Local Church Membership Q&A – 9

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.

This is a continuation of a previous study on the definition of “Church” as found in the New Testament.


Many Churches, One Membership

We are not to be independent, different or detached from other believers.  Consider the famine that occurred in Jerusalem in the book of Acts. This suffering enabled all the churches of Asia to contribute to the needs in Jerusalem.  It wasn’t just the  Episcopal, Lutheran or Pentecostal churches that Paul received gifts from.  Every Church, or should I say the Universal Church came to the assistance of the famine stricken area.

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The Bible teaches a Universal Church with “membership granted” by faith in Christ.  The Bible also teaches of many local churches, both defined by the local area (eg. a province or a city) or a group of believers (ie in a home).

In none of the following passages describing this phenomenon, is there any evidence that it conflicts with the teaching of the universal singular church.  This is important to realize in order to keep a proper perspective on the Body of Christ. 

Churches defined by province

Galatians 1:2

2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

Churches defined by locality

1 Corinthians 1:2

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Churches defined by meeting place

Romans 16:5

5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.

1 Corinthians 16:19

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

Colossians 4:15

15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Philemon 1:2

2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

The churches are local expressions of a united membership.  Remember, that when Paul heard of the those in the Corinthian church joining to a “man”, that was fighting words for him!


Our next post will begin 9 questions concerning local church membership.

I do hope you will join me 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.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 8

Church on a hill

Previous posts in this series were based on a pamphlet provided to me in my search for direction regarding local church membership.  A brother named Cody sought to help me and I wish him well.

When I replied with the previous responses, I did not hear from him for a period of time.  Of course, I feared I may have come off a bit strong, and in the interest of maintaining communication, reached out to him again.


Cody

Since we last chatted, I have been thinking about our discussions on the church membership teaching, and in reflection, I fear I have have probably come off as one who only tears something down, and we know that as believers, we need to encourage and exhort one another also.  With that in mind, I would like to offer a few positive comments in relation to church membership from the Word of God.  Again, if you have any time in the future you would like to discuss these issues, please let me know.

A few additional comments before I begin.

In no way am I suggesting abandoning the gathering of the saints in any act of worship or fellowship.  This is not the point of the past posts.  The point is that I can not find the added requirement of formal church membership in the Word, and that the concept seems to be actually condemned in the New Testament.

One of the strongest passages that alerted me to this teaching is found in 1 Corinthians 1.  Paul is condemning the seeds of denominationalism (what a long word!) and disunity, as believers learn to follow men’s opinions, or separate from other believers, boasting they follow Christ (only?)

1 Corinthians 1:10-12

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

At this point, I feel it would be beneficial to take a tour of the New Testament and review passages that actually define church.  It is important to understand that the Word defines the Church as One Church.

NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING OF ONE CHURCH

Rom 12:4-5

4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

submit-to-authority-728x5001 Corinthians 10:17

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 
13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:20

20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

1 Corinthians 12:25

25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Ephesians 4:4

4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–

Colossians 3:15

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Time for QuestionsWould you agree that all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ have already joined the Church?   And to join the church has one prerequisite, per Paul in Galations 3:26 (among many other verses)

Galatians 3:26

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Our next post will address additional definitions of the church as found in the New Testament.  I hope you will join me future posts and supply comment or correction from the Word for our mutual edification.  Thanks for visiting and I hope you found some truth that has edified your life today.


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.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 7

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification.

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order To Glorify God.


6) To Glorify God

Matthew 5:13-16
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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Unless the light shining can be clearly defined as members of a local church, and the members are the only ones who can shine, I am not seeing the justification of this set of verses to defend the local church membership doctrine.

Believers are to let their light shine.  Believers in a church, believers who are members of a church, believers who are persecuted, believers that have no fellowship, believers who are all alone.  All believers are to let thier light so shine.  But show me where the verse teaches that in order for a believer to shine, they must become a member of a local church.

1 Peter 2:12

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Again, this verse does not defend local church membership, but simply an injunction for all believers to act honorably among those who do not believe (Gentiles).

Titus 2:14

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Where is the local church membership requirement here?

Might I suggest the following verse to justify local church membership?

Job 1:1

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job must have been a member of a local church, since he was blameless and upright – It’s right there in the verse – Can’t you see it?


In future posts, I will continue to address this topic, but from a different perspective. Having considered the defense Mr. Dever’s provided for local church membership, I will now provide additional deliberations from the New Testament that may shed additional light on the topic.

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. 

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 6

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification.

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order To Evangelize the World.


5) To Evangelize the World

Deuteronomy 4:5 – 7

5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 
6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 
7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

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I assume the commandment to the children of Israel in verse 6 (Keep therefore and DO THEM) is the basis of church membership, but I fear there is no justification for this connection.

The children of Israel had no idea of the concept of church membership in the way it is understood in this culture.  Moses was defining the nation of Israel as a potentially great nation and the only connection I can find with the New Covenant would be where Peter defines the entire universal Church as a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)

Applying this verse to a local body of believers may have some application (all scripture is profitable) but to connect to church membership seems to be a strain!

Matthew 5:13 – 16

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

When the Lord says “Ye” in the first verse, is He defining the local church? (As far as I can tell, the disciples have yet to hear of Jesus mentioning the word “church”, little lone the modern concept of church membership!)

Is the local church the city on a hill?  How about the candle?  I tend to think Jesus is discussing something other than church membership!

Act 5:13 – 14

13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
 
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

See the response in earlier post.

1 Peter 2:12

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Individual Christians are to have an honest lifestyle among the Gentiles. This is so true, and so relevant for today’s modern church.  Not for the application of church membership, but for the moral strength that the church/believer is to exercise daily in a corrupt and sinful society.

I’m just not seeing a direct relationship of local church membership with this verse.


I will continue 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. 

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 5

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification.

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order To Serve and Build Others Up.


4) To Serve and Build Others Up

Mark 10:42 – 45

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 
43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 
44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Excellent set of verses defining the Christian life of serving one another.

My question to you is – How is it that church “membership” assists a Christian in this area of Christian serving?

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If a believer isn’t a member of a local church, is he hobbled from serving within the Body of Christ?  I am really confused at this point!  I have known of some churches that require a believer “signing on the dotted line” to give them the opportunity to teach or serve within the church, but I see that as an artificial restraint on the believer by an organization.

I once asked a pastor if he would rather have a faithful believer (but not a member) in his fellowship, or a name on the list that may not be available for service.  (I did not get a clear answer back!)

We are to serve one another.  Every opportunity should be afforded to the believer to serve the Body.

Any restriction to that service is simply a restriction.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 
5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 
6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 
8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 
11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Considering that the gifts are given to “profit withal” and that this epistle was written to the Corinthians (the church in the city of Corinth) is it not possible that there were multiple groups of believers that met at different places and times of the week. (I realize this is not stated in the passages, but it definitely was the case in Rome and other cities. ) 

If so, the Word is defining the Spirits gift’s as that which is to profit all within the city, and may argue against the membership concept.

Heb 10:23 – 24

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

A great passage to defend the daily need for encouragement and rebuke.

How is it that membership will accomplish this end?

Is there a Biblical commandment to church members to avoid encouraging and rebuking those who may not be members of their church?  I am becoming more and more confused.


I will continue 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.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 4

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification.

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order To Guard Ourselves and Others against False Teaching.


3) To Guard Ourselves and Others against False Teaching

1 Timothy 4:1 – 4

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 
2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 
3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
 
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

By using this passage under the point of false teaching to justify church membership, Mr Devers seems to be declaring a number of things.

1.) His church has all the truth.

    • Are you willing to actually stand by that statement?

1 Corinthians 14:36

… Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

2.) Other churches may be dangerous.

  • Granted, some churches are dangerous. Some churches are less dangerous than others.  As a matter of fact, Paul mentioned that some churches are detrimental to Christian growth.

1 Corinthians 11:17

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.

3.) The Spirit of God and the Bible is not enough for the believer who wants to obey.

By this, I do not want to imply that the fellowship of believers is unnecessary. This is critical for Christian growth, but the idea that a believer who is serious about living the Christian life needs to obtain a membership in a church to avoid dangerous teaching does not bear out in history.

Many orthodox church bodies have veered from the right path, and taken the entire group of members with them.  If only each believer realized their own responsibility to pursue truth, instead of relying on some membership for protection, the Body may be healthier.

2 Timothy 3:1-9

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 
3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 
4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 
5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 
6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 
7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 
8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 
9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

Many of the comments above could relate to this passage also, but it is interesting that 3:8 mentions those who “oppose the truth”.

The truth is the issue.  Does the Word of God prescribe church membership?

Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

I think I am seeing a pattern in the passages being used to justify church membership.

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It seems that some of the passages are defining requirements that the faithful believer is to perform, and the requirement of church membership is defined as the way to perform these duties.

This seems to tear the intent out of the injunctions, since many who read these passages might consider the means of performing these duties as merely “joining” a church.  I have always considered Jude’s theme to be contending for the truth, and by implication, to not be depending on traditions or oral commandments.

Jude 1:17 – 23

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 
19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 
22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 
23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Although Jude is talking of mockers, the concept of “separating themselves” is a concern in my mind.

When I was a young believer, and had dutifully joined a church, I made the mistake of hanging out with believers that weren’t a part of our “club”.

It seems that my joining that particular church implied that I was to be separate from other believers.  It didn’t quite sound right, but what was I to know – I was young and just learning what the Scriptures had to say.


I will continue 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.

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Local Church Membership Q&A – 3

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order  Grow in Grace.


2) To Grow in Grace

 Hebrews 6:1 – 3

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 
2 and of instruction about washings,the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 
3 And this we will do if God permits.

I am confused.

Where is church membership defined in this verse? 

Please do not get the idea that I am against being involved with a community of believers.  I relish it, love it and enjoy the opportunity to discuss the Lord Jesus with friends at work, in my home, anywhere I can.  (I would love to visit with you at your convenience and chat of the Lord’s work in our lives.  Let me know if this is possible.)  But I am still not sure where the formal membership concept is introduced to me in this passage of scripture.  This passage is a stern rebuke to the submit-to-authority-728x500believers who were being tempted to go back to a dead religion. (I can identify with these dear folk!)  But the Word says we are to go on to perfection.  Is church membership, in the formal definition within our church culture, a necessary component of attaining perfection before our Savior?  If so, where does this passage teach this?

Ephesians 4:11-16

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
 
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 
16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Becoming a member of a local church is the topic Mr Devers is addressing. But Paul is discussing the unity of the saints in this passage.  If I were to “join” your church, would you then tell me that I would not be able to join any other local body of believers in the same way?

Is that fostering an attitude of unity amongst the brethren?


I will continue 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.

Follow Considering the Bible on WordPress.com

 

Local Church Membership Q&A – 2

Church on a hill A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification

Let’s continue considering Cody’s effort to convince me of the necessity of local church membership, with the assistance of Mark Dever from 9 Mark’s ministries.

Cody’s document supplied several verses included below, claiming they taught Local Church Membership in 6 categories.

In this post, I examine the claim that Local Church Membership, as understood in our modern world is required in order To be Obedient to the Scriptures.


1) To be Obedient to the Scriptures

Matthew 16:13

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Although this is the beginning point for every person in their obedience to the Lord Jesus, I do not see any connection to church membership in this passage. Please correct me if I am missing something.

This is an important point for the believers life. The authority of the Scriptures in the believers life is to be final, yet we know as believers we struggle with other authorities such as tradition, logic, emotion, fear and such. I applaud Mr Devers reference to obedience to the Scriptures, but find his application in this point to be misguided. 

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Mat 18:15 – 20

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 
16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 
19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
 
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In this passage, Jesus refers to discipline to be administered to an erring brother, for the sake of “gaining your brother”. Jesus guides us to keep the offense local (between brothers) until refusal to “hear” the rebuke forces the offended party to tell the church.

What I find amazing is that the pastor or elders are not referred to here in this passage. The entire church is told of the offense.  Now, if a man who has signed his name on a church roll is in sin and it comes to the knowledge of the church, could not that man simply choose to move to another church, or possibly just give up on church.

The point is that church membership, in the form which is commonly thought of within our Christian culture, has had very little effect in performing its stated goals.

On the other hand, if (and when) I have been a part of a group (dare I say a family) of believers that love and trust one another, this type of treatment is very effective.

Therefore, I do not see the use of this passage, in relation to being obedient to the scriptures, to be as effective as supposed.  As a matter of fact, this passage could be used to define the local body as being as small as “two or three” gathered in His name.  Obviously local church membership would be a redundant concept for such a small local group!

Act 5:12 -14

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 
13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

What a great passage showing the authority the apostles exercised during the early church. Signs and wonders by the apostles were being wrought among the people (just believers or all people?)  Believers were added to the church.

Where is the justification for church membership in this verse?  Could it be in the verb “join” in verse 13?  I suppose this is possible, but the natural reading would not make me think of local church membership, but association with the believers through exercising faith in the Son of God.

Also, the local church, at this time in the history of the church, would have been in one location (all …. in Solomons porch) within the City of Jerusalem, and therefore would fall under the definition of a church within a city, and not that of the local church as we think of today.


I will continue 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.

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Local Church Membership Q&A -1

Church on a hill

A fellow believer asked for clarification within these posts, and the following red text has been added to this and following posts to hopefully give clarification.

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.


Cody

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.

COMPONENTS OF A CHURCH

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.

As an aside to this list, and referring to Mr Devers first point, I find it a very interesting study of each place in the New Testament where the Lord or His apostles “preach”. Multiple greek words are translated as preach, (see graphic below) and many are referring to outside of the Church – ie among the Gentiles. 

Many other times, the term translated as “preach” is the greek word “dialegomai” and the concept is of dialogue/discussion with others, not a monologue/sermon to others

SECURITY IN SALVATION

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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 local church membership?

If importing foreign concepts (that is, local church membership) into a passage is allowed, then I could use this verse to justify any activity I want another believer to perform.  Equating local church membership with loving my brother seems to be a strained connection. 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.


Graphic of terms translated as “Preach” in the New Testament

Preach - Greek


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Local Church Membership – Research Response

Church on a hill

Recently in Sunday School, I had the opportunity to chat with a fellow believer regarding his research on “Local Church Membership”  I think he was seeking some degree from a Bible School, and he was kind enough to let me ask him some difficult questions.

Eventually, in an effort to allow others to participate in the class, I suggested he send me his research to read.  He emailed it to me the next day and I took a few minutes to review it and make some comments.  I didn’t spend much time on the portion of church tradition’s as justification for church membership, since I was curious about the Biblical defence he used to justify this teaching.

What follows below are snippets of his research (in red) with my comments following.

Referring to Matthew 16:19, 18:17-18, he states

“Keys are a symbol of authority over who enters and who is excluded. Given the context of Peter’s confession of Christ in the former passage, binding and loosing here likely relates to deciding who by their confession is regenerate and therefore to be received into church membership.”

This conclusion is not required from the text.  I fear the “membership test” of determining who is regenerate and who is not, is placing a heavy responsibility on both the church leaders and the subject.

As you well know, confession is not a reliable indicator of true faith, unless by confession, you mean obedience to the faith and not just verbal assent to some teaching.  If this conclusion is warranted (that is, if a person is regenerate, he may be received into church membership), nothing in this passage describes a “local” church, and its membership.

Would the apostles have imagined a local group of believers to be required to test newcomers, instead of simply loving them and allowing them to join thier gatherings?

Would the apostles have required a believer to enter a membership agreement (other than commitment to the Lord Jesus?)

Does not the New Testament teach that to be regenerate IS to be in the Church, the Body of Christ?

Similarly given the context of the latter passage relating to church discipline (that is Mathew 18), the church is to decide who by their impenitence is unregenerate and therefore to be excluded from church membership.

Again, this is a difficult call to decide who is unregenerate.  Deciding the status of a person’s relationship with the God of Heaven is difficult to say the least.  Much time and experiences will supply some insight in the person’s status.  When I think of Peter’s 3 years of being with Jesus, I would have given him my full confidence right up to the denial.  And then I would have rejected him.  But then, I would have accepted him.   And then in Galatia, when he ate with the Jews only, I would have rejected him.  But then, sometime after that, I probablywould have accepted him. What a rollercoaster!!!

Exclusion of membership is only effective when it relates directly to relationships within the church, not a letter or form from church officials.  Many times, I have heard of those excluded from a church via a letter or form, and yet the excluded member maintains relationships within their sphere of “friends”, and simply moves on to another church, sometimes attaining the coveted membership again.  Something doesn’t seem to be working with this system, if the non-repentant can continue to be accepted in other bodies.

Just as the exchange of wedding rings symbolizes entry into the marriage covenant by the bride and groom, so baptism symbolizes entry into a new covenant by a believer with God through faith in Christ.

Are you suggesting baptism is equal to local church membership in God’s eyes?  That is, local church membership is one of the new covenant’s ordinances?

The church has a responsibility to discern the regenerate status of a candidate before administering baptism and likewise to restrict participation in the Lord’s Supper to those who are regenerate.

When the Ethiopian asked to get baptized, Phillip baptized him.  The church (Philip, in this case) simply baptized the Ethiopian. I don’t know of anywhere in the NT where a period of discernment is described or prescribed for the administration of baptism for a confessing believer.

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, please direct me to where the New Testament gives the church (leaders?) the right to restrict participation in the Lord’s supper.  I have heard of this teaching before, but never been given a passage to consider it’s veracity.

One passage does describe the believer’s responsibility of judging whether he/she should eat the Lord’s Supper

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.

28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

We are told to not give up meeting together (Heb 10:25) and to use our spiritual gifts for the common good (1 Cor 12:7).

Regarding meeting together, would you restrict someone from meeting together with you and your members if he, for conscience sake, did not submit to adding his name to a roster?  As an aside , I once asked a pastor if he would rather have a faithful and active believer in his church (although not a member), or a pew sitting member in his church.  He did not respond.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 12:7, spiritual gifts for the common good need not be restricted to a membership of Christians but should be for the common good of ALL (Christian and non-Christian).

I cannot imagine how local church membership adds any value to a spiritual gift. (Other than being allowed to use it in a restricted membership environment – But if the restriction was lifted, would more blessing be available to others?)

All these (that is meeting together and spiritual gifts) imply that we can identify who are our fellow members in the body.

Christians should be able to identify their brothers and sisters by the fellowship of the Spirit and love to the Lord.  You know as well as I brother, that membership is not infallible, and that some fakers make it to a membership status.

The church publicly declares someone to be a member when it baptizes that person, and periodically reaffirms who is in its covenant membership through invitation to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

I assume you are referring to becoming a member of the local church. Is this implying that when a believer moves to a new geographical location, he has an obligation to be baptized again, in order to declare that person publicly? 

….the relation of church leader and church member must be clear for elders to be able to exercise oversight (1 Pet 5:1-5)  

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive  the unfading crown of glory.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

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I suppose you equate submission to an elder to be within the local church I am a member of.  If so, could I submit to an elder of another local church?  Is there a restriction to my submitting to other believers (outside of my local church) who care for my soul, who may understand my circumstance better, who may have experienced like things in my life and been taught by the Word?

This passage does speak of submission to elders (but it seems to be in relation to age and not church office, since Peter directs the “younger” to be subject to the elder) Believers are rightfully to have an attitude of submission to all. (Remember that verse about “Submit to one another”?).

I do not see how this passage in 1 Peter defines local church membership for the believer, especially since the book was written for the diaspora, the dispersed believers, and not to a specific local body of Christians.

Referring to 1 Corinthians 12

The church as the body of Christ underscores the necessity of church membership (because members of the body cannot survive apart from the body)

Are you implying that Paul meant “members of a local church” when he said members?

If so, why was he not specific, and state that the members are to create a covenantal agreement to sign on to, in order to obey, and remove their immaturity and division.

I did a quick search of 1 Corinthians and did not find the term “membership” within the passage, although I found the term “members” often.  As a family man, I often think of my children as members of my family, and yet it would be an huge insult to them to ask them to formally join the family through a membership.

When believers are brought into the fold, they should clearly affirm the terms of the membership covenant they are entering, just as bride and groom must understand the terms of their marriage covenant.

The covenant a believer enters into is called the “New Covenant”, where the law is written on our heart – o heck let the apostle describe it for us

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.

12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

And like a marriage, the church covenant requires its participants to continually work at abiding by it, taking advantage of every opportunity to reaffirm their vows. 

The church covenant you desire to justify seems to be amongst brothers and sisters, not husbands and wives.  I suppose you are likening covenants and not the parties to it, but it seems unnecessary, and clouds the issue for me

I would suggest that the insertion of a church covenant into a group of believers creates a distraction from the New Covenant, that Jesus shed His blood to ratify for our benefit.

Consider

  • If the church covenant adds responsibilities to believers beyond the new covenant, be careful.
  • If it states the same responsibilities as the New Covenant, why introduce it?

We need to be members of His body primarily, and as we travel through this life down here, we may have the priviledge to be a part of a group of loving believers.  If signing a membership role removes restrictions to a loving group of believers, may God bless you as you journey with them.


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.

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