T h e q u e s t i o n o p c h u r c h m e m b e r s h i p i s an i m portant one. The purpose of this presentation is to settle the question of whether or not a Chris tian should belong to a local church. Some will argue that church membership is not important. Others will go even further and declare it is not even Biblical. The reasoning goes some thing like this: Since church membership is not essential to salvation and since one is already a member o f the universal Church of Christ and a part of His body through faith, local church mem bership is superfluous—a man-made idea. Such conclusions reveal a limited understanding of what the Bible has to say about the Church and the be liever’s relationship to it. 1. There is a universal church Acts 2:47; Col. 1:18 Each is brought into that fellowship through the new birth. The Lord adds to that church. 2. There is a local church There are many references to a church in a given place: Matt. 18:17; Acts 8:1, 3; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 14:23, 37; 15:3, 22; 18: 22; 20:17, 28; Ro mans 16:1, 5 ; I Cor. 1 :2 ;4 :1 7 ;6 :4 ; 11:18,22; 14:4-5, 12; 19:23; 16:19; II Cor. 1:1 ; Phil. 4:15; Col. 4:15-16; I Thess. 1:1; II Thess. 1 :1 ; I Tim. 5 :16; Philemon 1 :2 ; James 5:14; III John 1:6; Rev. 2:1, 8, 18; 3:1, 7, 14. 3. There are fellowships o f local churches Acts 9 :31; 15:41; 16:5 ; Romans 16:4 ; I Cor. 11:16; 14:34; 16:1, 9; II Cor. 8:1, 18-19, 23- 24; 12:13; Gal. 1:2, 22; I Thess. 2:14; Rev. 1:4, 20; 2:7, 11, 17, 23; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16. Note: The above references indicate that while there is a church universal, the Bible also recog nizes the existence o f a local church and groups of churches. The plural form o f the word church is used on many occasions. These churches individu ally or as groups o f congregations were capable of making decisions, sending out workers, raising funds, enlarging the fellowship, and accepting lead ership. 4. There were people who were a part of the local church and others who were not Acts 2 :4 ; Acts 6:2; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:4 In each instance a certain segment o f the com munity was called. People were either a part o f that local multitude, church, group or they were not. In the third reference a suggestion is made as to the organization of the congregation. It consisted of the church, the apostles, and the elders. Later, in Acts 15, they refer to themselves as “ the apostles and elders and brethren” (15:23), and send greet ings to the “brethren which are of the Gentiles in
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Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.” Not all of the peo ple in these places were brethren. Regardless of how the records were kept—on a parchment or in the minds o f those who were in the group—some of the people were a part o f the church and others were not. 5. One can he a better servant of Christ through membership in a local church The answer to the question as to whether or not one can be a better Christian by belonging to a local church has been well answered as follows: “Can I be just as good a Christian by ignoring the heart o f Christ? Christ established His church upon the earth. He purchased her with His own blood. He laid the foundation upon which she is built. He has appointed her ordinances, established her leadership through gifts from above. He has watched over her through the centuries. The local church is the only visible expression of the invisi ble body. To ignore her is to ignore the apple of His eye.” The apostle Paul was quick to align himself with the believers following his conversion. He believed and preached that Jesus was the Son o f God. He was baptized, and was “with the disciples which were at Damascus” (Acts 9:18, 19). Upon reach ing Jerusalem he was determined to do the same. We read that “ he assayed to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and be- lieved not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). It is of interest to note that he took the initiative in this matter and did so in spite of the fact that he was not well received. There was no waiting on“his part for a special invitation from a pastor or board o f deacons. Joining himself with the believers in Jerusalem was a natural result of his conversion.
THE KING'S BUSINESS
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