Church Membership


Series: We Are the Church

Speaker: BJ Chursinoff

This message tackles 2 questions - "What is church membership?" and "Is it biblical?" We'll build a definition of church membership and then lay out the biblical case for it...

Transcription (automatically-generated):

In our last message, we looked at the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples when they were together at Caesarea Philippi, where he said this recorded for us in Matthew chapter 16, verse 18. I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Jesus said that he will build his Church. He will build his case, his assembly of the called out ones. And we saw that Jesus built this particular group of people by calling them from out of one group and into another group.

He's called everyone from out of the group that separated from God because of our sin. And he's called us to come into the group that's had their sins forgiven and are now reconciled to God. People enter into Jesus Church through believing upon Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. This kind of belief in Jesus is a belief that's marked by confession, in repentance and exclusive belief in Jesus and a total surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Christ. This Church that Jesus is building for himself is made up of Christians all over the world.

This is called the universal Church, but Christians who live in the same area as each other come together to form local churches. It's in a local Church where we live out the commands of Jesus with one another and to one another. Well, how do we know who's in this big worldwide universal Church? Well, only God knows for sure, but we do have a good idea of who is because they will be a part of a local Church, or they should be. Well, how do we know who's in the local Church?

The answer to that is Church membership. And this is where we turn our focus to in this message. But before we get any further into our study, I just want to acknowledge the sad truth that there are wicked Amen who have perverted Church membership and used it as a tool to manipulate and abuse people. And if you've ever experienced that in your experience with Church membership in any way, I just want to say how sorry I am. The way Jesus designed his Church to function is a blessing and not a burden.

So if you've had a bad experience with Church membership, I'm going to ask you to keep an open mind and as always, test everything that I share here today against the word of God. See if it lines up with the Scriptures and come to your own conclusions. But I have to say this again that Jesus designed his Church and Church membership to be a blessing and not a burden. So what is this thing called Church membership? We're going to build a definition for Church membership one line at a time.

Here's the first part of the definition, and it's the first filling on your outline. Church Membership a formal relationship between a local Church and a Christian Church membership. A formal relationship between a local Church and a Christian Church. Membership is not a casual relationship between a Christian and a local Church. A person who's a member of a local Church should never say something like this.

You know what? I like my Church a lot. I hang out there when I can, but we're not too serious. My Church doesn't expect anything from me, and I definitely don't expect anything from my Church. Church membership on a casual relationship like that.

It's also not an open dating relationship between a Christians and several different local churches. Someone who's a member of a local Church should never say, you know what? There are so many good local churches in town that I don't want to pigeon hole myself into being a part of only one Church. I want to experience the benefits of all of them. There's this one Church that's going through a super cool sermon series right now.

And then there's this other Church that always plays my favorite worship songs. But there's another Church that has these small groups during the week where all of my friends go. Then there's another Church down the way that has an awesome you fill in the blank because there are so many good churches. I want to keep my options open and get a little bit from all of them. These words should never come out of a person's mouth who is a member of a local Church.

Now, this doesn't mean that if you're a member of a local Church that you don't have friends in other churches, this doesn't mean that you don't ever visit other churches or other ministries. But this does mean that when someone asks you what Church you belong to, you can say I belong to Gospel City Church, or I belong to Riverside Community Church where I belong to Cocoa Alliance Church or I belong to. So Church membership is not an open dating relationship, and it's also not a relationship in one of only of the two parties minds.

Both parties. The Church and the member are on the same page when it comes to the membership of that individual in the Church.

Can you imagine if some guy walks up to you and says this about a girl across the way? He, do you see that girl over there? That's my girlfriend. But then if you walk over and actually ask that girl if she's with that guy, she responds, like, Who's that? I have no idea.

That is that's definitely not my boyfriend. Church membership is the kind of relationship where both the member and the Church say of each other, yes, we're together. Church memberships a formal relationship. And if you're going to compare it to any kind of relationship is most like a marriage relationship. It's not a marriage, but it's like a marriage in Church membership.

The Christian is asked, do you take this local Church to be your Church? And the Christian says I do. And the local Church is asked, do you take this Christian to be one of your members? And the local Church says, we do. I now pronounce you member and Church Church membership is like what a wedding ring is to a marriage.

It's a symbol that says, I'm officially a part of this local Church. So Church membership is a formal relationship between a local Church and a Christian. And here's your next filling. Church membership is characterized by the Church is affirmation of a Christian Salvation and partnership in their discipleship. Church membership characterized by the Church and affirmation of a Christian Salvation and partner in their discipleship.

There's affirmation involved in this formal relationship in Church membership, the local Church says of its members. As best as we can tell, we recognize and affirm this group of people's profession of faith in Jesus to be credible. We recognize their confession, their repentance, their exclusive belief in Jesus and the total surrender of their lives over to Him. But wait a second. Isn't faith a personal endeavor?

Does anybody else, including a local Church, have the right to say anything about another person's faith, especially when it comes to it being real or not? Now, in one sense, a Christian does not need to have a local churches affirmation of their faith before it's credible. Romans chapter eight, verse 16 says this the Spirit Himself testifies together with our Spirit that we are God's children. You receive the Holy Spirit the moment that you become a Christian and the Holy Spirit is all that a person truly needs in order to know if they belong to Jesus or not, because the Holy Spirit Himself will tell you if you belong to God.

Now, even though the Holy Spirit is the only thing a person needs to have to know if they are a Christian, you might be surprised to learn that there is an expectation from Jesus that his Church has a role to play when it comes to affirming Christians profession of faith.

We can see this in the great Commission that Jesus gave his disciples after he rose from the dead. If we understand the implications of what Jesus is saying in it. Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 to 19 Jesus came near and said to them, all authority has been given to me in heaven and on Earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Well, according to Jesus, who are his disciples supposed to baptize? They are to baptize those that they have went and shared the gospel with and those who have believed it. They are to baptize those who have become disciples of Jesus. Jesus commands his disciples to baptize new Christians. Do you know what we can infer from this?

This means that the disciples of Jesus have to be able to affirm a person's profession of faith because we cannot baptize anyone who we do not believe has become a Christian. We affirm their profession of faith before we baptize them. This is one way that Jesus expects us to affirm another person's Salvation and our affirmation of their Salvation doesn't stop there. In a sense, it really just begins because Jesus goes on to say in the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28 20, teaching them to observe everything I've commanded you.

And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.

From the moment a person becomes a Christian, it's the church's duty to teach that new Christian how to obey the commands that Jesus has given to his Church. Every Christian knows that this is what we sign up for. When we place our faith in Jesus, we understand that we sign up to follow Him and His will for our lives. We give our whole life to follow His word. He gives us His spirit to illuminate the word to us and to empower us to do what it says and to even change our heart so that we want to do what it says.

But Christians obeyed Jesus. This is basic Christianity. This is Christianity 101. Let me toss the hypothetical scenario for you. So what a local Church supposed to do if a member of the Church all of a sudden says that they do not believe in or want to submit to the commands of Jesus anymore?

What if they don't want to obey Jesus anymore? I'm not talking about Christians having a bad day or a bad week or a bad month. I'm talking about a person who's taking the name of Christ on their life but has decided to reject following Christ. Does the Church continue to affirm this person's profession of faith as being credible is tricky, but this is the role that Church discipline place in the local Church. We'll look at Church discipline a bit more later in this message, but even then, we won't be able to impact it fully because it's such a big discussion.

But for now I can say this about it. If after walking up the sometimes long and drawn out process of Church discipline with a member of a local Church and they still show no sign of repentance. Then that local Church has no choice but to remove them from the membership of the local Church, saying, in effect, we can't tell for sure what's going on in your heart and whether you belong to Jesus or not. But based on your words and your actions, we can no longer affirm your profession of faith in Jesus at this time.

This is a heavy hypothetical scenario, but it's one that we would have to walk out if it ever happened here among us.

This is what loving Jesus and loving people looks like sometimes. So if we understand the implications of what Jesus is calling his Church to in the Great Commission, we can see that the Church has a role to play in affirming the person's Salvation. Initially. When they become a Christian, we baptize them and we have a role to play in affirming a Christian Salvation in an ongoing way as we continue to teach them how to obey Jesus. If you're a Christian, you should really want to have your Salvation affirmed.

It's so healthy and encouraging to have your faith affirmed by a group of people who know you and love you, especially when you wrestle with your faith at times because we all wrestle with our faith at times, don't we? I've heard many believers say after they've messed up in an area of their life. Am I even a Christian? If I do something like that, it's in those moments that it's priceless to have a brother or sister in Christ who knows you and knows your faith to encourage you at the gospel and remind you of your identity in Christ, reminding you how they've seen faithfulness and fruitfulness in your life, reminding you that Christians still make mistakes and that we won't be perfect until we get to Heaven, reminding you that you are saved by Jesus's perfect life, not by your imperfect life of following Him.

We need these reminders and affirmations as we give ourselves the following Jesus.

We need to be encouraged and reminded of the gospel continually because sometimes the Christian life is tough sledding. So there's affirmation in this relationship between a member and a local Church and there's also partnership. It's a local churches duty to disciple the disciples in Church membership. A local Church says to the member, we will partner with you in your discipleship as a follower of Jesus. This doesn't mean we make anybody do anything that they don't want to do, but this does mean that we take people at their word when they say they've trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and they've given their life over to follow Him with all of their life.

We take a member at his or her word when they inform the Church that they want to obey Jesus. If they say to the Church I want to follow Jesus with my entire life. Amen, whatever it is that he asks me to do, will you help me do that? As a Church? We say, alright, let's do it.

So Church Memberships A formal relationship between a local Church and a Christian characterized by the church's affirmation of the Christian Salvation and partnership in their discipleship and use your next filling. Church membership is characterized by the Christian submission to let me know his or her discipleship in the care of the Church. Church memberships characterized by the Christian submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the Church. In Church membership, the member says to the local Church, I want you to help me follow Jesus.

Teach me His commands, model them for me.

Encourage me to do them. Hold me accountable when I don't. I want you to do this for me, this is a voluntary choice a member makes. A member wants to submit their discipleship to the care of the Church. This is never a forced submission.

It's an invitation to join a group of believers where everyone together is all in on following Jesus, and every single one of us submits to living out our discipleship in the care of one another. This is so important practically because we will not call everyone who attends a Gospel City Church service to the same standard of living and obedience. Believe it or not only those who inform us that they want us to disciple them, only those who become members. We will call members to a certain standard of living and those of us who are Christians but aren't members.

Well, if that's you, we will encourage you to become a member of a local Church, whether it's here at Gospel City or as a part of another local Church that believes the Bible loves Jesus and people and gives itself to making disciples.

But we won't hold you to the same standard of accountability as we will with those who are members of Gospel City Church and those of us who aren't members because you aren't a Christian yet. Well, if that's you, we're going to continue to model the love of Christ to you and continue to call you to put your trust in Him. But we will not expect you or call you to live like a Christian if you aren't a Christian yet. So when you put these three aspects of Church membership together, you get this definition.

Church membership a formal relationship between a local Church and a Christian characterized by the church's affirmation of the Christian Salvation and partnership in their discipleship and the Christian submission to Livin his or her discipleship in the care of the Church.

This whole thing called Church membership a two part process number one, and this is your next fee on your outline. Church membership includes the one time process of becoming a member. It includes the one time process of becoming a member a Gospel city. This will include walking through some membership material in an online format just to make it as easy as possible for people to access and having an interview with one or more of the elders of Gospel City and then entering into a member's Covenant along with the other members of Gospel City Church.

Each of these steps are part of a one time process, and then there's part number two, the next filling on your Outline Church membership also includes the ongoing process of being a member.

It includes the ongoing process of being a member. Once you become a member of a local Church, that is, when the blessing of the Church really just begins, and you now get to live your life as a Christian following Jesus as part of an assembly of other called out ones who have all given their life to do the same. After we become a member, we invest our lives and living as one following Jesus as one as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers us to do. Every local Church that practices Church membership does it a little bit different, and there's room to do it differently from Church to Church.

Next week we're going to look at how we are going to walk out Church membership here at Gospel City Church in more detail.

But right now I want to switch gears a bit so that we can tackle a really big question regarding Church membership is actually the biggest question about it, and the only one we really need to be asking if we can't answer this next questionable Church membership, then there's no point going any further in this series. If we can't answer this next question, then we don't implement Church membership at Gospel City Church, and no local Church would practice Church membership anywhere. That's how big this question is. So what's the biggest question that we need to ask about Church membership?

Is it biblical?

When we read and interpret the Bible, do we come away with a plane and simple understanding that Church membership is biblical and therefore should be practiced today? Or is the Bible silent when it comes to the concept and practice of Church membership? You need to know up front that all Christians and all churches do not come to the same conclusion about Church membership. There are some who don't think it's biblical, and that's why I'm going to do my best to lay out a case for you to show you that it is like an actual case, like a lawyer would I want to invite you in your imagination into a courtroom setting right here right now, this is going to be good.

All those years that I watched reruns of Matlock as a teenager are finally going to pay off in this courtroom drama.

I'm going to present both cases on one side. I'll present the case that the prosecutor is bringing against the concept of Church membership, claiming that it's unbiblical and that no local Church anywhere should practice it. Then on the other side, I'm going to act as the defense attorney. When I get to this part, I want you to imagine me wearing a Gray suit if you can. And all the Matlock fans out there know what I'm talking about.

And I'm going to respond to the charge that Church membership is unbiblical by building a case to show the courtroom that it is indeed a biblical concept and that it should be practiced by every local Church. Sounds good. Okay. The gavel has hit the bench. Court is now in session.

So first, here's the prosecution's case against Church membership. The prosecution believes that we have a simple and airtight case. Therefore, our presentation will be brief. To put it plainly, Church membership is unbiblical because Church membership isn't in the Bible. I would like the courtroom to consider the following true statements.

Nowhere in the Bible do we see the phrase Church membership being used? Nowhere in the Bible do we see a class or teaching given to someone either before or after they've been saved in order for them to be brought into membership in a local Church? Nowhere in the Bible do we see the use of lists of names to identify those who are members of a local Church? We see none of it in the Bible anywhere. Church membership is unbiblical because we don't see it in the Bible.

The prosecution rests its case. Wow. After hearing that, you might think Church membership isn't a Slam dunk, but before you render a verdict, let's turn it over to the defense. Remember, we're in a Gray suit now, the defense intends to show the courtroom today that the practice of Church membership is indeed biblical and therefore necessary for the local Church. Today I have five items I would like to enter into evidence.

I will introduce them one at a time, and as I do, I want you to keep something in mind. Some of these items will be entered into evidence do not have enough standalone value on their own to make a case for the biblical nature of Church membership, but I believe that when they are all taken an account together, the court will see that Church membership is indeed biblical. So here's your first filling and I would like to enter into evidence. Exhibit A. We use words that don't exist in the Bible to describe realities that do exist in the Bible.

We use words that don't exist in the Bible to describe realities that do exist in the Bible. Just because we don't see explicit words in the Bible describing a particular truth, it doesn't mean that the Bible doesn't affirm that truth just because the word Church membership don't appear in the Bible, it doesn't necessarily follow that the concept of Church membership doesn't exist in the Bible. Here's an example of this principle. There's another word that doesn't exist in the Bible, the word Trinity. The Bible is Crystal clear that there is only one God, and yet the Bible is also Crystal clear that deity is ascribed to three persons God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, one God in three persons, three persons, and only one God.

This truth is in the Bible, and we've given this truth a name that doesn't exist in the Bible. In order to convey it, we call God a Trinity. Now, as I continue to lay out my case for the biblical nature of Church membership, I'm going to argue that we need to understand the reality of Church membership in the same way. The words Church membership are not in the Bible, but the reality of Church membership is definitely in the Bible. The defense will ally to enter Exhibit B into evidence, and this is the next fill-in on your outline.

The dominant usage of the word "lesia" in the New Testament, the dominant usage of the word "lesia" in the New Testament. As we saw last week, the Greek word for Church Ecclesia is found 114 times in the New Testament. A couple of those instances refers to a non-religious assembly. A few more times. It's used to refer to Jesus universal Church around the world.

But out of the 114 times "ekklesia" is used 90 of those times is used to refer to a local Church. That's a high percentage. Do you know what that means for our discussion that in most cases where else is used in the Bible, it's a dressing a very particular group of people in a very particular place. In a very particular time it's used to describe a local assembly of Jesus is called out once. Now can I ask the courtroom to consider a few questions in light of this, who were in these groups and who weren't?

How did they differentiate between who was in a local Church and who wasn't? How could they tell who was part of a local Ecclesia? Now you don't have to call the process Church membership, but I think you do have to acknowledge that there had to be some mechanism in place for Christians to be able to differentiate between those who are part of a local Church and those who weren't. All we are suggesting is that using the term Church membership is a viable way to describe the method of determining who was a part of the local Church, which was a distinct and identifiable group of believers in Jesus that is referred to specifically 90 times in the Bible.

Now the defense would like to enter Exhibit C into evidence.

This is the next villain on your outline. Church membership has always existed. Church membership has always existed. In looking at this piece of evidence, we're going to explore what the early Church practice when it came to Church membership. Now a word of caution is needed.

Any time we discuss the practices of the early Church, what the early Church did is informative and instructive, but the practices of the early Church are not authoritative. The Bible alone is our authority for what we do in the Church today. I don't necessarily agree with everything I'm going to share with you regarding the practice of Church membership in the early Church, but I am going to show it to the court any way to highlight the fact that from the beginning of the Church age, the Church realized that Church membership was necessary and that it didn't contradict what the Bible taught.

In fact, Church membership only helped to teach Christians what the Bible taught and how to live it out. At the very beginning of the Church, all the converts were already members.

The first Christians were Jews and thus already were members of the Jewish faith community, and Christianity was not considered a separate religion, becoming a Christian for them was a matter of belief, believing that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah of Israel. As soon as the Jew believed the gospel, they were baptized and became a part of the house fellowship of other Christian Jews. They needed no instruction on the existence of one God or even how to live a moral life. In some ways, the Jewish lifestyle was stricter than the Christian standard would be in comparison.

At the very beginning had a short trip to membership in the Christian group believe and be baptized.

Both of these could be accomplished in one day. Baptism was the entry point into Church membership. From the very beginning, baptism has always been to sign that someone has come into the Church. But back then, Jews who got baptized into Christ knew what baptism meant and they knew what the expectations of life in the community of God required of them. Now, as the Church spread to the Gentiles, belief became another matter.

When Christianity started spilling over onto the Gentiles, things changed. Christian missionaries to the Gentiles like Paul and Barnabas and Silas and others faced a whole new set of problems. The first problem was the Gentiles were polytheistic. They believed in many gods. They were inclined toward a multiple God religion.

Their gods were specialized, one for the sea, another for celebrations, another managed pregnancy, and still others dealt with healing and protection or protection. They figured it never hurt to add a new specialist God to your collection. Oh, Jesus sounds cool. Let's just add Him to our mix of gods. Thus, Gentiles could get people to pray the prayer fairly easily, but they soon discovered Gentiles were merely adding Jesus into their pantheon of other gods.

That's not what the gospel is supposed to produce in a person's life. Jesus is not just an option among many gods. Jesus is not a way. Jesus is the only way. When the Apostles worked with the Jews, they did not have to get them to abandon their God.

Just accept Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. However, when the Apostles evangelized the Gentiles, they had to get them to both unbelieve and belief. They had to get the Gentiles to both confess unbelief in their present gods and belief in the one true God making members under the Gentiles took time to convince them of the uselessness of their gods and the exclusive claims of Christianity. Fixing their belief. Belief was hard and time consuming work.

But Apostles to the Gentiles had another problem. The Gentiles behavior evangelist to the Jews had it easy when it came to behavior. Most Jews already behaved or at least knew how to behave. The Gentile dogs, as the Jews called them, were different. They were called dogs by the Jews because they have the morals of a wandering dog, especially relating to sex.

The Gentiles visited trying prostitutes like people go golfing. Today they had little remorse or guilt. It was normal to have a lifestyle that was driven by lust and telling a Corinthian he needed to stop visiting the temple. Prostitutes to be a Christian, would he? Similar to telling people today they have to give up golfing to become a Christian.

Evangelism among the Jews was converting lifelong Church attendees at youth camp with the same problem to heart heartedness. But on the other hand, evangelism among the Gentiles I was like winning prostitutes off the street in Las Vegas. So what did the Apostles do? If they had followed the pattern of Jewish evangelism, they would. He simply preached.

Christ invited people to believe in him as Messiah, baptized them that afternoon, then took them into the fellowship of the Christians that evening for the common meal. But eventually the Apostles and missionary to the Gentiles had to slow the process down to filter out the easy believism of people who practiced a multi God religion. So what do they do? Well, the early Church delayed baptism among the Gentiles and introduced membership training. Since baptism was the entry point into the Church it was withheld until a candidate got their belief straightened out.

Here is the general procedure. About the time the final books of the New Testament were being written, candidates for membership became something called cat humans. They claimed they wanted to join the Church and officially declared their interest in starting the process. Cate humans were excluded from the second half of worship. The early Church had a two part service.

The service of the Word were singing, preaching and prayer occurred, and a second service of the table where the Lord's Supper was celebrated. Nobody was allowed to stay for the Lord's Supper accept baptized Christians. Thus, the Caddy humans attended only the first half of the worship service until their baptism. A mentoring approach was used where one person trained the catechumen and the curriculum used was the two ways found in the day. One of the earliest Church writing still in existence.

We can read the Adaki today. If we really care about Church membership in the early Church before the last book of the New Testament was written, the Church already had a well developed curriculum. In fact, the dediki was widely considered as a candidate for inclusion in the Cannon, although it didn't make the eventual cut. At first, a single mentor used this curriculum to train the Gentile. Cat human in right beliefs and right behaviors.

Group training eventually emerged, but at the beginning it was a person to person training with a mentor or a sponsor. This membership training lasted for up to two years. You heard that right? Two years. We can't even imagine it with the drive through values of modern culture.

But the early Church delayed full membership for as long as two years before the candidate was able to take Communion with the rest of the Church. The question we have, of course, is, how did the early Church grow at such a rapid pace while making membership so hard to attain. Who knows? It's totally beyond us. But they did.

For by the time of Constantine? S conversion, they had virtually pervaded the entire Empire. But during these 250 years, Cat Amen learned and grew spiritually while they were waiting to get into the Church. And then finally the Cat Amen was baptized and took their first Communion after the candidate was deemed ready. An elaborate procedure kicked in the gear, including fasting for both the Canada and the one performing the baptism an exorcism.

And for the record, this won't be a part of the membership process here at Gospel City. But back then they actually believed an unbeliever should have the devil expelled. There was a pointing with oil. They drank a mixture of milk and honey. Then baptism was followed by the person's first opportunity to attend the second service where they took their first Communion, becoming a full member from then on, all of this was in place before the close of the New Testament.

We're not talking here of what the Church did in 200 or after Constantine in 350. But we are describing what the Church did in the first century while some of the New Testament was still being written. So what does all this tell us about the current Church membership debate today? Remember, just because the early Church did something, it does not necessarily mean that we must do it today. Our authority is the word of God alone.

But it is interesting to note that the early Church faced challenges when they preached the gospel to the Gentiles, who had no reference point or understanding of what was required of them. When they became a part of the community of God's. People Jews knew it well. That's why when they believed they were simply baptized and their baptism was their membership into the Church, Gentiles had no clue what was going on. Everything had to be explained to them more fully so that they could understand what God was calling them into.

And he was calling them to believe on Jesus. When they understood what was going on, they were baptized to and became official members of the local Church. To now I'm not sure if this is news to you, but Canada is not a biblically literate nation. We are filled to the brim with people who have absolutely no idea what the Gospel is, let alone what it means to be a part of Jesus' Church? Do you think that when we share the Gospel with people today in Canada that they know what a Messiah is?

Do you think they know what Salvation is? Do you think they know what confession repentance, exclusive belief in Jesus and total surrender to Him is? Do you think they know what the Church is and what the expectations are for those who are part of Jesus' Church? I talk to people all the time outside the Church about Jesus and the Bible. And I can tell you this people don't have the slightest clue about any of it, and that's not me speaking negatively about people.

That's just me sharing the truth about the spiritual condition of people who live in this country today. The process of Church membership is a necessary tool to help people understand exactly what it is that they're signing up for when they receive Christ and decide to follow him. If Church is just something that you attend, then you don't really need to know anything about it. You can come and go as you please with no expectations placed upon you. But if Church is something that you become a functional and actual part of, then don't you think it makes sense for someone to understand the ins and outs of belonging to a Church before they give themselves to doing the things that will be required and expected of them?

Church membership explains what biblical Christianity is. Then, with that understanding, the person decides if they want to live that way with a particular group of Christians as part of a local Church. The early Church practice the form of Church membership, and I would argue that it's still necessary for us today to do the same in the Church today in some way, minus the mandatory exorcisms, of course. Alright, now I'd like to draw your attention to Exhibit D. This is the next feeling on your outline.

There are lists of people in the Bible. There are lists of people in the Bible. When Church membership is in place in a local Church, it usually means that a list of names is kept up to date with those who are members of the Church. Compiling a list of names is not unbiblical. We have precedent for in the Bible one the early Church kept a list of widows.

We know this from the widow list mentioned in first Timothy chapter five that lists of people were kept and tracked. Paul says this in first Timothy chapter five, starting to verse nine. No widow is to be enrolled on the list for support unless she's at least 60 years old, has been the wife of one husband and is well known for good works. That is, if she is brought up, children shown hospitality, washed the Saints feet, help the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work but refused to enroll younger widows.

So there was a list of widows who qualified for support from the Church, and this list excluded particular widows from receiving support.

Now this is not to bring up a discussion about the support for widows, rather is to highlight the usage of lists in the Bible for the purpose of shepherding the local Church. There were people on the list and there were people who weren't on the list. If the widows were listed, it was not out of the question that a list of current members was kept and updated as well. You might still think lists are bad then maybe if that's you maybe you didn't know this little tidbit to God himself keeps a list of all believers.

Philippians chapter four, verse three, the Apostle Paul says this indeed true companion.

I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the Gospel together with Clement, also in the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the book of Life in Revelation, chapter 21, verses 27, the Apostle John writes this, and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and line shall ever come into the New Jerusalem, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of Life. These two examples of lists of names in the Bible Amen to share with you are not necessarily a proof of the practice of Church membership, but it's interesting to consider God doesn't condemn his people for using lists of people's names, even as his very own list of names written in a book.

If the local Church is made up of specific group of believers in Jesus is out of the question to have a list of names that identifies who's in this group finally exhibit e for the courtroom and the next billing on your outline. Certain difficult obligations cannot be fulfilled. Apart from the practice of Church membership, certain biblical obligations cannot be fulfilled.

Apart from the practice of Church membership. I saved this one for last because I believe this is the decisive point in making an argument for the practice of Church membership in a local Church. If the way that you do Church keeps you from being able to obey any part of the new test Amen commands given to us, then you have to change the way that you do Church so that you can obey God. There are at least three commands that cannot be obeyed, apart from the specific identification that Church membership applies to a local body of believers.

First, who exactly are the elders of a local Church accountable to God?

For if there is no way to distinguish between those who are part of the local Church from those who aren't he. Bruce after 13, verse 17, says this, obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account so they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you in context, this verse is not referring to government leaders or any other kinds of leaders. It's referring to the leaders of the Church, and according to the Apostle Peter, these leaders of the Church are called elders first.

Peter, chapter five, verses one to four, I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed. Shepherd God's flock among you, not overseen out of compulsion, but willingly as God would have.

You not out of greed for money but eagerly, not Lording it over those entrusted to you. But being examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading Crown of glory. So according to the Apostle Peter, elders are the leaders of the local churches, and it's the elders who will have to give an account in Hebrews chapter 13, verse 17 give an account to who elders will have to give an account to God for how they shepherd his flock of called out ones that he has entrusted into their care.

That's no small responsibility.

And it's one that the elders of Gospel City Church take very seriously. But it raises a very important, very practical question. Who exactly are the ones we will have to give an account to God for whose souls are we responsible to keep watch over? Well, Jeff and I and any other Gospel City elders that God raises up have to give an account to God for how we shepherd every single Christian around the world who is a part of the universal Church. Will we have to give an account to God?

For every Christian in Canada, will we be accountable for every Christian who lives in the lower mainland here in British Columbia? Will we be accountable to God for how we shepherd every person who simply attends a Gospel City Church service, whether in person or online, even if they only happen to attend once? What if Christians who attend Gospel City Church on the weekend don't want to be shepherded by us? Will we still be accountable to God for them? Can you see the dilemma if elders have to answer to God for those in their care, how can they know specifically who they have to answer for?

Can I suggest an answer to this dilemma? Could it be that the elders of Gospel City will only have to give an account to God for the believers who attend Gospel City who actually want to be shepherded by us, who voluntarily give themselves to be pastor by us? And if so, how would we go about telling the difference between those who want to be he shepherded by us and those who don't? Can I offer to you that Church membership is that way in which everyone in the Church and outside of the Church knows exactly who the elders are responsible for and who they're not responsible for.

It's only by ending a formal relationship with a local Church that the elders of that Church can know who they will have to answer to God for Church membership makes this necessary distinction possible, and I know of no other way around it.

Secondly, which elders are Christians supposed to submit to? This is the flip side of the same coin. Let's look at Hebrews chapter 1317. Again, it says this is the very beginning. Obey your leaders and submit to them.

There's a command in the Bible given to Christians to obey their elders and submit to them. Well, how can you obey this command, practically which elders are you supposed to obey and submit to? As a Christian, all the elders in the world, all the elders in Canada, all the elders here in the Tri cities. What if one elder from one Church calls you to something that isn't unbiblical? And another elder from another Church also calls you to something that isn't unbiblical, but both of those things can't be done simultaneously, meaning you have to choose to obey one elder over the other.

How do you know who to obey? How do you fulfill this command? In Hebrews chapter 13 Church membership draws the lines plainly around those who are members of a local Church and who the elders of that same local Church are, and these lines actually guide you and how you are to walk out your Christian life as long as the elders call you to obey the Bible and they do not call you to sin, and they do not abuse their authority or try to force you to do anything, then lovingly, obey and submit to them.

If you're a part of that local Church and if you don't want to obey them under these circumstances, then don't be a member of that Church. Be a member of a different Church where you can obey and submit to the leaders there.

I would argue that you can't fulfill this command in Hebrews chapter 1317. If you're a Christian apart from meaningful Church membership, for some, this may raise the question, who do the elder submit to? We'll address that valid question next week study. So don't miss it. Thirdly, how does Church discipline work in a local Church without Church membership?

A full discussion on Church discipline would warrant an entire sermon because we would need to talk about things like when should we approach a person who's in sin? And when should we overlook their mistakes? Or what posture should we take an approaching someone when we point out there soon or that we need to be diligent to address in in our own life before we ever address it in someone else's life? Or how long does the process of Church discipline take, or how do we bring someone back into the Church?

Have they been removed from it as a result of Church discipline?

Or how calling a fellow Christian out over their sin is not hateful, but it's the opposite. It's the most loving thing that we can do, not only for them but for everyone. Love is the main point of Church discipline, or how calling each other to Holiness is the expectation in the local Church. It's what we sign up for to help others follow Jesus and have them help us follow him to. There will be a lot to talk about, so obviously we can't unpack everything about Church discipline in this message.

My main focus right now is to show you the connection between the necessity of Church membership and the ability to practice Church discipline in the context of the local Church. If you remember from last week we learned that Jesus is recorded using the word CLA in only two places in the Gospels. Once in Matthew chapter 16, verses 18, where he says that he will build his Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. The second place Jesus mentions the churches in Matthew chapter 18, where he explains Church discipline.

Jesus says, this is Matthew 18, verses 15 to 18.

If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you've won your brother. But if you won't listen, take one or two others with you so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact may be established. If he doesn't pay attention to them, tell the Church. If he doesn't pay attention even to the Church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.

Truly, I tell you, whatever you bind on Earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will have been loosed in heaven. In this passage, Jesus lays out the path for repentance and reconciliation in his Church. When someone is caught in sin, there are several steps to walk out in Church discipline. But if we fast forward to the very end of the process, we're going to see that we're to bring a case of an unrepentant believer before the whole Church. We are to tell the Church.

Jesus says, okay, well, if the Church is made up of Christians, which Christians do we tell this person sin to do? We craft an email detailing this person's sin and then make sure we get this email to every single Christian in the universal Church around the globe. Do we find a way to inform every Christian in Canada about this person's unrepentant sin? Should we tell every Christian in the Tri cities about this person in should we tell every person who simply attends a service at Gospel City Church?

When Jesus tells us to tell the Church, she's telling us to tell those who make up the local Church that this person is a part of.

How do we know who is a part of that local Church apart from the practice of Church membership? And what if this person doesn't repent even after everyone in their Church is made aware of their unrepentant in in First Corinthians, chapter five, Paul tells us that we need to remove this person from among us. Well, what group of people do we remove this person from? If a clearly defined group of people called the local Church doesn't exist? Church membership identifies the local Church that person is a part of it identifies the group of Christians that are told of an unrepented number sin according to Jesus and Matthew 818, verse 17 Church Memberships What identifies the group of Christians that an unrepentant Christian is removed from if they remain steadfast in their unrepentant.

Church membership identifies the group of Christians that a person is joyfully brought back into if or when Church discipline accomplishes its God ordained purpose. And Church membership lets us know who to party with when a brother or sister comes back. Church discipline cannot take place in a local Church. Without Church membership being practiced, it can happen. It can happen practically.

Anyways. This brings my argument in defense of the biblical nature of Church membership to a close. The prosecution laid out their case against Church membership proclaiming that it isn't biblical, but it's my hope that by taking all five of the exhibits that I've entered into evidence today into consideration that you've been persuaded to believe in the biblical nature of Church membership and therefore understand it's necessary for us to practice at the local Church level to recap the words Church membership aren't in the Bible, but the reality of Church membership is the Bible uses the word Ecclesia to identify a specific group of people in the world called the local Church.

There must be a way to differentiate between those who are in this group and those who aren't. That mechanism is Church membership.

Church membership has always been practiced in the local Church. Compiling a list of names is not forbidden in the Bible. We can use them in the practice of Church membership today with a clear conscience in how we Shepherd God's people. And finally, we saw that without the clearly defined lines that Church membership draws around a local body of believers, it would be impossible to obey certain commands in the Bible. Church membership is a biblical concept.

Therefore, we want every Christian to be a member of a local Church. It can be here in Gospel City, but it doesn't have to be. It can also be in any local Church that believes the Bible loves Jesus and people and gives themselves to making disciples. Well, how are we going to walk out Church membership as a Church here in Gospel City in truth, Grace and love. And that's what we're going to look at next week.

You pray with me, Jesus. Thank you for your Church. You're the only reason that your Church exists. You're the only reason, Lord, that anyone's in your Church is by your life is by your shed blood on the cross and your death and your burial and your triumphant resurrection, that any sinned has a way to have our sins removed. It's the only way Jesus, any of us can be regenerated, be born again, be saved.

He brought into the family, got you, and you alone are the only reason that your Church has people in it. So we thank you, Jesus, and we confess happily that the Church is yours. You are the chief shepherd. It belongs to no people. It belongs to one person.

Only in that person is you. And so Jesus, as your people who have been by your mercy and Grace, have been brought in to be a part of your Church. There's only one thing that we want to see it happen in your Church. We want it to be the kind of Church that you want it to be. Lord, we want your Church globally and locally, at the local level, to be governed and to make decisions and to live and to serve and to do whatever we do according to your word, according to your word, according to the Bible.

And so, Lord, just give us a zeal. Give us or to know what your word says about your Church and let us just move forward, step by step in an unswerving way, Lord, to build your Church and to be a kind of Church that blesses you. And that honors the Scriptures. That's the only thing we care about, Jesus. So do that.

Because if we do that, Lord, if we give ourselves to making your Church the way that you want it to be, you will be glorified and your people will be blessed. Do it. Jesus. We pray in your name. Amen.


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