In last week’s article, I spoke about the need for Christians to be part of a Bible believing church. In the New Testament, the apostles were busy about the business of winning souls to Christ and then teaching the new disciples to band together in local assemblies. These assemblies are the same as what we call churches. Thomas Paul Simmons wrote in his systematic theology, “When one is saved, the next consideration that should claim his attention is the church. Gratitude to God for salvation should make him as conscientious about church affiliation as about matters pertaining to salvation.” I believe this is an accurate assessment of the value placed upon church membership by the apostles in two ways. As Simmons states, there should be conscientiousness about affiliation. His primary meaning is that each Christian should carefully choose a church that is faithful to New Testament doctrine. To this we would add, a Christian should be conscientious about becoming a church member at all! Neither the apostles nor Simmons would imagine a Christian not being a part of a church.
In the Great Commission, the apostles were told to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to baptize them, and teach them to observe the commandments of Christ. Thus we find another great reason to become a part of the Lord’s church. The church is the place for the teaching of God’s word. Paul explained in Ephesians that God put pastors and teachers in the church for the purpose of building the faith and knowledge of His people. Contrary to the thinking of many, the church is not primarily a place for evangelism. Teaching those that have already received Christ is our primary mandate. Since God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, He has given His church as a place for us to receive instruction that we might come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Additionally, I would like to point out the fellowship of the church. The church is a place for Christians to come together to encourage one another. Hebrews says, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” (10:25). Church membership identifies you with other Christians and is acceptance of the responsibilities of your faith. Church membership is commitment to the cause of Christ and accepting the personal responsibility of carrying out the commission that Christ gave to His disciples. The Great Commission was given to the apostles as they comprised the first church. They were commissioned as a church for the perpetual work of evangelism. It is your responsibility as a child of God to assist in carrying out the commission through the work of the church.
These two articles by no means exhaust the doctrine of the church. The New Testament is filled with instructions for the church. Nine of Paul’s epistles were written specifically to local congregations. Three were written for instructions to pastors and deacons and for church order. The Revelation written by John begins with a message for seven local churches. Acts is the history of the growth of the church in the first century. These books along with the gospels and the general epistles are centered on the church. We cannot escape the reality that the local church is the plan and purpose for God’s people today. I encourage you to join a true Bible believing church and serve God faithfully by committing yourself to its ministry. Be very conscientious about your choice of affiliation. Be sure your choice is a church that is committed to sound doctrine. I can think of none better than Berean Baptist Church! Join with us as we minister to this community and send the gospel around the world.
Pastor V. Mark Smith