Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Church Discipline with its Precursor, Church Membership

The next part in Adam Kaloostian's series on Reformed Faith.  He starts his section on Church discipline, the third and final mark of the true church.

1. What are the reasons Christ instituted church discipline?  In Matthew 18:19, Jesus himself says that he is acting in our midst during church discipline for the protection and spiritual well-being of his children.  We must rebuke our brothers and sisters in Christ so that they can be won over to the Lord.

Also, in 1 Corinthians 5, a man in Corinth is having an affair with his step-mom.  Paul is livid, and he commands the church to excommunicate him because God's glory is at stake if they not only tolerate this perversion, but actually celebrate it.  His Church must not be corrupted.

2. How does the Bible show us that Christians ought to be members of local churches?  All the Old Testament communities were numbered with strict genealogies.  In Numbers, the Israelites are numbered twice, which is why the book gets its name.  In Chronicles, they are also numbered specifically by name.  Again, in Ezra-Nehemiah when they are back from the exile, they have to number themselves.  If they were not considered numbered with Israel, and if they lacked a genealogy that led back to Abraham, then they were not part of Israel.

And now in the New Covenant, in Acts 2:41, the church is first born, and folks get baptized and then numbered with the converts.  In the same book, 4:23, people go to their own companions to talk about what Peter and John are doing.  They aren't necessarily part of the group, but they admire them.  Their own.  People from the start considered the church body to be theirs, not just a place where you go to worship God.  This is a for real body.

In one of the letters to Timothy, Paul mentions a list of widows.  There would be no list of widows if there was no membership list.

Finally, church discipline itself is impossible without church membership.  It's no use disciplining somebody who will just leave and go to another church.  In fact, this is one of the few bad results of the Reformation.  So many churches started to break into their own fellowship until we have this huge buffet of "churches."  If you don't like one thing, go to another one.  Or go to many.  Go to the one you are a member of and then go to another because there are young singles there.  I'm guilty of this, and this is a tragedy.  It's like if a man has one wife, then one girlfriend who will go dance with him, and one woman to eat meals with, and one woman to take trips with.  This is huge adultery.  I don't know how to solve it at the moment, but it's true.

3. What is the difference between the invisible church and the mixed, visible church?  All believers for all time are the invisible church, the group of those truly saved that God knows.  On earth, we cannot see the hearts of all the people that come to church; we can only see their outward actions.  The visible church is the outward expression of the invisible church.  It is comprised of both true believers and hypocrites.  Not everyone in the visible church is Christian, but if you are a Christian, then you will go to church.  You cannot call yourself a Christian and forsake going to church.  You will at least be called to account when you see Christ and he asks why you did not love his representatives on earth.
You want to be on a visible church list because it reflects the invisible list in heaven.

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