BIBLICAL BASIS FOR LOCAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
by Andres C. Guevara Jr.
Many are part of the activity but not of the body of the church. Others are ignorant of the new testament teaching on the important of the local church membership therefore they missed the blessing of it.
What is meant by membership? What does it mean to be in the membership of a local church?
Webster defines membership as the state or status of being a member.
Webster defines member as a part (as an arm, leg, leaf, or branch) of an animal or plant; one of the individuals composing a group; a constituent part of a whole.
It would certainly appear from this definition that a member of anybody implies being part of a whole. It also implies that the part has no identity apart from the body. Paul develops that very concept in I Corinthians 12. He says, And if they (the various members of the body) were all one member, where were the body? (I Cor. 12:19).
There are some preliminary remarks about church membership. The bible knows nothing about:
1. Undefiled church membership All born people are automatically members of a global church.
2. Unregenerate church membership The message of the church is repentance from sin and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation -Acts 20:21. There is the regenerated local church membership -Acts 2:37-42; Acts 5:12-14; Acts 8:12.
3. Involuntarily church membership Acts 2:41, 47; Acts 4:32. Nowhere in the Bible who are not willing to be part of local church membership.
Local church membership is the voluntary act of a converted person, identifying with and committing to in assembly or gathering of God's people called the local church.
Is Church membership biblical?
Here are biblical basis for church membership:
I- BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF THE EARLY CHURCH—Acts 2:40-47
The word added are mentioned both in verses 41 and 47
ADDED means to put to, to add to, to join together with any accompany.
Where they were added? to the church that is in Jerusalem. -v.47 and that is to them in verse 41.
II- BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL—Acts 9:23-28
In verse 26 it says about Apostle Paul that when he come to Jerusalem he assayed to join himself to the disciples to the believers according to verse 27.
Paul saw that church membership is not optional.
The word, join in the original means to unite together, to join closely, or clinging to.
III- BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF THE EARLY CHURCH KEEPING RECORDS OF ALL WHO ARE PART OF ITS NUMBER
Acts 1:15-16 -there are number of 120 names listed of disciples; Acts 2:41 -3,000 were added to that 120
Acts 4:4 -5,000 were added to that 3,000 (they were growing in numbers); Acts 6:1 -the number of the disciples were multiplied as continue to increase.; Acts 6:7 -they multiplied greatly.; Acts 9:31--churches multiplied.
Acts 16:5 -churches were strengthen and increased in number daily.
I Timothy 5:9 -Paul instructing Timothy in the church about that there is a group of widow who were in local churches of which are non under 60 yrs old.
I John 2:19 -John speaks about false disciples. There was definite defined group of disciples which made up not of us. John knew who were part of their number and who were not part of their number
IV- BIBLICAL EXAMPLE OF THE AUTONOMOUS LOCAL CHURCH
If the local church is a pure democracy, self-owned, autonomous, self-governed, then who should control its affairs and property? Members or non-members? Who should have the privilege of voting in a democratic fashion? Members or non-members? Who should be eligible to vote in local church elections(Acts 6:5,6)? Members or non-members?
1. The local church always acted in absolute self-judgment on discipline of its own membership - I Corinthians 5:13.
2. The local church always acted in absolute self-election of its own officers - Acts 6:1-6.
3. The local church always acted in absolute self-protection of it own ordinances - I Cor. 11:23.
4. The local church always acted in absolute self-settlement of its own internal affairs -I Cor. 6:1-5.
5. The local church always acted in absolute self-determination of its relation with other local churches - Acts 15:1-30.
6. The local church always acted in absolute self-government as the only government for local churches - Matt. 18:15-17.
7. The local church always acted in absolute self-possession of its own property - Acts 15:1-30
V- BIBLICAL EVIDENCES FOR LOCAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
1) The Discipline of Members
Church membership is implied by the way the church is supposed to discipline its members. Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15 -17 where the church (ekklesia) appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership. If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community?
2) The Excommunication of Members
Church membership is implied by the simple fact that excommunication even exists. Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 5:12 -13 where he deals with the necessity of putting someone out of the church. He says, For what have I to do to judge them also that are without (outsiders)? Do not ye judge them that are within (insider)? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
The clear implication here is that a person can be removed from being in the church. Such a formal removal would not be possible if there were no such thing as a clear membership -who is an accountable part of this body, and who is not?
3) The Submission of Members to Their Leaders
Church membership is implied in the biblical requirement of Christians to be submitted to a group of church leaders, elders, or pastors. The point here is that without membership, who is it that the New Testament is referring to who must submit to a specific group of leaders?
Consider the way the New Testament talks about the relationship of the church to her leaders.
Obey your leaders and submit to them -Hebrews 13:17
Respect those who labor among you and are over you (proistamenous humon)--1 Thessalonians 5:12 -13
Let the elders who rule well (hoi kalos proestotes presbuteroi) be considered worthy of double honor -1 Timothy 5:17
This leadership and submission are going to work if there is church membership defining who has made the commitment to be led and who has been chosen as leaders?
4) The Shepherd Care for the Sheep
Church membership is implied in the way the New Testament requires elders to care for the flock in their charge. Of course elders can extend their love to anyone and everyone, and should, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group -a group of members. Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with His own blood.
This verse does not say elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?
The way Peter speaks to the elders in 1 Peter 5 is even more clear on this point. Verses 2 -3: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage (tov kleron), but being examples to the flock.
God's heritage (your portion, your lot) implies that the elders knew whom they were responsible for. This is just another way of talking about membership. If a person does not want to be held accountable by a group of elders or be the special focus of the care of a group of elders, they will resist the idea of membership. And they will resist God's appointed way for them to live and be sustained in their faith.
5) The Biblical picture of the Body
What picture? It was a picture of a body which is the church. Paul uses the metaphor of a body for the necessity of unity
In I Corinthians 12:12 -18 --tells us that each of individual members of the universal body has function to do in each local church. The application is in verse 27. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear.
All parts in one body are joint all are connected into one body.
The New Testament knows nothing about a Christian apart from local church membership.
As a believer not just about your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ but also about your relationship with the local church. We should have harmonious relationship with each other, as we worship together, serving God together, uniting in every task God called us to do.
There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body.
Conclusion: True Believers must be a part of a true local church. Christians must maintain the glory and purity, the honor and dignity of being member in this glorious society (the redeemed church of the Lord Jesus Christ).