For the better part of the last century, church membership has been one of the most misunderstood entities in our culture. For some, it was the lifeline of their existence; for others, minimal attention was given during holidays or family events, such as weddings or funerals. To many, the local church was nothing more than another club to join or commodity to be consumed. To the unsuspecting population outside the church, affiliation was viewed as some type of clannish loyalty, preacher worship, or a rabid seasonal excitement, or the latest “Big Event” attempting to compete with the secular world. Regardless of where one falls on this spectrum, the Church is far more involved and significant than most American churchgoers understand. Church Membership does have it privileges, but membership also brings obligations.
First, let’s examine the privileges… or THE privilege enjoyed through genuine Church membership. Membership into the Church removes man’s greatest problem: God’s wrath. Mankind’s greatest problem is that we all are under the wrath of God. Because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21), all mankind has a depraved nature. It is impossible for man to please God or be in relationship with God (Romans 8:7-8). Christ’s death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath (1 John 2:1-2; Romans 8:1) . When a person is awakened to this fact (the gospel), and given the gift of faith, which results in repentance and belief, they meet the “membership qualification” for God’s Church." As Colossians 1:12 states, “God has qualified us…” This is THE great privilege of Church membership: we enter into an eternal covenant with the God of the universe! There are other privileges, of course, but none exceeds what Christ’s atoning work on the Cross provides for all who believe!
Another privilege is that we enter into a covenant relationship with the other members of the local church family with whom we affiliate. Along with the privilege of a local church family, we have covenant obligations to one another, just as we do in our biological family. At GPBC this past Sunday morning, we took a “week off” from out study of Colossians to study Article I of our Church Covenant, as we celebrated the Lord’s Supper. Article I states:
“We commit therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to not forsake the assembling together of ourselves for worship and prayer.
This article, based on Hebrews 10:24-25 , is the basis for how we are to take care for one another. Using the language of this passage, we are to “consider” how to “stir up” one another to love and good works. This considering is a preparation. We have the obligation to each other in our church family to think, pray, and prepare how we are to approach our brothers and sisters so we can encourage them. This obviously can’t be done when church is an afterthought on Sunday morning. It must be planned. We must prepare ourselves for worship and prayer… and also how to encourage one another. The “stirring up” language that is used here is a provoking, sharp, aggressive tone. In other words, we have the obligation to spend time preparing how we can strongly encourage (provoke, stir up) our brothers and sisters to love and good works. Why “love and good works?” Because this is the evidence of Christ in us, our redemption, that God has QUALIFIED us (1 John 5:2-3).
Lastly, in this passage is the command to “NOT forsake gathering together..” Why, so we might be legalistic “do gooders” gathering stars for perfect attendance and make the preacher happy? NO! Again, this is about our obligation, responsibility... privilege to take care of one another. The author says “to encourage one another all the more as the Day is drawing near.” “The Day” is when Christ returns. If we are indeed living as one who has been redeemed and qualified by God Almighty, we are going to be increasingly different from our culture… Scripture tells us this. So, we need to cling closely to our church family, for worship and encouragement to persevere until the Day.
Church membership does have privileges and obligations; but, for one whose greatest problem, God’s wrath, has been removed, it all becomes a privilege. My prayer for GPBC, and for all our sister churches who proclaim the Gospel faithfully, is that we will come to fully know the beauty and depth of truly being a member of God’s Church. As the great Welsh pastor, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, stated:
“We must grasp once again, the idea of church membership as being the membership of the body of Christ and as the biggest honour which can come a man’s way in this world.”
For His Glory,