JPBC June 8, 2008
I. A half dozen Scriptural reasons for a defined and meaningful church membership:
1. We find the roots for the practice of church membership in practices of the Old Testament people of God.
If you were part of the OT people of God you belonged to a particular tribe and a particular family within that tribe (some examples: Numbers 4; Joshua 7:16-18; 1 Samuel 10:20-21).
There was no such thing as a free-lance, unconnected Israelite. There was no such thing as an Israelite who said, "I’m part of the covenant people of God, but I’m not part of a tribe or family."
2. Jesus’ command for love as defining mark among his disciples can only be realized through participation in a defined local body (see John 13:34-35).
3. The descriptions of the local church in Jerusalem in Acts indicates a well defined body of believers (cf. Acts 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4).
4. The letters of Paul in the NT were generally addressed to defined churches in distinct geographical areas or to the acknowledged spiritual leaders of those bodies (Rom 1:7; 16:4-5, 16; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1).
5. The local church is necessary for the proper exercise of church discipline (cf. Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:4-5; 2 Cor 2:6; 1 Tim 5:9).
6. The existence of a defined local church is assumed in the NT both in the setting apart of persons to ministry service and in the exercise of spiritual rule (cf. Acts 6:2-3; 1 Tim 3; Heb 13:7, 17).
II. We can add to this Paul’s image for the local church as a human body, a living organism, to which each member is joined.
How do we respond?
1. Be joined to a local body.
2. Love the local church.
3. Pray for and with the local church.
4. Serve the local church.