Thursday, April 19, 2012

Church Membership part 2: What Is It?

Now many good books have been written, even recently, on the subject of the church. This truly is a great thing. As I mentioned last time, so many people treat the church as a pair of slippers to be put on when one feels like it. However, this should not be our attitude. Yet with so many scandals within the church, how do we avoid such a mentality in a nation where we have such freedom to go wherever we like.

A few years back, a friend of mine explained to me that he quit going to church because his pastor had raised a lot of money from the parishioners, including him, and absconded with the money. When I explained to him that perhaps God was using these events to teach him wisdom and to get him to think about theology and a sound church [he was more charismatic]. That wasn't even a consideration. Perhaps God was testing him to see if he had faith at all? Whatever God may have been doing in his life, we need to do the obvious. We need to look at what Christ has to say. After all, it is His church.

It really is that simple. Christ founded His church, is building His church, and is coming again for His church. The church isn't just some mental exercise that people discuss. It isn't some building down the street made of mortar. It is His body. In Matthew 16 Jesus explains Peter's confession about who He is.

Mat 16:18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Now I realize that my Roman Catholic friends see this in a perpetual installation of Popes that mark the church. It is here we must see the difference between passing the torch [so to speak] via natural means verses such as what John explains in his Gospel.

 Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Protestantism recognizes that the church exists where ever the Gospel is preached, the sacraments/ordinances followed and perhaps church discipline [that is debated] and true believers gather together. The Gospel isn't passed on through an institution that resembles a business. It is passed on through faithful men.

Christianity doesn't perpetuate itself necessarily through our children. Although God may be pleased to bless faithful parents by bringing their children to faith. This isn't necessarily the case. Just because another generation comes along and says it is Christian, doesn't make it Christian.

Again in John chapter 3 Jesus states very clearly,

Joh 3:6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Again, the Spirit gives birth to believers. So the church is made of those who have been given new life through the preaching of the Gospel. But this is not individualistic. We are not saved to be a bunch of Lone Rangers. Instead, Jesus is creating a new humanity that is united in Him.

1Co 12:12  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1Co 12:13  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

What effect should this have on the believer. He should recognize that the church exists because Christ has purposed it to exist. He should recognize that just as we are all born in Adam and united to him through natural means of propagation, we are united to Christ and all of His spiritual descendants through supernatural means.

The believer should recognize that the institution of the church is not some merely human organization, but an organization that is created by Jesus through His Spirit. It is a living organization that resembles a body. Just as any body, the parts are dependent upon each other and all look tot he Head, so too we must all learn to love one another and together look to our Savior.

Now there is obviously the many and finer points of theology that I am not going to go through in this post. Suffice it to say that the church of Jesus Christ is not an option for the believer simply because of what it is. It is Christ's body.

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