Thursday, 18 November 2010

Are you really a member of a church?

I am amazed at how many Christians think they belong to a church when they don't really. Many Christians think that they are members of the local church because they attend the Sunday meeting or have signed a membership covenant. Let's have a look at what the Word of God reveals about church membership and what it really means to be part of a local church.

One with Christ

According to the New Testament everyone who believes in Jesus is united to Christ and made one with Him.

“..he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1 Cor. 6:17 (see also John 17:20-23; 1 John 4:15)

This immersion into Christ is referred to as baptism into His body.

"For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body." 1 Cor. 12:13

One in Christ

The believer's union with God in Christ also means that he is united to others who believe.

"For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household." Eph. 2:18,19

As "members of God's household" we form the Church - the body of Christ.

“Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor. 12:27 "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. " Eph. 1:22,23

A group of believers

The word "church" is used in the Bible to describe believers (saints) and not a building or an organisation. Rather, the word "church" is used to describe a group of believers:
  • a small group of believers
“…the church that meets in your home” Phil. 1:2 (see also Rom. 16:5)
  • a large group of believers
“To the church of God in Corinth..” 1 Cor. 1:2 (see also Acts 9:31; 13:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; Rev. 2:12 etc)
  • all believers
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt. 16:18 (see also Eph. 1:22; 5:32; Col. 1:18)

A holy people

The word "church" is translated from the original Greek word "Ekklesia" and literally means "called out ones."

As believers in Christ, the Church is a group of people who are called out of the world and called to be seperate in their nature and behaviour.

"For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be seperate. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'" 2 Cor. 6:16-18

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God." 1 Peter 2:9

"..they are not of the world any more than I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." John 17:16-19

To be sanctified is to be made holy - set apart for God.

Union revealed

As God's people we not only belong to God but we also belong to one another. The spiritual truth of our union with one another in Christ is revealed by our relationship to one another.

Just as the believer realises His union with God by living a godly life, so he must realise his union with his fellow believers by living in relationship with them.

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Rom. 12:4,5

We belong to one another and we reveal our union in Christ by the way we love one another.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34,35

God's command for His people to love one another is His command for His people to live in relationship with one another.

Therefore, the believer only realises his union with Christ and His people by living in relationship with other believers. The believer who only attends church meetings cannot really say he is part of the local body if he isn't building relationships with his fellow believers.

True love

To love is to lay down one's life for others.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:16-18

Living in God

At the birth of the Church in Acts 2, we read about a people who are filled with God by His Spirit. As a result, the people of God realised their union with God and one another by sharing their lives with one another and living in relationship with one another.

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

Could it be that many don't want to belong to a local body because they don't want to face the challenge of loving others and laying down their lives for others - both the lovable and the "unlovable"?

What is easier: to attend meetings or build relationships; to leave a church or work through the challenges of bearing with one another in love?

Honouring Christ's Body

We are called to honour the body of Christ. That means we are to value and do everything to keep the unity Christ has bought for His people (see 1 Cor. 11:27-34).

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Eph. 4:1-6

Grow in love!

I want to encourage you to be part of a local church and to share your life with others. In isolation you are not honouring what Christ has brought you into and you cannot grow in love. It is only as we grow in love of one another that we increasingly experience the fullness of God that we are immersed in.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Eph. 3:17-19

We need each other to grow in God!

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph. 4:15,16

Let us honour the body of Christ and grow in Him together. Be part of a local body.

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