On this “Valentines Day,” and the following weeks to come, I hope to challenge you to ‘love’ in a way that you may not have thought of before. I hope that you will desire to imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His apostles, and many others named in holy writ.
The word of God assures us that Jesus Christ certainly loves His own bride. We are told that He “loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). By doing this He has spiritually joined her to Himself by purchasing her with His own blood. We are also told that this covenant union He has made with her is indissoluble, and that there is no power under heaven or on earth that can nullify it (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-39; 1 Peter 1:3-5). It is clear that Christ loves His body and will forever be joined to her.
My first question to you is, “Do YOU love the body of Christ?”
If you answered “yes” then let me ask you another question.
“Have you joined your local church body in official church membership?”
I know that in this day and age, “church membership” may not be such a popular notion. It seems that everybody is ready and willing to join a gym, a bank, a CD music club, the Country Club, the Rotary Club, and the Mickey Mouse Club, but just NOT the local church. However, church membership is clearly taught in the scriptures through doctrine, figures, and by example. I hope to show you this through the use of the scriptures below.
Acts 5:13 “But none of the rest dared to associate with them.”
The word “associate” (kollao) in the Greek literally means to glue, stick, cleave, or join to. God had just executed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit. Fear and reverence came upon the “whole church” (5:11), and as many more signs and
wonders continued among the people (Jewish believers) by the hands of the apostles, “the rest” of the people (5:13) dare NOT join the church, even though they “held them in high esteem.”
Today, much of modern evangelicalism would rather not join a church, and would even leave a church in order to avoid any church discipline. And we are not immune to this even in our Reformed circles. Many despise the idea of being held accountable by brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to care and love them (they always tell you their life is “private”). They can hardly tolerate the idea of the “pastoral visit” for fear the pastor might really know how the husband (or single mom) leads the home, or how that single person is growing in sanctification. But not so with the apostolic church. They loved one another, and they joined one another in membership. This primitive group “who believed were of one heart and soul” (4:32). They shared in everything that was theirs to share and “abundant grace was upon them” (4:33). This group of believers was not merely content in “going” to a good church as many are today, but they wanted to join themselves to a church where the Holy Spirit of God was active in purifying it.
They delighted in the sovereign work of God, and were in “one accord” (5:12). Joining themselves to like-minded brethren was a premium, so that serving and ministering to one another could be done in sweetness and joy.
Today, many people simply go to a church for thousands of reasons other than purity of doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3). Much of evangelicalism enjoys the “stay away from me” attitude and approach to church life. They stealthily arrive at eleven, and bolt out of there at high noon whether the preacher is finished or not –
after all, he went past his allotted time. Many professing Christians are happy to be lost in the “mega-church,” where no one can get “close enough” to them to really get to know them. Many “church hop” so that so many “little” commitments can be made that the busyness of “church life” makes them feel good about
themselves without any real communion among one body of saints.
Many more (sadly enough) simply go to church every once in a while to be entertained by dramas, movies, jolly-jumpers, and the latest “Christian” magician? oh, and don’t forget the free oil change. But “the congregation of those who believed” (4:32) in the book of Acts ‘glued’ themselves to what was a body of people who were loving, of one heart and soul, humble enough to share, abundant in grace, Spirit filled, reverent, and doctrinally sound.
And the most incredible verse follows in Acts 5:14. “And all the MORE believers in the Lord, MULTITUDES of men and women, were CONSTANTLY ADDED to their number;” A church led by the Spirit of God, where church discipline in the form of capital punishment could not even keep them away! “MORE” “MULTITUDES” were “CONSTANTLY ADDED” to the church in Jerusalem. So much healing took place as Peter made his rounds (I wouldn’t say these were necessarily “pastoral” visits, but only similar in nature through his ministry of healing) that the sick were being lined up along the streets (5:15,16). Those who were physically sick had no problem seeking help from the appointed minister. Today, unfortunately, when the pastor has to be visited, many times it is to intervene among spiritually unhealthy brethren in contention with one another (what we call “counseling”).
They get more grief than joy (Hebrews 13:17).
But the example we see in the Christians of the apostolic age was that they “joined,” “associated,” and “glued” themselves to one another in that first church at Jerusalem.
We may join any church we want. Hopefully we will follow the wisdom and example set forth in scripture. The church we cast our lot into is our option. But to join a church is not an option. We are called to exercise our love for one another in the context of a defined membership, to the degree that it is clear who “[are] constantly added to [the] number,” while also being perfectly made clear who “the rest” who dare not join are (5:13).
Here is my last question. “Do you hold those in the local body you attend in ‘high esteem’ while not having joined, associated, and glued yourself to them?” You still might not agree that “joining” a local church body, so that your number is added to theirs in a distinct and defined way is biblical.
What would you think of a “Christ” who would not sign your name in His book of life with His own blood? This kind of “Christ” is not found or acknowledged in scripture. What would you think of a “man” who merely wants to live with a women and avoids entering into a legal and binding relationship with her? This kind of “man” is also not found or acknowledged in scripture.
If you are a “member” in a local church that is Biblical, then seek to be like those in Jerusalem. Cling to the members like glue. Cleave to them, for in this way, you will learn how to truly love them, as Christ loves His church.
May the Spirit of God grant us the same love He granted the saints of old, that we might manifest it by that public declaration we call “church membership.”