(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)
1 Corinthians 3:9-11 - For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 10. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
The summer is passing rapidly and my favorite season of the year is approaching – autumn! Summer’s humidity is waning and fall’s crispness is waxing. The mornings begin with the mist of late summer, a fog that reminds us that much of life is lived, as C. S. Lewis wrote, in the shadows. The evenings end with the chorus of tree frogs signaling a change is coming. Our God has so elegantly ordered His universe with reminders that He set the foundations of the earth and upholds them through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The local church also is ordered by our Lord. He created structure for His universe, and instruction for His church, His body. Churches need foundation, structure, a skeleton to support the Body. Thankfully the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ and He left wise instructions for the care of His body!
Flat Creek will begin to study a little book by Jonathan Leeman entitled, “Church Membership, How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus”, beginning September 14 at 6:30 p.m. I don’t think that there is any other biblical doctrine as ignored today as that of the local church. In fact, many professing believers have assumed that the local church can be easily snubbed. Let them “go through the motions”, my personal needs and objectives supersede the uninformed in the local church. Where do we learn of proper Christian behavior, from the church or our intuitions? I like what 9 Marks ministries states, “Ask the Bible, not the Crowd.”
So, what do the scriptures say about church membership? Two thirds of the NT was written to local churches it stands to reason that believers should be baptized and take their place in a local church. Paul apparently was faced with similar factions in the Corinthian Church. He adroitly moves to correct the factions and friction in the first 4 chapters. Paul reminds the factions that the Holy Spirit sent him to Corinth for the purpose of establishing a church there. He starts with a skeleton, a foundation, and teaches them the foundation for the church is the Lord. Christ Jesus builds His church as his body through the teaching in the Gospels and re-enforcement in the Epistles.
Jesus, and subsequently his apostles, understood that born again believers need instruction and discipline with reference to the use of their respective gifts in the local church. Paul speaks of this in the latter chapters of 1 Corinthians. By deduction and direction of the Holy Spirit we learn that converted people are to be associated with a sound, healthy local church. Here we learn to have no other gods before the triune God, honor and respect and obey God’s word, love the brethren, love our enemies, and evangelize the world with the powerful truth of the Gospel.
Christ Jesus is our foundation and the head of the church. We are part of His body. We are not the head. This means we are to rely upon His Spirit for direction. This requires submission. We submit to Christ for salvation and we submit to Him through the Word of God in our churches. Christ Jesus has also established pastors and teachers to oversee the ministry of the local church. The author of Hebrews in 13:17 writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
It has been my privilege to pastor the people of Flat Creek Baptist Church for almost twenty years. It has also been my joy, even in the face of misunderstandings and false accusations. Our God has grown His people through the relentless proclamation of God’s word. The results are many growing, maturing spiritual folks. How do I know? I know because they submit to the word of God and minister to all, even those that take advantage of them. They are committed to missions in ways that are visible and invisible. They have hazarded their lives in the lives of others, even when others reject them. They are growing in their sanctification to become like Christ….not all the time, for none of us do. But they are genuine, loving, and not too hasty to judge for they look at people’s hearts, not appearances or numbers. They use their gifts to glorify our Lord, genuinely, not professionally.
A few years ago John Piper wrote a book entitled “Brothers, We are Not Professionals”, reminding pastors that humility is the grace that displays our Savior’s love to the world. I trust you know the difference between genuine humility and professional polish. The house of the living God displays genuineness.
The church is also the family of God. Sometimes there are families by blood of kinship but always by blood of Christ. This is good, wholesome, and supernatural. We are part of a larger and more harmonious family of God. Are we not called brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord? He is our elder brother and believers should be in many instances, closer than blood brothers. Families are the foundation of human life and the fact that many are related by blood, both naturally and supernaturally, is a wonderful blessing of our Lord.
It is my prayer that you join to worship with us on the Lord’s Day, especially as we begin to learn together what is expected of born again believers. After all, skeletons need flesh to live!
Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Sola Deo Gloria!