discussion that concerns you, please take the time to send me your comments or reply within the post. I look forward to hearing from you.