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Acts 2:41 – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
1. Review: The church is made up of disciples of Christ. Disciples are those who follow Jesus Christ. They are those who believe in Jesus and have turned away from their sin. They have taken up their cross and followed Him. They love Him more than they love anyone else, even father and mother, sister and brother, husband or wife. They are those who love one another. They are those who are opposed, persecuted, ostracized, misunderstood … in various ways because of their loyalty to Jesus Christ. They are those who are obedient to the call of Christ upon them, the first command being to be baptized.
2. Today we consider the third essential mark of disciples of Jesus Christ. They are part of a church that worships and serves God together. We are going to use Acts 2:41 as a starting point, a catalyst, if you will to get us to seeing the importance and value of formal church membership.
3. I don’t want this to be just an exercise in throwing verses at you but we need to get something out of the way fairly quickly. I don’t want to dwell in this but we do need to speak to it before we get into the meat of what I want to talk to you about.
a. Many people deny that there was such a thing as formal church membership in the New Testament at all. Just quickly, we need to mention that there are indications in the NT that there was formal membership in the early church. I do not want to spend a lot of time in this but we simply point out that formal membership rolls were in place even in the earliest days of the church.
b. Matthew 16:15-19
i. Note here, the church’s responsibility and authority. Note the duty of the individual in relation to the church.
(1) Tell the matter to whom? The church. This has to be a recognized number of people.
(2) I Cor. 5:4-5, 13 – The unrepentant is “cast out” of the church but at the same time is to be welcomed back if he repents – II Cor. 2:5-11
c. Phil. 1:1 – the church had a recognized body of leaders
d. I Tim. 3:1-11- qualifications for elders and deacons
e. I Tim. 5:9 – a registry of widows
f. I Cor. 14:24 – There were those who were “outsiders”.
g. I Cor. 11:18 – They came together as a church.
h. Acts 15:22 – The leaders and church made an official decision.
i. Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:41 – The church is made up of people who believe and are baptized.
4. The church is two chief designations – universal/invisible and local/visible.
a. All believers wherever they are, whatever their church affiliation is … are all members of the universal church. We see reference to the invisible church in:
i. Mt. 16:18 – Jesus is not just building one local assembly of people. See also Rev. 5:11.
That crowd is all those from all the ages and all the places where the Gospel was believed. This is the whole church of Jesus Christ. What a picture!!
(1) Eph. 1:21-23 is the universal church. Jesus does not rule the universe for TBC alone or Richview or any other local gathering of His people. He rules the universe for all His people. Eph. 3:10 … .
ii. The point here is that all those who are in the universal church are to be in the local church. While Jesus does not rule just for us He does rule for us. While we are not the only assembly who is to demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God … we are to do it – because we are a church.
iii. All those who are part of the universal church are also to be a part of a local church. The only ones who are in the universal church who are excused from being a member in a local church are those who have already died. It may be that there have been believers who have never been a part of a local assembly of God’s people. But they are the exception, not the rule.
II The local Church
1. Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
a. Well, that’s not all that a church is, but it speaks to a need in the human heart for fellowship, companionship, friendship doesn’t it? The church should be a place where those things, and much more, are true of it. Can anyone tell me where that poem came from? … It’s the theme song from the sit.com. “Cheers”. And it ought not be a pub that provides the longing in the human heart for friendship and companionship and fellowship … . The church is to be that and so much more.
b. There is probably nothing in our culture that is as opposed to the individualism and sense of personal autonomy and independence as the local church as taught to us by the New Testament. The Bible is opposed to the thinking that we are the masters of our own destiny. We like to think that we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps but that is a lie. We need help. We need God and all that He provides. And the main thing that He provides in terms of help in this world is fellow believers, the church of Jesus Christ. We need each other to understand the Scriptures. We need each other for prayer. We need each other so that we will not drift off into a life of sin and doctrinal error. We need each other for corporate worship, the Lord’s Supper, baptism. We need each other for spiritual growth.
And there is probably no area where we are more like the world than in our understanding of what the church is and what corporate life in Christ means. When we think about what our gifts are how many of us consider what the church needs and what the leadership of the church has noticed about us and how we can fit in? We don’t. We analyse ourselves by ourselves and then present ourselves to the church with a statement that here I am and this is how I must be used and if you don’t use me in this way then you are trying to frustrate the Holy Spirit and I’ll just have to go elsewhere. Do we ever think about how the church might help us to determine and develop our gifts? Do we have a concept of I Corinthian 12 Christianity? Do we value our own contributions as a part of a whole? Do we envy those who are more prominent, more visible, more up front? Do we have a true sense fo being an important part of a larger picture?
i. Do we resonate with
(1) Ephesians 4:16?
(2) Hebrews 3:12f?
(3) Romans 12:15f?
(4) Philippians 2:2-4?
(5) James 5:16?
(6) Ephesians 5:19?
(7) I Cor. 10:16f?
(8) Ephesians 2:19-22?
(9) Galatians 6:1?
ii. These things and more are what we are to think of when we think “church”, dear ones. This is the local church. Is it ours? And are you and I contributing to it being this? When you teach and clean and pray and serve food and wash dishes in the church; when you meet in your committees, gather for Bible studies, lead us in worship, sing a song, play an instrument, preach the Scriptures, collect the offering, count the offering, deposit the offering, repair the building, take care of children, manage the sound for worship and concerts, sing in the choirs, meet and greet – do you have a concept of these great truths about the church?
Do you have a concept of being a part of a body that belongs to Christ and that you are doing what you are doing in the church because He has called you to it to be a part of a larger thing that God is using for His glory and propagation of the Gospel? We need to remember such things when we do what God has called us to do here. We are a part of a greater whole. God has placed us all here with our different gifts and abilities and likes and dislikes and contributions to make so that this church will be for the glory of God, the growth of one another in grace and the salvation of this community. We are to live in such a way with one another that this is what the community knows us to be. The alternative is to be muttering under our breath about how THEY don’t appreciate ME. THEY don’t know how much trouble I have. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” How do you view the church? Is it a biblical view? And are you helping to make TBC more a biblical church? This is something worth fighting for. This church is worth sacrificing for, and giving to and living for … And I can hear it now – “Pastor, it is Jesus we are fighting for and sacrificing for and giving to and living for”. Yes dear ones it is. And the way we do that is to do it for the church. Jesus loves the church and so should we. Jesus gave Himself for the church and so should we. Jesus is not ashamed to call TBC “brothers” and neither should we.
c. The local church dear ones. Hear what the New Testament says about the local church. Listen what it says about how we relate to one another. Listen fo the phrase “one another”.
i. Mark 9:50 – Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
ii. John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
iii. John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
iv. John 15:17 – These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
v. Acts 4:15 – But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another,
vi. Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
vii. Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.
viii. Romans 14:13 – Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
ix. Romans 15:5 – May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
x. Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
xi. Romans 15:14 – I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
xii. Romans 16:16 – Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
xiii. 1 Cor. 6:7 – To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
xiv. 1 Cor. 11:33 – So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—
xv. 1 Cor. 12:25 – that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
xvi. 1 Cor. 16:20 – All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
xvii. 2 Cor. 13:11-12 – Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Greet one another with a holy kiss.
xviii. Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
xix. Galatians 5:26 – Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
xx. Eph. 4:2 – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
xxi. Eph. 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
xxii. Eph. 5:19 – addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,
xxiii. Eph. 5:21 – submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
xxiv. Col. 3:9 – Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
xxv. Col. 3:13 – bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
xxvi. Col. 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
xxvii. 1 Thes. 3:12 – and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
xxviii. 1 Thes. 4:9 – Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
xxix. 1 Thes. 4:18 – Therefore encourage one another with these words.
xxx. 1 Thes. 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
xxxi. 1 Thes. 5:15 – See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
xxxii. 2 Thes. 1:3 – We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
xxxiii. Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
xxxiv. Hebrews 3:13 – But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
xxxv. Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
xxxvi. James 4:11 – Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
xxxvii. James 5:9 – Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
xxxviii. James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
xxxix. 1 Peter 1:22 – Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
xl. 1 Peter 4:8-10 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
xli. 1 Peter 5:5 – Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
xlii. 1 Peter 5:14 – Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
xliii. 1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
xliv. 1 John 3:11 – For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
xlv. 1 John 3:23 – And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
xlvi. 1 John 4:7 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
xlvii. 1 John 4:11-12 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
xlviii. 2 John 1:5 – And now I ask you, dear lady— not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning— that we love one another.
Now then dear ones – does your attitude to the other believers in this church reflect such attitudes? They should. This is what it means to be a member of a local assembly of God’s people. This is our testimony to a lost and lonely and alienated community. Rexdale may not want the God that we serve but we can be such a community that they will want to be a part of it and then we will respond by saying that what makes our fellowship so desirable is Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins. This – is – the – church.
d. Dear ones. You have trouble with anyone in this church? Do you know what’s true about them?
i. Eph. 1:4 is true of them.
ii. Romans 5:8 is true of them.
iii. Ephesians 5:25 is true of them
iv. I Peter 3:9-10 is true of them
v. I Peter 1:1-2 is true of them, minus the geographical particulars.
vi. II Peter 1:1 is true of them
vii. Jude 1 is true of them
viii. I Cor. 1:2 is true of them
ix. Colossians 1:13 is true of them
x. II Thess. 2:11-12 is true of them
And we could go on and on with this. Look around you dear ones. Are these descriptions what you see? Yes, they are, for every believer in Jesus Christ that you look at in this room, all those texts I read are true of each and every one of them. Now then, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?
2. Now then dear ones, we are talking about church membership and what I want you to think about is this: if all that I just said about the church is true then why would anyone who knows Jesus Christ not want to be identified with a group of people of whom these things are true? You think that you are going to have a little bungalow in heaven where you are left to yourself and have a couple of visitors over every fortnight? The church is the people of God and refusing to be officially joined in membership with one another to work together and pray together and worship together and serve together and put ourselves under the discipline of each other and help one another and cry with one another and .. . . . . . . . . Why would you not? “Well pastor, we don’t need to join to enjoy all that”. Well, isn’t that the sad truth.
And part of the answer to the question “Why not join it if it is such a grand thing?” is that there are other things about the church that aren’t so grand. “To live above with the saints I love, oh that will be glory. To live below with the saints I know, well, that’s another story.”
a. So we have:
i. Matthew 16:15-18 – You know why this text is in the Bible? Because there are going to be people who need to be dealt with, who may not repent and may have to be excommunicated from the church. And you need to be a part of the membership of a church so that it can keep you in check.
ii. I Peter 4:8 – You know why this text is in the Bible? Because there are going to be a multitude of sins that do not require discipline but which do require a great deal of love and patience. If you refuse to join a church because of the persnickety and bone headed you will never belong to anything. The point of the church is that here is a group of bone headed and persnickety people who all love Jesus, all love the great truths of the faith and who love each other. Your refusal to join in with us hinders the ability of the church of Jesus Christ to do this.
iii. Romans 12:21 – You know why this verse is in the Bible? Because Christian people can be nasty and tempt you to take revenge.
iv. I Cor. 1:10 – You know why this verse is in the Bible? Because there are a thousand things that seek to drive a wedge between the saints. And the more people we have from different countries, different cultures, different incomes, different colours, different ages, different generations, different tastes in music and leisure activities and fashion and … … the better. And if you have had your sins forgiven by Jesus Christ and have been baptized and this is where you worship on a regular basis you should join as well. We’ll take you even if you’re weird and dress funny and listen to wacky music … . As long as you have been saved, baptized and agree with the crucial doctrines of the Scriptures that unite us.
v. Philippians 2:3-4 – You know why this text is in the Bible? Because we are prone to be proud and look down on others. And if you stay out of joining a church because the church is just too stupid or insignificant or needy then we tell you “Come join in with us. One more stupid, needy insignificant one won’t bother us a bit. In fact, it’s just what we need.”. It will give us a chance to consider you more important than us. And if you really are more important than us then it will give you a chance to see us as more important than you.
We could go on and on with this but the point has been made.
3. Having said all that we close with this:
a. You don’t join a church because of how wonderful the people are. You don’t join a church because of how needy they are or how wealthy or how poor … . You don’t join a church because of its diversity or how accepting people are. You don’t join a church because they do everything right. In fact, you don’t join a church for any reason about the people or the community at all. You don’t join a church for any horizontal considerations whatsoever. You join a church because Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. You join a church because it is the body of Christ and He is its Head. You join a church because Jesus wants you to. You join a church because the church is about Him. You join a church because it is a testimony of a great God with great grace and great love. You join a church because the church is a testimony of Jesus fulfilling His promise to have a people form every tribe and people and tongue and nation worshipping Him. You join a church because it is a testimony of the faithfulness of our Lord. You join a church because Jesus is very great. You join a church because you love Him. And you join a church because those who love Him keep His commandments.
Let us pray.