Church Membership - Is That in the Bible?

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dudley

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Church Membership - Is That in the Bible?

The importance of church membership is often discussed. Although at one time no one seriously doubted the obligation of a Christian to be a member of a church, in recent years this attitude has changed dramatically; in fact, changed so much that there are now churches that have no membership.

So, I must ask the question, is church membership taught in the Bible? I think the answer to this question might be , yes. However, i cannot find a single verse in the New Testament that actually instructs a person to become a member of a church. If that is the case , how can it be said so dogmatically by anyone that the Bible requires church membership?

Again I am asking a question not doubting my Reformed faith. I hope my PB brothers can shed some light on the topic for me and maybe others.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Dudley,

An inference can be made to the covenant obligations of the people of Israel. But you're right, there no positive commands regarding church membership in the New Testament. However, believers are commanded to worship and hold communion together.

Martin Luther reaffirmed the dictum, "nulla salus extra ecclesiam"; outside of the church their is no salvation. Salvation has always been by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is impossible to be instructed in the ways of faith or to fulfill one's obligations to Christ and the brethren by being apart from the church. Calvin wrote, “So highly does the Lord esteem the communion of His church that He considers everyone a traitor and apostate from religion who perversely withdraws himself from any Christian society which preserves the true ministry of the word and sacraments.”

In the early church the number of churches was limited. Often you would find one church for an entire region. When Rome was the prevailing ecclesiastical authority choices were limited, or altogether non-existent. Today one only needs to drive through most towns in North America and you can pick the size, shape, and color of the church you wish to attend. I believe that has lead to the formalization of membership as we know it today. The obligation of membership also provides structure to church discipline. Without membership church discipline is effectively rendered moot. One simply needs to go to another church without penalty. The call to repentance from their former church seems weak and insignificant.
 

dudley

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Herald I think I agree with your conclusion that church membership is needed for discipline and I think also it is necessary for fellowship and in many cases for admission to the Table of the Lords Supper.
 

Cato

Puritan Board Freshman
Try Acts 14:23, 26-28 Hebrews10:25; James 2:2; Peter 4:17; John 10

Most people fail to realize that the bulk of the NT was written not written to individual believers but to local churches
 

Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
Heb. 13:7, 17

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.​

To obey these exhortations, a Christian must know who has spiritual authority over them; and those who rule must know those for whom they exercise this authority. Though there are various ways this may be done, accountability to the leadership of the church is required.
 

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
I believe Pastor Ferrell has it right. In order rightly to apply and obey Hebrews 13.7, 17 there must be a relationship that is somehow formalized, that includes a structure of authority which calls such obedience to account.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
In addition to what has already been stated, I would add that the starting point for the discussion should be, "Does God condemn membership rolls in general?" Obviously He does not. In fact, if one studies God's view of membership rolls one discovers that God highly esteems them! Knowing that God highly esteems them to the point that there is even a membership roll in heaven, what reason would we have for believing He does not highly esteem them for His churches?
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
In addition to what has already been said, 1 Tim. 5 speaks of a recorded list of widows. Seems rather formalized to me.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with
Seems to be applied and already assumed. Even using the human body as this passage does to illustrate,it is not dis-membered parts but individuals molded into a functioning corporate assembly.
 
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