Church Membership – Necessary!

On Sunday’s I have been working my way through David J. Engelsma’s latest book Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2010 – http://www.rfpa.org). In his eighth letter to the European Forum the retired professor of theology at the Protestant Reformed Seminary begins this way:

 

…Church membership is not an option. It is not even something to be desired when one’s circumstances conveniently allow for it. It is necessary. The New Testament makes abundantly plain that the will of God is that every Christian is a member of a congregation where there is regular preaching of the word, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of discipline and oversight by a body of elders. Not to be overlooked is the necessity of the communion of saints, which includes fellowship with others in the one faith, mutual oversight, helps of various kinds, and the possibility of cooperating in the work of the Lord, to which each of us is called….

…The deepest reason for the necessity of church membership is that the church is the body of Christ (I Cor.12:27). When Christ saves his own elect, he does not save them in isolation from himself and from the other members. But he unites them to himself by uniting them to a visible manifestation of his body (v.13). In this body he gives each member his grace by the preaching of the gospel and by the sacraments, as the means of the Spirit of Christ. In this body he privileges each member to honor and serve him, the head, in their relation and cooperation with all the other members (Eph.4:15,16).

For a confessing Christian to live in separation from the church is disobedience to the will of Christ, is contrary to the very nature of the saving work of Christ, and is intolerable.

That some seem perfectly content to live apart from the church is astounding. It is as if a finger were content to be cut off from the physical body or as if a bride were happy to be apart from her husband (pp.47-48).

 

Sound teaching in our age of lazy Christianity and loose ecclesiastical ties. May God bind these words on our hearts and give us love for Christ and his visible body in this world. CJT

Published in: on June 13, 2011 at 4:58 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Rest of the Story – R.C. Sproul Jr.

The Rest of the Story by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

As I mentioned in last Monday’s post, this month’s Tabletalk is devoted to the subject of the Sabbath (“4 Views of the Sabbath”). Under his usual rubric “Seek Ye First”, R.C. Sproul, Jr.writes about keeping the Sabbath day in light of Jesus’ words in Matt.6:33. He has some good thoughts for us, as we have just enjoyed our day of rest. I will post a few paragraphs from his article; you may read the rest at the link above.

Second, as the Sabbath commandment moves to the day of observance, it does not command that we refrain from work — it’s far more profound: we are to rest. We think we are keeping the commandment if we refuse gallantly to do any of the work that is piling up and causing us to lose sleep at night. Instead, we are sinning. Rest isn’t just ceasing from working; it is also ceasing from worrying. It’s not easy. Indeed, in a manner of speaking, rest, especially ceasing from worry, is hard work. It takes discipline and fortitude to let go of all that has us worried.

We have not succeeded if our worries are more pious, either. That is, we aren’t failing to keep the Sabbath when we worry about the big meeting at work on Monday, but successfully keeping it when we are worried about our persistent failure to mortify that particular sin that so troubles us. Worry is worry, and it has no place in our Sabbath celebration. The Lord’s Day is a feast day and should be treated as such.

We rejoice and we get over our worries when we come to understand that the Lord’s Day is that time when we leave the “not yet” of the kingdom, and enter into the “already.” Is it not the case that the defining quality of eternity is the blessing of drawing near to the living God? When we feast at His Table, is He not declaring His blessing upon us? Is He not blessing and keeping, lifting up His countenance, making His face shine, being gracious unto us? Is He not lifting up His countenance on us? Is He not giving us peace?

When we worry about the more mundane things, we are failing to heed the call of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to set aside those worries, to not be like the Gentiles. We are called instead to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we worry about more spiritual matters, especially our own sins, we are missing the very heart of all Lord’s Day preaching — we, the repentant, are forgiven in Christ. We have, by His sovereign grace, succeeded in our quest — we have received His righteousness.