Next month is our quarterly observance of the Lord’s Supper. Thinking of the Supper, I was prompted to write this article about the great salvation we have in Christ and the wonderful blessing of being a part of the Lord’s church. The observance of ordinances plays a critical role in the expression of our belief in Christ and the appreciation we have for what He has done for us.
Our study in the second and third chapters of Revelation concerning the seven churches of Asia should be a reminder of how important the church is to the Lord. His work in this world is done only through New Testament churches, as no other organization is ordained to preach His gospel. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), which helps us understand why the Lord took care to dictate seven letters to the apostle John about the faithfulness of these churches and the problems that needed to be addressed.
It is impossible to ignore the significance of membership in the church. The essence of Christianity is the church because it is Christ’s body on earth. To explain how intimate Christ is with His church, I would begin with Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25: “…Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” This informs that the church is extraordinarily important to the Saviour. While the scriptures never say our salvation is dependent upon our membership in the church, we cannot miss the significance of this statement. The church is special to Christ and whatever is special to Him should be very special to His people. Many of the New Testament epistles were written specifically to churches. In fact, over 95% of the time the word church is used in the New Testament, it references the local assembly.
One of the best arguments in favor of membership is the administration of church ordinances. These are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached a stirring message in the power of the Holy Spirit which resulted in the conversion of three thousand people. These converts were immediately baptized and added to the church. From this scripture, Baptists have taught that water baptism is an act that signifies our faith in the gospel and our union with Christ in His church. Baptism was given to the church as this sign and is administered only under her authority. The commitment to the gospel demonstrated by baptism is expected of every believer. It is not an optional command because it is our public identification with Christ. Since the church is the only authority for baptism and it is the entrance into the church, membership is automatic upon reception of the ordinance.
Likewise, the Lord’s Supper is committed only to the church. It is a special privilege reserved for those who are members of each individual body of Christ. We certainly could not condone the reception of the Supper by those who have refused the command for baptism and thereby disobeyed the apostolic precedent for church membership. This would be in direct conflict with Paul’s command that each participant examine himself so as not to partake of the Supper unworthily. Refusing obedience to Christ’s command renders a Christian unworthy to partake of the symbol of His suffering. In New Testament times, an unbaptized, unchurched believer was unheard of. Paul also stated the church is to observe the Supper until Christ returns (1 Cor. 11:26). A Christian that ignores church membership is missing the great privilege of honoring Christ’s death as a sacrifice for our sins.
If you are a Christian and you are faithfully attending church, please carefully consider your obedience to Christ in commitment to a good Bible believing church. Next week, we will observe His ordinance which shows His body and blood given in sacrifice for our forgiveness. Christ loves the church and so should you!
Pastor V. Mark Smith