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Sunday, June 29 am                            Basics Index

BACK TO BASICS 2014
The New Testament Church - 4
Responsibilities of Church Membership

 We are continuing our study of the New Testament church.  We have identified what the church is and discussed some characteristics of the New Testament church – both universal and local churches.   One observation we made in our last lesson was that the local church is joined.  Today I would like to talk about church membership a little more.  This morning we are going to discuss what some of the responsibilities of church membership are. 

  I.                    What it means to be a member of the Lord’s Church

a.        If you are not part of a local church, you should be! 

                                                   i.      As noted last week, in scripture circumstances where one was not part of a local church were ALWAYS temporary. 

                                                  ii.      The majority of letters were written to churches and the brethren that are a part of them.  It is necessarily concluded that one is EXPECTED to be part of a congregation.

                                                iii.      There are responsibilities that can only be carried out, and perhaps others that can be better done as a congregation (i.e. Lord’s Supper – Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:18-20, etc.). 
You also have various “one another” passages where we are there for each other.  Also, in the first century, you read about how they had “all things in common” and there was a togetherness (Acts 2:42, 20:7, etc.).  They needed each other – and so do we!

                                                iv.      One might reason that they will participate but not identify with a local group.  Question: What if everyone felt that way?  Would there be a local church?

                                                  v.      Finally, consider that finding a sound church is SAFE.  You might need to be admonished when you are in error.  Loving brethren value your soul and they can help keep you in the right direction.  Elders can hold you accountable and watch out for your soul (Heb. 13:7, 17).  Friends – that is NOT a bad thing!  Especially when you consider your eternity.

b.       You are a part of the body of Christ and A local body of Christ – Eph. 1:21-22, 1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:11-16 – when every part does it share, it causes growth of the body. 

c.        You are a worker in the Lord’s vineyard – sharing in the spreading of the gospel.

d.       You are a living stone in His temple – 1 Cor. 3:16-17, 1 Pet. 2:4-5 – a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, etc.

e.       You are a citizen in His kingdom – Eph. 2:19-22

 

 II.                  Responsibilities

a.        Keep yourself pure – we fully understand our need to keep ourselves pure.  Last year this was our focus.  Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 
James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
This is something you need to do as a Christian PERIOD!  Your eternity depends on it!

When we don’t keep ourselves pure, it is a reflection on the Lord Himself.  AND as part of a local church whatever your conduct, you reflect upon her at all times as well.  
There is a reason Paul told Timothy to be an example in word, conduct, love, purity, etc.  (1 Tim. 4:12).  He was also told, “Keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22)
1 Peter 2:11-12, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

b.       Submit to the elders – Hebrews 13:7, 17 – we have a responsibility to remember, respect and obey our elders.  They have been appointed (by us) and entrusted with watching out for our souls.   As a part of a congregation, we must obey our elders.
1 Thess. 5:12-13 call for us to recognize those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord – esteem them highly. “Be at peace among yourselves.”  I wonder if that last expression has anything to do with the imperative command before it!
Turn to them for guidance – James 5:14-15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

c.        Participate in its work

                                                   i.      Eph. 4:16 – when every part does its share, the body grows. 

                                                  ii.      1 Corinthians 12:12-27 – as Paul describes us as a body, he had unity in mind.  But also implied in the text is that each “part” is essential and has a function.  We need to do our part.

                                                iii.      Assemble as much as possible – Heb. 10:24-25

                                                iv.      Participate in the worship – cf. Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:23-26

                                                  v.      Edify one another – 1 Thess. 5:11, 14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

                                                vi.      Pray for her, etc.

d.       Contribute to the work – God expects us to “lay by in store.”  We do not have a specified percentage as in the Old Testament, but we have guidelines. 

                                                   i.      1 Cor. 16:1-2 – it is to be done on the first day of the week.  NOTE in vs. 1 that this was not exclusive to Corinth.  Paul had given similar orders to the churches of Galatia. 

                                                  ii.      2 Cor. 9:6-7 – it is to be done with a proper attitude – liberally, cheerfully and purposefully. 

                                                iii.      NOTE: A study of New Testament giving and churches demonstrates that the “freewill offering” of its saints is the ONLY way that money was raised to do its work.

                                                iv.      SO, considering this – let us realize that as we give, so the limitations of what the church can do is determined.  IF we gave more, could the church do more?  Think about it!

e.       Strive to maintain unity – a study of New Testament epistles makes it abundantly clear that we ought to strive for unity.

                                                   i.      1 Corinthians 1:10 – let there be no divisions among you

                                                  ii.      1 Corinthians 12:24-27 – as Paul discusses the body and its various parts, he notes that when all are functioning properly there is no schism among us. 

                                                iii.      Eph. 4:1-3 – we are to be endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

                                                iv.      Romans 14:19 calls for us to pursue those things which make for peace and promote edification.  In many of the epistles to churches and preachers there is an emphasis on avoiding foolish disputes, old wives fables, “endless genealogies”, profane and idle babblings, etc.  (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 4:7, Titus 3:9, 2 Peter 1:16, etc. )

                                                  v.      Romans 16:17-18 even tells us to mark those who cause divisions.

                                                vi.      As we face an increasingly godless world, we need to be close to one another. 

f.         Strive to maintain its purity – One of the characteristics the Roman Empire was known for was is rampant immorality.  Christians throughout the empire had to deal with it.  Today is certainly no different.   AND if we are not careful it will creep into the church.

                                                   i.      Recall 1 Cor. 5:1-2 – it affected the reputation of the church in Corinth.  It was this impurity that called for the brother being withdrawn from until he repented.  (1 Cor. 5:3-7)

                                                  ii.      This purity also involves the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2-4)

g.        Bear fruit – our final observation is that God wants us to be producing fruit.  Our goal as the Lord’s body is to be growing – spiritually (closer to God), closer to one another and numerically (by reaching the lost).  This is emphasized both to individuals and congregations.

                                                   i.      John 15:1-8 – while Jesus is speaking to His apostles He notes that He is the Vine and we are the branches.  They were to bear fruit.  And so are we!   NOTE that in vs. 8 Jesus concludes, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  We are ALL disciples!

                                                  ii.      Romans 7:4, speaks of being dead to the law and married to Christ “that we should bear fruit to God.”

                                                iii.      Ephesians 4:16 when every part of the body is doing its share it, “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

                                                iv.      The church as Thessalonica was commended for sounding forth the word (1 Thess. 1:8).

 These are some of the responsibilities associated with membership in a local congregation.   God wants every child of His to be part of a true, Bible believing church.  And as part of such, He wants us to be useful therein. So where are you?