God’s group thoughts for 8/18/2013 “What Must We Do To Be Saved?” (Part #7 – What about church membership?)

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“What Must We Do To Be Saved?” 

(Part #7 – What about church membership?)

 
 
Is membership in a local church necessary for salvation? If not, why should a Christian be a member of a church? This blog entry will be using the Holy Word of God to answer these questions for us.

Before we can understand the purpose and importance of church membership, we need to understand the origin of the church.

 

The Origins of the Church…

 

The first text we will be looking at is Matt 16:13-20 (KJV) – “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”

 

In this text, we find the Lord addressing the issue of the lost world’s perception of Him. Of the many differing views, John the Baptist, Elijah (Elias), Jeremiah (Jeremias) or one of the other OT prophets is mentioned. Christ then asks His followers what they believe about His identity. Peter, speaking for all his disciples, says “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

 

In his response Peter reflects three basic truths about Christ…

 

First of all, by using the title “Christ”, Peter is saying that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. In other words, He was the One chosen by God to fulfill very special ministries. Jesus was the One anointed by God to be the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King.

 

Secondly, Peter presents two truths about Christ using the title “Son of the Living God”. Christ, finds His origins in God the Father. Christ was not simply a man called by His God. But, He was God Himself, the every essence of God come to earth to save mankind from their sins.

 

Thirdly, in the title “Son of the Living God” we are taught that Jesus was the perfect representative of the Father. Jesus was the servant of the Living God, Jesus would be actively presenting God’s Word, doing God’s deeds and fulfilling the will of God in all that He would say and do.

 

In response to Peter’s statement, Jesus then says “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” In other words, Jesus was presenting the truth that anyone who comes to a truthful understanding of the person of Jesus does so only after God graciously reveals this truth to Him. No one can come to this understanding of Christ with his own ability.

 

Who is the Rock?…

 

Jesus continues by saying “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” When Peter acknowledged the truth about Christ, he proved that he was a follower of Christ and a member of the family of God. Jesus acknowledges this when He said “Thou art Peter”. The word Peter means “a small piece coming from a large rock.” In other words, Christ was telling Peter, “Peter when you stated your belief in me as Messiah and the Son of God you were proving that you (the small piece) are a part of Me (the large rock).”

 

Christ continues by explaining that He would build His church upon “this rock”. Who is the Rock? Christ Himself. The Lord was not saying He would build His church upon Peter. How do we know this? Peter was described as a small piece coming from “The Rock” of Christ. It is because the church is built upon Christ, the Messiah and the Son of God, that we can be assured that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

 

What are the Keys to the Kingdom?

 

Jesus completes this discourse by saying “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 

What is the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven? The Truth concerning the identity of Christ (The Messiah, the Son of the Living God).

 

Now that Peter has proclaimed the truth about the person of Christ. Christ responds by handing to the assembled disciples (the church at Jerusalem) the responsibility to present these truths to others. Christ is explaining to the disciples that they are to take these truths about who He is to a lost and dying world. In doing so, the local church would be making a legitimate offer of salvation to all. If those in the world come to a Godly faith in this message of Christ they would be saved (loosed from the bonds of sin both on earth and heaven). If those in the world who hear this truth reject it, they would be condemned to eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (continued bound under sin and God’s wrath both on earth and throughout eternity). In essence, this is the same responsibility given to the church in Matt 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,… and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

These sections of Scripture are emphasizing the importance of recognizing the true identity of Christ and the need to proclaim that truth to others through the ministries of the local church. These, in no way, teach salvation in found in church membership, nor that the local church was built upon a sinful man.

 

In Acts 2:47 … And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. The word “saved” brings with it the idea of protection and making whole.

 

Divine salvation includes three aspects to it (past, present and future):

 

Salvation from the penalty of sin (takes place at the initial salvation experience for sins past, present and future.

 

Salvation from the power of sin (this is an ongoing work of God beginning at the initial salvation experience and ending when we are taken to heaven)

 

Salvation from the presence of sin (this will take place in the future when we enter into heaven with the Lord).

 

This verse is speaking of the “present” aspect of salvation… salvation from the power of sin. It is simply saying that following a genuine salvation experience the young Christian would enter into church membership. In doing so, he would receive much needed indoctrination, fellowship and encouragement as he begins his new walk with Christ. It is through these that the young Christian is kept safe from the sinful forces in this fallen world and brought to spiritual maturity.

 

Christ died for the church…

 

Another interesting set of verses is found below:

 

Acts 20:28-31 – 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. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

 

Eph 5:25-28 – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

 

In both of these texts we have the idea of Christ dying for the church being brought out…. “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.” Also, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;…”

 

What is meant by Christ dying for His church, does this imply that, because He died for His church, membership is now necessary for salvation? If not, must we come to a conclusion there must be a universal, invisible church that all saved are brought into?

 

Not at all. Please keep in mind that the Lord’s local assemblies can commit sin just as individual Christians can commit sin. Some examples are:

 

Anytime the church body makes decision or performs “ministries” opposed to God’s will they are committing a sin.

 

Anytime the church body sanctions or allows acts of members that are opposed to the will of God remain within their assembly, they are committing sin.

 

Anytime the church develops a cold, or lukewarm spirit toward the Lord, they are committing sin.

 

There are many, various, ways the church, as a body, can commit sin. For the church, as a body, to receive forgiveness their sins must be paid for through the shed blood of Christ (just as sinful individuals). That principle is what both of these verses are addressing.

 

Church attendance and service are signs that a genuine salvation experience has already taken place…

 

Finally, in Heb 10:19-31 -Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And [having] an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

In these verses we find several basic principles for faithful service to Christ. Paul begins by explaining the great blessing of communion with God that we have been given. (vs 19-21). Because He has blessed us so greatly, we have a big responsibility to continue this communion with Him in many ways:

 

1) maintain unhindered communion by forsaking and confessing sin. (vs 21-22)

2) faithfully show Christ to the world through our words and actions (vs 23)

3) loving, encouraging and sacrificing for other Christians (vs 24)

4) faithfully attending church and encouraging others to do so (vs 25)

 

All of these are indications of a genuine salvation experience has taken place in our hearts. If we find that we do not strive for continued communion with the Lord there is a question whether we are actually saved (vs 26-27).  In these verses, we are told, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

 

In other words, if we come to a mental acknowledgment about Christ and salvation and yet it does not change our lives, it is proof we have never been saved. This is described as the sacrifice that Christ has made on the cross no longer remains (it has been left behind) by us. All that can be looked forward to is the wrath of God.

 

Paul then uses the example of those who rejected Moses law faced only God’s punishment. A mental knowledge of the law, if it did not result in a changed life, is of no benefit to anyone. Likewise, a mental knowledge of Christ and His work, if it is not a part of a conversion experience, only results in judgment from the Almighty God.

 

Paul completes this section by stating “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

 

If rejecting the law of Moses resulted in such heinous punishment, how bad will the punishment be to those who have heard the message of the cross of Christ and reject it?

 

To hear the truth and reject it is tantamount to stomping Christ into the ground, counting the shed blood that set Christ apart from all other men (John 17:19) as if it was a dirtied common thing, and to insult the Spirit of God. Surely the judgment of God will be great upon any that reject His truth.

 

Clearly, these verses are not teaching that rejecting church attendance will result in a saved person loosing their salvation and becoming recipients of God’s wrath.

 

SUMMARY

 

In this blog entry we have seen the clear Scriptural declaration that it is through repentance and faith that salvation is bestowed upon the sinful human. Good works, baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper and church membership, are very important aspects in a Christian’s new life of faith. However, all of them take place following the salvation of the individual.

 

If you have any questions about your condition or the salvation that the Lord so graciously offers, you can look to several sources for further information: A local Bible-teaching church in your area, or you are welcome to email me at rob.barkman@settledinheaven.org.

 

May the Lord bless you as you seek His truth.

 

Brother Rob’s web site:    www.settledinheaven.wordpress.com

 

P.S. (from bruce) Here are 2  links that will provide everything a sinner needs to know, once God has drawn them in (John 6:44)…to become a Christian in God’s eyes… http://www.800followme.com/182.html    &    http://www.800followme.com/

About Godsmanforever

I present posts about God's Word, with a personal focus on how God's grace is received through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ... Sinners must understand and obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ... See this link for more... https://godsmanforever.com/2014/10/26/the-truth-about-sin-10262014-by-bruce-reposted-from-7112013/
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