VI. So What?
We have seen that the church is: (1) A gathered community whose members have entered into a solemn covenant with each other; (2) comprised of baptized believers in Christ who have entered into a life of discipleship; (3) led by gifted pastors who have been called and ordained by the Holy Spirit; (4) shows its true allegiance to Jesus by three marks: preaching the gospel, administering the ordinances, and practicing church discipline; and (5) has the mission of worshipping God, edifying believers, and reaching the world with the gospel.
There are a lot of practical applications that we could pursue in light of these truths. Yet, the one basic application that comes out of this study is the obligation of every Christian to be a member of a local church. Notice again what we have seen in the course of this study. Christ has created the local church for the express purpose of helping Christians grow in Christ. Apart from the ministry of a local church you cannot grow into a healthy, mature Christian. Christ has given to each believer the church, which has gifted teachers to help you learn the doctrines you are supposed to believe and the lifestyle you are supposed to live. Christ has given you other believers to hold you accountable and to encourage you. It is Christ’s desire that Christians congregate publicly to worship him together, and he desires that his disciples work together to evangelize the world.
For Christ’s purposes for the church to be fulfilled, for his purposes for you to be fulfilled, you have to make a covenant commitment to a local church, to submit to its pastors, and to put your spiritual gifts to use for the sake of others. This is what the early Christians did. Notice what Luke tells us in Acts:
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. (Acts 5:12-13)
After Ananias and Sapphira were struck down by the Holy Spirit for their terrible sin, we read that "none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." This text tells us that many unbelievers in Jerusalem had great respect for the new church, but kept their distance because they were afraid of the serious—even "deadly"—consequences of joining the church. What we need to note here is that the church was seen as something that could be joined, and this tells us that the church had a clearly defined membership. It was known who was in and who was out. But we can go further than this by looking more closely at the word "join" that Luke uses in this text. The Greek word used here is kollao and it means "to glue" or "cement together." Don Whitney comments that in the context of Acts 5:13, the word kollao
doesn't refer to an informal, merely assumed sort of relationship, but one where you choose to "glue" or "join" yourself firmly to the others. . .The same "glue word" is used in the New Testament to describe being joined together in a sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 6:16) and being joined to the Lord in one spirit in salvation (1 Corinthians 6:17 . . . Clearly this kind of language doesn’t refer to a casual, superficial, or informal relationship.
So when it says in Acts 5:13 that no insincere believer dared joined them for a while, the glue word used there speaks of such a cohesive, bonding relationship that it must be referring to a recognized church membership.(Spiritual Disciplines within the Church, p. 46)
The early Christians understood their duty to be committed members of a local church. It is important that Christians today understand this, too. To shun this duty is to shun Christ’s gift to you. To neglect church membership is to neglect your obedience to Christ. If you love Jesus, you love what he loves; and Jesus loves the church. If you are a Christian, but not a member of a local church, you should make this your first priority.