ASK 2015 “Where in the Bible does it say anything about Church Membership? Why insist on it?
When it comes to what we do as believers…we desire…to be in line with Scripture. How to be His people, but also how to be His Church. Principles/precepts that are just as current/relevant today as when first written. Some do not believe in Church membership i.e. not Biblical or expected by God. But when we take a close look at the Scripture we see that it is.
At Fellowship we take membership very seriously. We do not demand it, but rather encourage it. I firmly believe it is one of the ways that God uses to grow us into maturity…and conforms us into His likeness. That of course is the end result/goal. To be like Jesus. And so this morning I want to share with you some of the Biblical evidence that supports Church membership. Each serve as a strand of the the grand tapestry…church.
1. JOINING & ADDING WAS PART OF THE EARLY CHURCH…Acts 5:12-14 “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were being done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly…And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” (Also note delineation of v.11)
Here Paul gives Timothy (Ephesus) instructions on how to care for the widows in the church.
In this passage Jesus is giving His disciples step by step instruction on how to resolve interpersonal conflicts between brethren. NOTE: It is very clear and a very important part of the fellowship of believers.
Church membership is implied in the way the NT requires pastor/elders are to care for their flock. Of course elders can extend their love to anyone and everyone, and should, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group…as in a group of members.
Consider where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock. Acts 20:28
All of these aspects of membership are rooted in the truth that the local church is an expression of the universal church. Part of what it means to belong to the body of Christ is to belong to a body. The Church... both the LOCAL and the UNIVERSAL Church are a blood-bought gift of God’s grace…
Let me close by urging you to pray and to think this through for your own life. There is no such thing as the “Lone-Ranger Christians” …that would be a contradiction...because becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. This is why the issue of membership is so important.
Are you an accountable member of a local church? Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. It is LIFE SUSTAINING…FAITH STRENGTHENING…and JOY PRESERVING… More than we realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us.
(Adapted from Summer Sermon Series: ASK 2015 “Why Does God Allow Evil?”)
Most people ask “Why?” From our youngest years where we are beginning to use the mind God gave us, there is a desire to understand cause and effect. Why something does or doesn’t happen, why something is the way it is. We have inquisitive minds…is a God designed and a very beautiful thing. But the challenge is for mankind to use that inquisitive mind to desire truth, not just good ideas, not just some prevailing ideology or popular opinion…but actual truth…(i.e. just because Oprah say so does not make it truth! This is what Ravi Zacharias terms“…mass marketed spirituality” R. Zacharias)
So when we are confronted with the reality of terrible things currently happening or maybe in the past…we ask “Why?”
By the way…those who do not believe in the existence of God ask these same questions. They know something is just not right. For the ATHEIST…nothing can answer these questions. Why are children starving? Their answer… “why would there not be?” Why is there evil? “why not? For the professing atheist, with no higher authority to answer to…we are just a matter of chance, and if children are suffering…“C’est la vie!”…that’s life! In other words, we would have no reason to think that they shouldn’t be hungry. For the CHRISTIAN…on the other hand, many are afraid of these questions. Or we think we must limit God or try to defend God to explain why bad things happen. Sadly, many people use this as an excuse to reject or walk away from God because they do not like His answers. Others use these question to limit God or diminish God.
The question before us really is…a question about God’s character. It pre-supposes a belief in God…and that He is aware of mankind. And so if there is suffering God must be allowing it. If there is evil, then God is allowing that evil to happen. If bad things happen…then God must have a say in what happens. So the next question naturally becomes: Why does God allow human suffering? Why does God, who is a God of love…allow young children to starve to death or die of disease due to malnutrition? And finally, why does He not do something about it?
How could a loving God allow it? Many books have been written to try to explain what seems on the surface to be an irreconcilable problem… The Christian believer claims that God remains a God of love in the face of the evil, death, suffering and disease in this world. But if God is good and God is love…then why won’t He do something?…so He must not be as powerful as we think He is. Or maybe if God is truly all-powerful…and He chooses not to do anything…then how can He be a God of love and mercy?
Someone has said: that the major argument levelled against Christians goes something like this:
‘How can there be an all-powerful loving God when we see children dying, people suffering, and bad things happening to good people? Surely such suffering and evil means that either He is not powerful enough to prevent it or He doesn’t want to, so He is not totally good.”
First off let me say…God could eliminate hunger/evil if He so chose. Without a blink, He could. Jesus fed the 5000 and He healed diseases and even the most wicked demoniac. But why did He not obliterate hunger/evil/ when He walked on the earth? At one point in John 11 Judas criticized Mary for using an expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been used to feed the poor/hungry…Jesus said “…the poor you will always have with you…”
In order to answer this question…we must go back to the root of it all and understand some foundational facts.
1.THE REALITY OF EVIL…
We often refer to evil as the bad things we see or read about in the news. Yet Theologians identify there is NATURAL EVIL…these are the destructive forces of nature.disasters, viruses, tornadoes, disease, earthquakes and famines…
2. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF EVIL/DISEASE/SICKNESS/HUNGER?
We must go back to creation…original design. In Genesis we have the first man, Adam, he represents the entire human race. When God created Adam, He gave Adam the entire Garden of Eden to live. God created everything in perfect working order. And He told Adam you got the Garden but do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But then Adam chose to sin…when he ate of the tree to which God had clearly stated “Do not eat of that tree…” Adam rebelled against God, by disobeying His clear Word of instruction…in essence…Adam told God that he wanted life without God. He (and thus we) wanted autonomy…to be independent of God. By the way, man is still doing this today…rejecting God’s authority for his own autonomy/independence.
It is a sobering thought…that if God gave us what we really asked for in Adam…total independence…and God completely leaves the picture. We couldn’t even exist… as He is before all things and in Him all things consist … and that He “…holds all things together by the power of His Word…”.
As a righteous God, He had to judge rebellion…He judged sin with death (spiritual and physical). God cursed the ground…every weed you pull from your garden is a reminder of the curse…every natural disaster, malnourished child, every sickness, disease and death, every bee sting, every evil that has ever been committed… and as a result the entirety, the whole of creation now groans because of sin…
And by the way…God had every right to completely destroy Adam and Eve for their rebellion. He could have easily wiped them out and started again. But why didn’t He? Grace, God’s amazing grace! Now everything groans…things get old, bodies wear out and tend to get run down or fall apart. We actually live in a world where we have a taste of what life is like without God…every time we watch or read the news we are reminded of what life is like without God…the death, suffering, evil, etc. But here is some good news.
3. GOD IS SOVEREIGN…OVER EVIL…GOD IS IN CHARGE…ABSOLUTELY!
Just consider some of these passages as you slowly read over them. Ask yourself who is in control of evil?
4. GOD ALLOWS ALL EVIL TO EXIST!
God takes full responsibility for the evil in this world…He did not create evil, but He allows it to point mankind to Himself. To a wicked king of Babylon whom God used to fulfill His purposes God said: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me….I form the light and create the darkness, I make peace and creat calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
WE PRAISE HIM FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE TO CONQUER EVIL! The cross! If there was no evil to conquer there would be no cross, and no Saviour! In Romans 3:5 we read that “…our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God…” The evil that we do, the evil that happens, the natural, the moral and the supernatural evil points us to the righteousness of God.
The GOOD NEWS is that God has defeated all sin and death when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the grave on the 3rd day! It was His righteousness that sent Him to the cross to pay for my unrighteousness. To once again redeem not just man to Himself, but all of creation that has been under the curse since the fall of man. Though there is strife/evil/sickness decay and death in all of creation today…it is not for forever. “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…”(Romans 8:18ff)
Though God did not create evil…He nevertheless allows it to happen. MAN HAS SINNED…but GOD IS SOVEREIGN…evil does not dictate to God what to do…GOD is the One who ALLOWS EVIL…natural…moral…supernatural Why? For His own glory! Our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God. One day He will redeem all things to Himself….creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption…and all evil will be done away with when He returns. There will be no more famine, child hunger…all evil done away!
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