Is Becoming A Member of A Church Really THAT Important?

 

The Church is the means by which God allows His people to be agents in living out His purpose in the world. God is on mission to reconcile His creation back to Himself (Luke 19:10). The character of God is lived out through His mission. Timothy Tennent writes,

“To put it plainly, a mission is far more about God and who He is than about us and what we do.” [1]

If the mission of God is about who He is, then the Church is one agent by which God has ordained to be a participant in His mission. What this means is the Church is more than just a place for us to come and “worship.” Here are a couple of preliminary points to consider about the Church:

The Church

  1. God has always separated a people for Himself. In the Old Testament, it was Israel. In Genesis 3;9;12;13;17, Deuteronomy 11;30, and 2 Samuel 7, God establishes a covenant between Himself and His people. This covenant was set in place to do a couple of things. First, it was set up to be the means by which God would bring forth the Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Second, these people were set apart to distinguish God’s people from everyone else who did not belong to Him. Therefore, through the Redeemer, God would then instill a new covenant to define His people in a different way and through different means. In the Old Testament, it was through Israel and the sacrificial system. In the New Testament, a new covenant (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25) was instituted by Christ through His death and resurrection and now God continues to reconcile a people for Himself through the Church. The New Testament is just as consistent in its argument. 1 Corinthians 5 gives a great insight into Paul’s exhortation for who can and can not be associated with the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:11-13). Mark Dever comments,

    “Expelling makes sense only in the context of visible belonging.”[2]

    Although there was sexual misconduct happening within the Corinthian church, Paul still believed that the church should be separate from the world in terms of all attitudes and actions of living. It would be inconsistent with Paul’s words for us to look at a passage of Scripture such as 1 Corinthians 5 in the context of anything but a local church body of believers.

  2. The Church is God’s special possession. There is much debate over whether the Church has any relation to Israel. We know that the Church is deliberately linked with Israel from Paul referring to the Galatian Christians “Abraham’s offspring (Gal. 3:29).” If the Church is God’s assembly (ekklēsia), then it is the place where Heaven is brought down to earth. Not only is it where Heaven comes down and God dwells, but it was founded and it is built by Jesus Christ. He calls the Church “my church” (Matt. 16:18). Luke even records in Acts that the Church was bought by God “with his own blood (Acts 20:28).” Since God obtained the Church by his own blood, then it only makes sense that the Church should be separate from the world in how they are identified.
  3. Paul describes the Church metaphorically as a body having “many members (1 Cor. 12:12-14).” Here in 1 Corinthians 12, we find the Triune God showcasing His authority over the Church. It is God’s mission of which the Church is apart, it is His Son’s blood by which He obtained the Church, and it is the Spirit that empowers the Church to achieve its purpose. Just as a human body has many members, just as families have many members, so does God’s Church. Paul wrote that “there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4).” When people obtain salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, they are given God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit also gives them a gift to use in the Church as service to Him. It is only logical to conclude that only those who have been bought by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice and are now a part of God’s people (the Church) are given these gifts.

Why Membership?

The Christian is most satisfied when he is in the presence of the Almighty. David wrote in Psalm 84,

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise (Ps. 84:4).”

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Ps. 84:10).”

This is the most fundamental duty of a believer – to be in the presence of God. While we live in a world full of uncertainty and a culture that is ever-changing, we can find certainty and an unchanging dynamic in the Church of Jesus Christ. Phillips writes,

“There is so much to make us unhappy in this world, but there will be nothing to make us unhappy in that one.”[3]

David also wrote in Psalm 73 that it wasn’t until he came into the “sanctuary of God” that he was able to see things in reality and to discern the end of the wicked (Ps. 73:17). Not only did David write about the importance of coming into the sanctuary of God, but Moses was also given the fourth commandment to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Ex. 20:8). The simple reality of the Christian life is we need Sabbath to remind ourselves that it is God who controls the earth and all its inhabitants. Take heart, believers, you have no control over your life. You are simply a steward of the good gifts God has given you. This is good news! And you need Sabbath (the local assembly of believers) to remind you of this.

The writer of the Hebrews also gave his audience the command to build one another up by “not neglecting to meet together (Heb. 10:25).” Luke, the author of Acts, records that the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).”

Conclusion

If it was Jesus who bought the Church with His own blood and He is the only one who can save us from sin’s bondage, then we should obey the command from His Word to keep Sabbath and attend the local assembly of believers on a weekly basis – for nothing less than obedience’s sake. God has given us many commands to give him our best and this includes our best obedience regarding attendance and membership in the local body of believers, the church.


[1] Timothy C. Tennent. Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010), 55.

[2] Mark Dever. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 60.

[3] John Phillips. Exploring the Psalms (Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers, 1998), 694.

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