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" Are You a Church Member? "

    "so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." (Ro12:5)

    "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." (1Co12:27)

    "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones." (Eph5:30)

    "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church," (Eph1:22)

If you've been following along the monthly articles so far this year, perhaps you are noticing a recurring theme?

The -CHURCH-

Some time back the famous James Dobson made the proclamation that "the church has failed". Or did he say, "christianity"? That "christianity has failed". In many minds the terms "church" and "christianity" are synonymous. From other ministries I hear/read their wailings: How can we keep our youth, on their way to college, from dropping out? ...from church. Others wring their hands and issue the challenge for someone to answer: How do we get more people back into church membership? There are things called "church growth movement", and such. Some struggle with dwindling attendances, while others are packing stadiums to capacity.

From my youth and younger adult life, before I eventually "came out" (Rev18:4) 18 years ago, most of my church attendance and ministry was in EFC and Baptist churches: Swedish and German Baptist, as well as GARBC and Independent. The more conservative the congregation and pastor, the more "faithful" they were to have an "invitation" after each major service. I know this well, since often being music director in those days it was my job to lead the invitation hymn while the pastor stood below the platform in front of the pulpit to 'receive' any who might come forward. The invitations were always the same, and had four (4) points: Invitation for 1) Salvation, 2) Baptism, 3) Re-dedication (from backsliding), and.... 4) MEMBERSHIP. Some of them even considered it a "sin" to NOT close with the invitation.

However... are not two of those points -redundant-? How? you ask? Which ones? In what way?

Well... perhaps first we should define terms. First of all "church". What is "church"? If you ask Hollywood, a movie set in the 40s or 50s might speak of that "little baptist church" down the country dirt road. When Rick Steves hosts his travel shows on Public TV, he always makes a point of visiting the churches; that is... the cathedrals; the huge stone structures with stained glass, and the shape of the cross for its floor plan, also housing statues and artwork. When studying history and the arts, the church (of Rome) is both THE CHURCH, as well as the guardian of the arts and music.

As far as the world and most of christendom is typically concerned "church" is defined as a 1) building and 2) denomination. The -place- where people meet at preset times, and the -name- by which they refer to themselves. When somebody asks after another person's affiliation, the question is usually worded: Where do you go to church? The person will usually answer with an address (where), or denominational title (label). People are usually considered to be catholics, lutherans, baptists, pentecostals, mormons, 7th day adventists, presbyterians. In more recent years as everybody has become more 'accepting' of each other on the path to the global one-world religion, returning to Babylon at Rome, other things will also be called "church", which also often have temples: bahai, unity, buddhist, slavic, spiritualism, freemasonry. In most cases church and its meetings have to do with "spirituality"... that is to say, they deal with the soul and spirit of their members.

As for "membership", this will vary, depending on the denomination. They might dab some water on the head, complete a 'confirmation' course, attend classes, sign on the dotted line, pledge blood-oaths. The end result is that their -name- gets recorded in some sort of database (whether written, or these days with computers); and ever-thereafter they are considered to -be-: catholic, baptist, lutheran, presbyterian, etc. When my ex-unequal yoke (when I didn't yet realize she was not saved) was baptized in a German Baptist church, she was not congratulated by everyone for having been baptized in Jesus Christ, but was welcomed into the "fellowship of baptists"...even though she had not actually 'joined' that church in membership; she was just dunked under some water. To those people, the act of baptism -made- her a "baptist".

However, this ministry, as bannered at the website, is about "Biblical Truth". What we rely upon is the -Bible- as our "Sole Authority". How does the Bible address these two things?

The only place that speaks of building -structures- as a place to worship God is the Old Testament. They had the wilderness Tabernacle that was setup at Shiloh. (Josh18:1) And then Solomon build the Temple in Jerusalem. The OT also had all the rituals for sacrificing animals and pouring/sprinkling blood; and the temple was where that was to take place. But as we studied in the books of Romans and Hebrews, we learn that Jesus fulfilled all those rituals when He offered Himself "once for all". (Rom6:10, Heb7:27, 9:12, 1Pt3:18)

And so, after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in the Believer (Ac2,Rom8:9) we no more read of a specific -place- for worship. The early Believers fellowshiped "from house to house" (Ac2:46, 20:20); where they lived. And what we read is about the "church that is in their house" (Rom16:5, 1Co16:19, Col4:15, Phm1:2)

Please notice the grammar and words carefully. If "church" was a -building-, and we know that a "house" is a building; are those passages saying: 'The building that is in their building'? Rather silly, wouldn't you say! Or when they "gathered the church together" (Ac14:27) were they (QUICK!) -building- a "building". Gather the bricks, mortar, nails, roofing and ERECT A BUILDING?

If the CHURCH is 'meeting' -in- a building, by grammatical definition the Biblical Church 'is' -NOT- a (physical) building. It doesn't have doors, pews, altar and a sign out front next to the parking lot. Buildings do not -do- anything... they just stand there where they were erected. Buildings don't "meet". They are inanimate objects.

So, when Paul waxes allegorical (as Jesus also did in His teaching) and likens the Church to fields being planted, or buildings being built (1Co3:6-17), the Church -is- NOT plants of grain growing on a farm, nor building materials of a physical building. But once the allegorical example 'building' is finished...the "temple"... WHAT/WHO is the temple?

    "Do you not know that -YOU- are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy -HIM-. For the TEMPLE of God is holy, WHICH YOU ARE." (1Co3:16-17)
The Church of Jesus Christ is a 'building' only allegorically. In fact, the Church -IS- each Believer (person) into Jesus Christ, wherein dwells God's Holy Spirit. It is not made of...
    "...tablets of stone but...tablets of flesh, that is...the heart." (2Co3:3b)
And so, when those passages speak of the Church meeting in someone's house, the CHURCH -is- the PEOPLE who believe into Jesus Christ, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

So, in the opening verses, what is the meaning of "members"?

Jesus is the "Head", and the Church is the "body". Allegorically Jesus spoke...

    "I am the vine, you are the branches" (Jn15:5)
On a related note, notice that Jesus does not say: Israel is the vine, and the (gentile) Church are the branches. Both Jews and Gentiles are grafted -together-, through Christ, and reconciled to God. (Eph2:11-18) Jesus is the "Root and offspring of David" (Re22:16) It is the "Root" into whom the branches are grafted (Ro11:17); the "Jew first and also the Greek" (Ro1:16, 2:9-10)

Both Romans ch12 and 1Corinthians ch12 speak of the 'parts' of the body which work together, in obedience to the Head, through the Holy Spirit. Again, the allegory of what we understand from life; our own physical bodies. The head, containing the brain, 'controls' the rest of the body in its life functions and activities. The life blood flows through the entire body equally... the little 'pinky' toes as well as the muscles that carry us about. A person of buffed physique might flex his muscles and lift great weights, and beat his chest in pride like a World 'Wrestling' Federation Friday Night Smackdown all-star. But if he stubs his little pinky toe, rips the nail off, and it gets infected... his WHOLE BODY feels it. That is because his torso, arms, legs, toes, mouth, nose, eyes... -all- are "members" of the same body, all tied together by the same nervous system and supplied by the same blood. The fingers did not 'sign' a pledge card to join the body. The legs did not perform some ritual to get connected. The mouth did not make 'promises' to the brain. How did they all become "members" of the body?

By -BIRTH-

    "..unless one is -BORN- from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." (Jn3:3)

    Being... "..born of water and the Spirit" (Jn3:5)

And if we, thus, become "children" of God, through whom are we children?
    "But as many as received [Jesus], to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing into His name: who were -BORN-, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn1:12-13)
Being born and -believing-. "Believe" was how Paul and Silas told the jailer he could be saved...
    "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Ac16:31)
So, if becoming a "member" of the body is through -birth-, and the birth "from above" is how one is -saved-... have you yet figured out which of those four invitation items are redundant?

Is not SALVATION and MEMBERSHIP one-and-the-same thing? If we have been saved "through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit3:5), are we not -already- "members" of the Church of Jesus Christ.

So... anybody please show me where Jesus or the Holy Spirit, in Scripture, listed the names: baptist, methodist, presbyterian, lutheran; and that one must sign-up with their names on a 'list' at one of these places. They aren't there? I guess they are irrelevant, then, aren't they, in the eternal scheme of things.

It's not about us being in a building (everytime the doors are open); it's about the Holy Spirit being in us. (Rom8:9) And as the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (Jn16:14), and we all being many members (together) of Christ's body, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ -through- us. It is not that we are joined together -to- EACH OTHER; but we are all jointly reconciled "to God" (2Co5:18,20, Eph2:18)

This article's title is a question. What is the answer?

If you have been saved through the washing of Jesus' blood (Rev1:5), you -ARE- a CHURCH MEMBER.

And as such, Paul exhorted...

    "Now I exhort you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be completely fitted together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1Co1:10)
If your spiritual -essence- is one of all those labels mentioned, or ones not mentioned (because there are too many to list), along with all their -different- non-Biblical doctrines, as they preach "unity in diversity", tearing down the "walls" of doctrinal differences; if those labels -describe- your 'essence' in the -core- of your heart, your name may have been signed on a piece of paper as a "member" of those entities; but you are NOT a MEMBER of the Church of Jesus Christ. Christ is NOT your HEAD...the denomination is.

And regarding those with the "contrary...doctrine"? Paul exhorts True Believers to "turn away from them". (Rom16:17)

Oh yes... we mentioned that members' names typically get recorded. Where is the Believer's name recorded?

    "...the Lamb's Book of Life" (Re21:27, Ex32:32, Re3:5)
Amen!
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