In recent weeks it has been a joy to preach four sermons on covenant church membership. It’s an even greater joy to see it lived out in the Koinos church family. I love our church! My study has produced more than I’ve been able to fit into sermons so here’s a bit more I’d like to offer up to keep spreading thoughts on healthy church membership.
A number of churches, today, are helping reclaim a biblical view of church membership focusing on the use of a church covenant, including many of our Southern Baptist churches. Yet there is also a stream of voices questioning the biblical rootedness of this practice. Here are some thoughts on one text where the ideas of covenant membership are seen clearly taught in the Bible.
v.11-12 Gentiles were alienated from God’s covenants of promise because they were separated from God.
v.11-12 Hebrews were not alienated from God’s covenants of promise.
v.13 The new covenant in Christ’s blood brought the alienated ones to God and His covenants of promise.
v.14-15 The new covenant abolished the Mosaic covenant so that Hebrews and Gentiles are saved by grace.
v.16 Hebrew and Gentile believers are made part of the new covenant body and promises.
v.19 The new covenant makes all believers “fellow citizens” together with each other and members of God’s household.
v.21-22 The new covenant builds church members together into a holy temple where God dwells.
Here are some observations on this text:
- Church membership is clearly stated in the Bible. It was not invented by man. Believers are “members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19) and “members” of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12).
- Central to the Apostle Paul’s thinking on membership is the idea of covenant. Gentiles who didn’t belong to God’s covenants and Hebrews who did are both unified in Christ by the new covenant.
- The concept of a church covenant is not a legalistic approach. It’s the opposite. The new covenant of grace in Christ’s blood abolishes the Mosiac covenant and accomplishes what it could not.
- The new covenant, with Christ’s blood, binds believers to each other and to God.
In light of these things we can see that the idea of covenant is central to biblical thinking on church membership. Great care should be taken to ensure that a church’s use of such a covenant is clearly rooted in the new covenant of Jesus as stated in Scripture. We must never add anything to the gospel as the basis for belonging to Christ’s body. Yet it is precisely our confession of faith in the gospel that binds us to Christ. So giving allegiance to a gospel-centered church covenant is in fact a confession of faith.
May these things encourage us all to “hold fast our confession” (Heb 4:14) and “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast” (Col 1:23).