Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sanctification By Obedience To The Pastor?

     When was the last time you attended a preacher's meeting and heard a sermon on the subject of sanctification? I am not referring to that word so much as that issue. Most of the preacher's meetings I used to go to emphasized soul winning, the King James Bible, or soul winning and the King James Bible. I don't go to many preacher's meetings these days. Not because I don't enjoy good preaching. I love good preaching. But there is very little good preaching being delivered at most preacher's meetings these days, at least the ones I stopped attending.
     I have little patience for a young guy haranguing me about soul winning and the King James Bible who is confused about the one and ignorant about the other, thinking the Bible versions issue is something of recent origin instead of an issue that originated in the Italian and French Alps more than a thousand years ago. For anyone who still thinks soul winning can be reduced to persuading someone to repeat the words of a prayer I commend Decisional Regeneration vs. Divine Regeneration by James E. Adams, published by Solid Ground Christian Books.
     That which seems most rare in preacher's meetings these days is preaching on issues related to sanctification. Where are you on the doctrines related to the spiritual growth and development of believers, preacher? Do you subscribe to Thomas Aquinas' proposition that the Law of Moses is vital to Christian growth and maturity? Or do you favor what is referred to by some as New Covenant Theology, whose chief spokesman is the British writer and preacher David H. J. Gay, a personal friend of mine? On reflection, I seem to recall that a number of my IFB friends eschew the Law of Moses as useful to sanctification, while most others are unfamiliar with NCT.
     In the Churches I am familiar with here in SoCal there have always been a number of Baptist Churches with a very interesting approach to Christian sanctification, seeing Christian growth and maturity, as well as spirituality, being very specifically compliance with the desires and demands of the pastor. That is, the standard of spirituality is not seen by many IFBs as yieldedness to some moral aspect of the Law of Moses, or even conscience compliance with the leading of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, but the expressed will and demands of the pastor.
     What do you think? Am I wrong? Is unity of the Spirit a oneness of mind and spirit around the dictates of God's Word and the expressed will of the Spirit of God? Or is it reduced to the commands and demands of the pastor? What would Spurgeon's position have been on this issue? Or Carey's? Or Judson's? Or Paul's?
     I would appreciate your response to my musings on this matter.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Your Right Task, Your Wrong Tendency

First, There Is YOUR RIGHT TASK

Our goal, our job, our responsibility, our task as Church congregations, is to make disciples. Making disciples is not an optional assignment but has been given to us by the One Who has all power in heaven and earth. And when He issued this assignment He did not suggest that we make disciples. Neither did He ask us to make disciples. This task was issued in the form of an imperative. We have been ordered to make disciples. You and I as members of Churches have been commanded to make disciples.
Implicit in our Lord’s Great Commission is resistance to the completion of our assignment. After all, the Lord Jesus did tell us “go ye therefore,” did He not? And why did He direct us to go forth to make disciples? Because of man’s sinful nature, his inherent depravity means that men would not come seeking to be made disciples. Rather, mankind’s essential nature results in avoiding and hiding and escaping from the Church’s efforts to make disciples of them. So, you can mark it down that those who are not disciples of Jesus Christ will not want you to involve yourself in making them or anyone else disciples of Jesus Christ. Left up to them, they would be delighted if you left them to their sins so they can go to Hell in hand baskets. It is not so unusual to see them also wanting to preoccupy you so that you have little time to reach anyone else besides. As well, there will always be those who pose as Christians who, too, will greatly resist engaging in the making of disciples. Despite their profession, they will so demonstrate their unwillingness by their refusal to be a disciple who in turn is engaged in making disciples, that they are very willing to leave the lost to their own devices. It should terrify you to come to the stark realization that you know a Christian who simply refuses to act like a disciple of Jesus Christ, and who is perfectly willing to do whatever he or she can get away with to avoid participating in efforts to make disciples of the Savior.
Our task as a Church is to make disciples, against the opposition of all nations. Thus, the scope of our Great Commission is worldwide and diverse, extending to every nation, tongue, and tribe. There is no one who does not need our Church’s ministry. There is no one who does not need our Church’s message. There is no one who is so well off that he does not need to be improved by becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Your Church, then, in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord Jesus Christ gave to like congregations, will find herself comprised of every sort of person, as God blesses your efforts and as you see disciples of Jesus Christ being made. It is reasonable to expect that your greatest success will be among people who are like you. It is unreasonable to expect that your success will be limited to people who are like you. Indeed, if you do not remain an ethnically mixed group of disciples, and succeed in some measure in penetrating each ethnic group that lives within traveling distance of your place of assembly, then you are disobedient to your Lord and Master’s Commission. This is your right task.

Next, There Is YOUR WRONG TENDENCY

A term that has gained popularity over the last few decades is “mission drift.” “Mission drift” is the tendency for organizations of every kind to deviate from the purposes for which they were established.[1] Churches, which are in some respects like other organizations, are very susceptible to “mission drift.” Our mission, which was given to us almost 2000 years ago, is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. But what has happened in the intervening 2000 years that can be ascribed to “mission drift”? Churches of all stripes and persuasions have run so far down rabbit trails that it seems they exist for anything but making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Even among Churches most like your own, there are the terrible fruits of “mission drift.” How else can you explain ministries that have resorted to counting the number of “souls saved” each year, or the number of “baptisms” each year, or the number of members who have “joined” that year, or the total number of “members,” or the total number of “decisions” at special meetings? Such efforts to measure a Church’s success by tabulating numbers cannot only give evidence that “mission drift” has occurred in a Church but can cause “mission drift” to occur.
Churches and pastors need to be extremely careful of “mission drift.” As well, we need to keep in mind that Charles G. Finney’s efforts to subvert orthodox ministries succeeded, in a great measure, by his use of numbers and statistics to “show” that his methods were superior to those he was supplanting. And if we are not careful, a pastor who finds greater numerical success in one area of ministry will tend to focus on that area in which he enjoys apparent success leading him off in a direction that will result in “mission drift.”
Thus, a pastor and Church can focus on stewardship more than making disciples, or can focus on decisions more than making disciples, or can focus on attendance goals more than making disciples, or can focus on professions of faith more than making disciples, or can even focus on seeking to reach certain ethnic groups to the exclusion of others instead of making disciples. But remember, what the Lord Jesus Christ told us to do is make disciples, something that’s much harder to track statistically than baptisms and professions and new members or attendance.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kindness

      After a challenging week, I decided to feed my cravings for news by scrolling through some Internet news articles this afternoon before going home. What should I find but an article detailing the Pennsylvania governor’s decision to revoke the state police security protection provided to the lieutenant governor for his repeated verbal abuse of the officers assigned to him. The article, in part, reads 

“But the move follows a state Inspector General's office investigation, requested by [Governor] Wolf, into complaints that Stack and his wife, Tonya, had repeatedly verbally abused members of the State Police detail that protect them, as well as staffers who help maintain their official residence… After news of the probe surfaced, Stack last week apologized and pledged both he and his wife would try harder. Later, sources confirmed that Wolf’s office had repeatedly warned the lieutenant governor and Wolf said he had personally delivered such a warning.”[1]

I already don’t like this guy, even though I have never met him. Who needs this kind of individual in a position of responsibility? This is the same type of verbal abuse that Hillary Clinton is notorious for. Sadly, this is the type of verbal abuse that some pastors are known to display.
Perchance there is a reader of this blog who is unfamiliar with where God sets the bar for kindness for His people, especially His leaders. Following are a few of the passages in the Old and New Testaments where the words kind and kindness are found:
Jonah 4:2:  “And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”
Luke 6:35: “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
Acts 28:2:  “And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.”
1 Corinthians13:4: “Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity [love] envieth not; charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”
2 Corinthians 6:6:  “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned.”
Ephesians 2:7:       “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 4:32:     “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Colossians 3:12:    “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”
2 Peter 1:7:   “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”

You have certainly heard or read of the advice given for evaluating the real character of a person you’ve just met, or perhaps are even considering marrying. Because everyone is nice to people they want to impress, the key to evaluating what a person is really like is the individual’s conduct toward those they are not seeking to impress and those who cannot do anything for them. How does he treat a waitress? How does she treat the teller at the bank? How about the ticket agent at the airport? Does he explode to his staff when they disappoint him?
This kind of conduct is very revealing. From Jonah 4.2 we learn that God is of great kindness. In our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, in Luke 6.35 the Savior informs us God is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Luke recorded the kindness of barbarians toward Paul and himself when they were shipwrecked in Acts 28.2. The rest of the verses listed above establish from Paul and Peter that kindness accompanies Christian love, Christian spirituality, and spiritual maturity. Thus, kindness is more revealing than many people recognize.
I know that some people get crabby when they are tired, irritable, and frustrated. At least, they justify their unkindness for those reasons. However, that is as irrational as being cranky when you are sick; it takes more energy to be nasty than it does to be nice just as it takes more muscles in your face to frown than to smile.
Why are people routinely unkind to others, especially those who serve them? Do they imagine themselves to be superior? Or are they the product of poor parenting, with mom’s and dad’s who did not strongly correct their fits of anger when not getting their way? Who knows?
All I know is, if I lived in Pennsylvania I would not vote for the guy. Or if I was a Church member and a man prone to such unkindness were a candidate to become our next pastor; I could not in good conscience vote for him. Kindness is too important to let the absence of it pass by without consequence.



[1] http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/Stack-Wolf-state-police-detail.html

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Is Bible College For Every Church Kid?

In volume one (pages 302-303) of his brilliant "The Baptists: Key People Involved In Forming A Baptist Identity," author and noted Baptist historian Tom Nettles addresses the educational philosophy of pioneer missionary William Carey and his colleagues in India.

Those men were committed to providing a general education to Indians that was not limited to Bible instruction only, being convinced their approach was clearly demonstrating a commitment to the entire trustworthiness of Scripture and their belief in the unity of all truth. They were also convinced that a general education would increase one's appreciation of the biblical material they were teaching and that true learning would reveal the perverseness of false religion.

This speaks indirectly, in my opinion, to the general disregard I have observed among many IFBs for education. Where are the doctors, nurses, lawyers, chemists, mathematicians, engineers, developers, and entrepreneurs that could be and should be growing up in our churches? Not that one even has to go to college to be a godly individual. I am thrilled to see a spiritual young person work in a warehouse or framing houses, to see others develop into an office managers or learn trades. My point is that one size does not fit all, yet the thrust of so many youth camps and ministries is to push as many young high school graduates as possible into Bible college, at least for a year. Why? Since it is the pastor's responsibility to equip Christians for service and ministry in the congregation, what is the point of attending Bible college for a year? To find a spouse? That is not a credible reason for funneling impressionable young people who have not been called to the Gospel ministry into a Bible college.

Focusing at present only on those properly bound for academic training, is it at all possible that the spiritual barrenness in many secular colleges and universities in the USA is the result of so many Christian young people being directed by pastors and youth camp speakers to Bible colleges where so many who are not called to the Gospel ministry end up being herded into ministry positions they are not called to, and while in Bible colleges they receive a sub par STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education? I praise God for the Christian law school student who posed a challenge to the founder of Harvard's Law School, the renowned Simon Greenleaf, that he apply the same rules of evidence to the Gospel story that he wrote about in his three-volume work A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. The result was his conversion to Christ. Sadly, such things rarely happen in colleges and universities anymore because so few Christian kids from IFB Churches go to secular schools.

Don't get me wrong. I am not decrying a good Christian education, so long as it is good and not just Christian. A mediocre Christian education is not really Christian, in my opinion, since to be a Christian education it must be an excellent education. That is not often found in today's Bible colleges, as those of us who graduated with STEM degrees from secular schools can attest. A school virtually no one flunks out of is not a legitimate school at all.

My point? If we are really and truly confident that the Bible is true and that the faith once delivered to the saints can withstand even the closest scrutiny, we have nothing to fear from rigorous study, honest research, or academic integrity. Where are the Christians at UCLA, at USC, at Harvard, at Princeton, at UCI, at Columbia, at MIT, and at Cal Tech?

Without naming them, I am so delighted with the young men and women at our Church who are fulfilling their hopes, dreams, and aspirations, be they as tradesmen, as homemakers, as professionals, or as academics. So long as they use what they do as a platform from which to serve and glorify God as a member of Calvary Road Baptist Church I am one very happy pastor.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Refuting Dr. Stanley Toussaint’s contention that church membership is not taught in the New Testament

     
Last night before I went to bed I decided to watch a YouTube video and chose one from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s offerings. I began to watch the first session of Dr. Stanley Toussaint’s nine-part series on the Revelation before being appalled by Dr. Toussaint’s contention that church membership is not taught in the New Testament (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ2s0ZYaD_Q&t=349s, beginning at the minute 3:00 mark). Nonsense! Despite his wonderful career as a fine Bible teacher and scholar he is quite simply wrong about church membership.
Following is from a chapter of my as yet unpublished book on the Churchof Jesus  Christ.

“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS MEMBERSHIP”

We learned in chapter three, “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Origin,” how the Lord Jesus Christ originally constituted His Church. He constituted His Church with twelve men, called apostles, some of whom appear to have initially been disciples of John the Baptist who were baptized by him and then at a later time recruited by the Lord Jesus Christ to follow Him as disciples.[1] Of course, Matthew was an exception, having been a publican in Galilee and not a disciple of John the Baptist when called by the Savior to follow Him.[2] I surmise that Matthew was then baptized as the disciples of John had been, given the fact that our Lord’s disciples also baptized believers, John 4.1-2. Judas Iscariot is a question mark. We are repeatedly told in the Gospels that this only apostle who was not from Galilee betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, with John’s Gospel also frequently informing readers that he was the son of a man named Simon.[3] However, we know little besides the fact that he was selected by the Savior to be an apostle, our Lord informing the twelve in the upper room after washing their feet that His selection of one who would betray Him was to fulfill prophecy, John 13.18 and Psalm 41.9. Therefore, we can only conclude that, like the others, Judas had been baptized, possibly by John the Baptist, upon the public confession of his sins after the fashion of Matthew 3.6. If Judas ever had hoped his hope was a false hope, an issue dealt with in Scripture but frequently ignored by most Christians.[4]
Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ brought His Church into existence by bringing together already existing materials, men who had confessed their sins and submitted to immersion after showing what was taken to be fruits meet for repentance, Matthew 3.8. The question before us, having already established that the Church of Jesus Christ is an assembly, is an assembly that is in some ways a mystery, is an assembly that is spiritual in that it impacts heaven and eternity, and that it was formed by the Lord Jesus Christ using His twelve apostles during His earthly ministry, is the important matter of Church membership.
I am fully aware that most congregations, including most Baptist Churches, conduct themselves as though they have full and complete discretion over the matter of how, when, and who they take into their membership. Let me say that I am opposed because of my deeply held Baptist convictions from interfering with any congregation’s exercise of discretion when it comes to matters of membership. However, that said, I am persuaded that God’s Word does not give free reign to congregations to accept or refuse members according to their fancy or whim. After all, the Church of Jesus Christ is His Church and not ours, and He is the de jure head of the Church and ought to be the de facto head of the Church. Meaning? Meaning that Churches ought to handle matters of membership according to the dictates of pertinent Scripture. Sadly, many Churches do not. Allow me to illustrate: There was once upon a time a Baptist pastor who was prayerfully attempting to evangelize an extended family, including the mother, the grown children and their spouses, and the grandchildren. On the occasion of the pastor’s vacation, a nearby pastor quickly persuaded the unsaved matriarch of the clan to be immersed following the most perfunctory profession of faith. She clearly was not saved. Upon the vacationing pastor’s return, a series of events led to the woman’s desire to return to the first congregation she had been attending, which of course was impossible once she was baptized and a member of another Church. Only it turned out that not only was she not genuinely saved, but that other Baptist pastor had baptized her without (according to him in our telephone conversation) being convinced she was truly saved. His words were, “Just because I baptized her doesn’t mean I think she is saved.” Astonishing. As well, even after baptism, that pastor and Church did not accept into their Church’s membership those professing Christians they had baptized. Again, amazing.
Does that reflect the New Testament on such matters? Has the Savior left it to each congregation to do that which is right in their own eyes? Is it like in the days of the Judges of Israel?[5] I am not so persuaded. As well, others who embrace historical and informed Baptist convictions are likewise not so persuaded.
Shall we now turn to the Word of God for consideration of this matter of Church membership? The question before us is the means by which the Lord Jesus Christ adds to His Church because Acts 2.47 indicates the Lord does add to His Church:

“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Three considerations related to membership in the Church Jesus Christ:

First, ESTABLISHING THE EXISTENCE OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

There are at least two ways in which it can be shown that there is a difference between a Christian who is a part of the assembly known as a Church of Jesus Christ and a Christian who is not a member of said Church:
Membership is a concept that is first shown by discipline. One might think that the matter of discipline in a congregation is settled by our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18.15-20, where He said,

15   Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16   But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17   And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
18   Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19   Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20   For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Especially important, one would think, is the phrase in verse 17 where our Lord said, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.” The concept of the Church advanced in that verse can only be a congregation, with the matter of discipline applying only to one who is part of the congregation. Otherwise, you have a congregation exercising disciplinary authority over someone who happens to be attending when the assembly gathers for worship. That is hardly credible. However, there are those who insist this verse somehow applies to all professing Christians who they maintain are part of an invisible universal body. This whole notion of the Church being an invisible universal entity is rightly dispelled by the fact of a congregation’s authority to dismiss a member. After all, if the invisible universal Church can exercise authority over a member and remove an unrepentant member, do you then have the invisible universal Church removing a member’s salvation? Do Protestants want to go there? They do not want to go there. Therefore, they typically bypass this verse and its logical application to real life. Proof positive of membership shown by discipline is found in First Corinthians chapter 5:

1      It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2      And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3      For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4      In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5      To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6      Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7      Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
8      Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9      I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10   Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11   But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Peter Masters does a fine job of articulating this point about discipline and membership:

First, we learn from 1 Corinthians 5.4-5 that the local Church of the first century was a properly constituted community with the power to exercise discipline. (The case in hand was the expulsion of a man for fornication.) In this passage Paul writes:
‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.’
This may, at first sight, seem a strange verse to prove the principle of Church membership, but it is of great relevance for it describes how a special meeting of believers had the power to exclude from their company and privileges someone guilty of serious sin. This was obviously not merely a gathering, or an open public meeting, held at Corinth, including unbelievers and seekers. (1 Corinthians 14.24-25 shows that unbelievers attended the ordinary public services of the Church at Corinth.) It was very specifically a meeting of disciples or believers, concerned to guard the integrity of their association.
The Corinthian sinner was ‘delivered unto Satan’, which meant that he was deprived of the comforts and blessings of spiritual fellowship and made to live outside the community of believers, back in the world, to bring him to his senses, and to preserve the purity of the Church. In 1 Corinthians 5.12-13 the apostle continues to use the powerful language of belonging, writing:-
‘For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.’
Insiders? Outsiders? Insiders or outsiders of what? Of a gathering only, or of formal Church membership? This kind of language can only refer to a definite Church membership of professing Christians, for only such a company would have the authority of the Lord to judge the conduct of other Christians.
It is clear that a Church in New Testament times was a defined circle of people that you could be received into, or put out of. The people in this company had voluntarily committed themselves to the mutual fellowship, service and discipline of their Christian community. They were no longer uncommitted individualists.
Christians who do not accept the biblical concept of Church membership have to adopt a most improbable position to explain the passages just quoted. They have to interpret them as referring to the attendance of the Lord’s Supper, saying that the exclusion of the sinful man in Corinth was a ban on his attending the Lord’s Table.
While Paul does mention the Lord’s Supper, this is only part of his command. The instruction to ‘purge out’ (1 Corinthians 5.7) is not primarily a command to exclude someone from the Lord’s Table, but to expel from the body. (The same goes for Paul’s phrase, ‘put away’ (1 Corinthians 5.13) and it is obvious to us that when the apostle uses terms like ‘without’ and ‘within’ (1 Corinthians 5.12) he cannot mean the Lord’s Table, but the membership of the Church at Corinth.[6]

This matter of Church membership is a concept that is also shown by joining.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we find several key references to joining a Church, a significant example being Acts 9.26-28:
‘And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.’
What exactly was Saul trying to join? Was he merely trying to attend the services of the congregation? This is surely wide of the mark, for he would not have been turned away from the preaching. The congregations of New Testament times showed outstanding courage in their public witness, and the sheer size of the Jerusalem gatherings would have made it very easy for anyone to be present at their public preaching services.
The fact that Church members were afraid of Saul did not mean that they shut him out of their congregations. They were obviously doubtful of Saul in the context of close spiritual fellowship, and would not let him join them at that deeper level, although he tried to do so. Saul was attempting to join the membership of those who had professed Christ. The words of the record confirm this was the case by saying specifically that he attempted to join ‘the disciples’ - the term for the community of professing believers. It was only when Barnabas spoke for Saul before the leaders of the Church that he was able to join them.[7]

The reality of New Testament Church membership, then, is established in three fashions: First, the Corinthian congregation’s action against the unrepentant Church member, as directed by the Apostle Paul, First Corinthians chapter 5, shows the pattern of discipline. Second, the steps introduced by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 18.15-20 applies not to some ethereal and nebulous concept of Church consisting of all Christians everywhere but to an actual congregation of Christians addressing a matter of sin within their circle by removing someone from membership. Third, there is the example of the Apostle Paul seeking to join the Jerusalem Church in a sense far beyond that of merely attending public services. Paul wanted to become a part of that congregation, and they, at first, refused before eventually accepting him. Thereby is shown that a Church does have the authority to govern who is allowed and who is not allowed to join, with the Apostle Paul showing the desirability of even an apostle of Jesus Christ being incorporated into a Church congregation’s membership.
Church membership is firmly rooted in New Testament teaching.

Next, ESTABLISHING THE METHOD OF BECOMING A CHURCH MEMBER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

“This brings us to a study of a vital term used in this and other passages of Acts -- the word join. The Greek word means to glue, stick or cement two things together; and it always signifies a very close dependence or bond.[8] The prodigal son, for example, is said to have joined himself, or glued himself, to a native of a far country for employment. Here the word describes a dependent, needy employee who pledges himself to obey his employer for money.
In 1 Corinthians 6.16 this same word (glued together) is used to describe sexual relationships, even sinful ones, and in 1 Corinthians 6.17 the word is used again to describe the deep bond of total commitment that marks a true Christian (‘He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’).
In Acts 8.29, Philip is told by the Holy Spirit to join himself (the same glue verb again) to the Ethiopian eunuch’s chariot, which he did in a sense. He embarked on a determined witness and stuck tenaciously to that seeking nobleman until saving light dawned. The glue verb is only used in the New Testament to indicate a close, special obligation or commitment, and in every passage refers to a relationship that is mutual, both parties consenting.
Another example of the use of the glue verb is Acts 5.12-14. Following the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira, many people were put off joining the Church. The passage reads:
‘And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women,)’
The crowds continued to turn out to the open air preaching places, such as Solomon’s porch, but many were frightened of closer involvement after the incident with Ananias and Sapphira. There was a difference between being in the congregation and being glued or joined to the church. Such passages prove beyond doubt that the New Testament churches - our pattern for today - possessed a clear membership structure.[9]

That Churches are joined is clear. That not all Christians were considered to be part of the Church is also clear, thereby showing the concept of any such thing as an invisible universal Church to be invalid. It is also seen that membership is the result of the Lord adding to the Church, Acts 2.47 and that those thereby added are said by Paul to be “joined to the Lord.”[10] Thus, to be a Christian is to be “in Christ.”[11] However, to become a Christian who is a Church member is to be “joined to the Lord” in some sense other than being regenerated or justified. So, how does one join a Church? The way the process is supposed to happen is as follows:
First, the sinner responds to the Gospel of God’s grace and trusts Jesus Christ to the saving of his eternal and undying soul. When that takes place, the individual is justified by faith in Christ and for the first time in his existence is at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5.1.
Next, the hopeful convert to Jesus Christ who is thought to be a qualified candidate for believer baptism goes public with his profession of faith.[12] The baptism by immersion required by the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 28.18-20, is the public display of faith in Christ using the ordinance of baptism to testify of the convert’s newfound relationship with Christ and His saving work, Romans 6.1-6:

1      What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2      God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3      Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4      Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5      For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6      Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

However, immersion in water, the Church ordinance of believer baptism, accomplishes far more than a public declaration of one’s new relationship with Jesus Christ by faith. It also accomplishes the practical result of bringing the believer into close association with other Christians in that Church authorizing his baptism as a Church member. I will not take time at present to verify what I have just stated? I will treat the topic of water baptism as the means by which a convert to Christ becomes a Church member more fully in chapter 13. For now, let me clearly state the position I intend to defend: Members are added to the Church by the Lord Himself. He does so by the use of means. Therefore, when a sinner hears the Gospel and comes to Christ, and then when the new Christian is baptized by a congregation’s authority to undertake the Great Commission, that baptized Christian is thereby added to the Church by the Lord when servants of the Lord are obeying the Lord by doing what He has directed them to do. I have clearly shown the fact of Church membership in the New Testament in this chapter. I have also relied upon the book written by Peter Masters wherein it is established that Christians join Churches. Remaining for examination are literary devices used in the New Testament to describe the Church congregation.

Finally, Therefore, EXAMINING SOME REINFORCING PASSAGES

There are six passages that make little sense outside the correct understanding that a Church is comprised of Christians who are members in a way other Christians are not and in a way unsaved people are not, even if they without joining the Church do regularly attend to hear the Word of God preached and taught:

Galatians 2.4: “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”

This verse establishes that there are times the Church congregation gathers to address issues that are not public, and, therefore, Christians who are not members, as well as unsaved people, are not permitted to observe what transpires. Outsiders wanted to sneak in to observe the private functions of the congregation, according to Paul. We should ask ourselves two questions: First, that such meetings take place is undeniable, as this verse shows. On what basis are some included and others excluded except by being members in good standing? Second, if the congregation’s meeting was not exclusive and private why would individuals have tried to sneak in to spy on the Christians who were members?

Ephesians 4.11-12:  11   And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

It is clear that a Church is comprised of Christians who are members in a way other Christians are not and in a way unsaved people are not from Ephesians 4.8, which itself is a reference to Psalm 68.18. The Apostle Paul declares in verses 11-12 that the Lord Jesus Christ gave four kinds of gifted men to the Church. It must be asked, to whom? Are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers given to Christianity at large, and they are therefore completely unaccountable for what they say and do? Is that the way God does anything, without responsibility and accountability? No. Those four kinds of gifted men are given to congregations, individual Churches of Jesus Christ. That question asked and answered, it must also be asked to whom these gifted men’s ministries and activities are to be directed? Given to all Christians everywhere? If that be so, where is the accountability of those being trained by them? We know from First Corinthians 8.1 that knowledge by itself only puffs the learner up. What must accompany instruction is obedience in response to the direction that is being given, to the duties to be assigned, and to the tasks to be performed. How does that happen except within the congregation’s membership? It doesn’t happen apart from Church membership, and that is a serious problem in contemporary evangelical Christianity.

Ephesians 5.21: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

This command from the Apostle implies that Ephesian believers should see one another as a community rather than an ill-defined gaggle, with the community coming before our individual whims and desires. This verse makes no practical and workable sense apart from Church membership.

First Timothy 3.1: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”

You understand that the word here translated bishop comes from a Greek word that means overseer. The question is overseer of what? A gaggle of Christians who come and go without regard for anything except their convenience? This verse makes no sense apart from Church membership.

First Timothy 3.5:  “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”

Here the Church is seen to be parallel to another institution, the family unit here described as “his own house.” But what is a family? Is a family unit nothing more than a group of people who decide they want to live together, individuals who just come and go as they please? Some people act like that is what a family is, but we know better. You are either a member of the family or you are not a member of the family, with the bishop required to demonstrate skill in ruling over one situation to be qualified to have the opportunity to take care of the other situation, the Church of God. Does this comparison between a family and a Church make any sense unless a Church is comprised of those who are members, in a fashion similar to family members? No, it does not.

First Timothy 5.17: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”

“Once again we must ask, how can there be ‘rule’ in a church which has no constituted membership? There could be no orderly oversight of a nation which had no proper citizens, an army without enlisted soldiers, an industry without employees, or a family without children. The will of God is clearly that there should be a spiritual family in which elders are responsible to nurture and help members, and members are responsible to pool their strengths and concern to the ministry of that family.”[13]

Understand that the vast majority of a Church’s gatherings and functions are open to anyone in the world to attend, to engage in, to involve with, and to benefit from freely. However, the Word of God clearly establishes that there are some things a congregation must do privately, with the involvement of only certain people. Who are those certain people? Are they the ones with clout who have attended Church for the longest time or who have given the most money? Not at all. They are ones who have been added to the Church by the Lord. Our understanding is that a person is added to the Church by the Lord when he comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ, is then baptized in obedience to Christ’s command, thereby becoming a member of that Church. Can a person become a member who was saved somewhere else, and who was baptized somewhere else? You mean like the Apostle Paul? Yes, there is a place for that in God’s Word. However a child of God comes to be a member of a New Testament Church, be it the Church in Corinth, the Church in Philippi, or one of the Churches in Galatia, membership is very important.
Though I anticipate dealing directly with the benefits that derive from membership in a Church in a subsequent book, keep this in mind: Membership in a Church is very important, as evidenced by the fact that the most serious response the Corinthian congregation could do when dealing with a sinning member’s refusal to repent was to deprive him of his membership.
Another matter to consider: If one becomes a member by being added to the Church by the Lord, how serious a matter it must be, therefore, to quit the Church and go somewhere else. We know the Lord adds membership to His Churches. Therefore, this matter of being somehow subtracted from the Church of Jesus Christ is a profoundly important matter for prayerful and serious consideration. Consider as well the comments written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.15-26:

15  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19  And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20  But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

How serious a matter it is to dismember a congregation by disregarding its importance and by ignoring the clear declarations about what constitutes a Church found in God’s Word.




[1] John 1.35ff.
[2] Matthew 9.9.
[3] Matthew 10.4; 26.25; 27.3; Mark 3.19; 14.10; 6.16; 22.48; John 6.71; 13.2, 26; 18.2, 5.
[4] Matthew 7.22-23; 25.1-12
[5] Judges 17.6; 21.25
[6] Peter Masters, Church Membership In The Bible, (London: The Wakeman Trust, 2008), pages 8-9.
[7] Ibid., pages 10-11.
[8] kollaw - Bauer, pages 555-556.
[9] Masters, pages 11-12.
[10] I Corinthians 6.17
[11] Romans 8.1-2, 16.3, 7, 9, 10; I Corinthians 1.2, 30; 3.1; 4.10, 15; 15.18-19, 22, 31; 16.24; II Corinthians 1.21; 2.14; 3.14; 5.17, 19-20; 11.3; 12.2, 19; Galatians 1.22; 2.4; 3.17, 26, 28; 6.15; Ephesians 1.1, 3, 10, 12, 20; 2.6, 10, 13; 3.6, 11; Philippians 1.1, 13; 2.1, 5; 3.3, 14; 4.21; Colossians 1.2, 4, 28; 2.5; I Thessalonians 2.14, 4.16; 5.18; I Timothy 1.14; 2.7; 3.13; II Timothy 1.1, 9, 13; 2.1, 10; 3.12, 15; Philemon 6, 8, 23; I Peter 3.16; 5.14
[12] Bobby Jamieson, Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required For Church Membership, (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2015), pages 35-53.
[13] Masters, page 13.