Know Your Bible

VOL. 8                           July 26, 2009                           NO. 27

 

                            Do I Have Responsibilities To A Local Church?

 

    Yes. When one obeys the gospel through faith, repentance and baptism (Mk. 16:15,16; Acts 2:38), he becomes a Christian and a member of the Lord's universal church made up of every saved individual who has lived (Heb. 12:23--"The general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven"). This is also the "one body" (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4). However, about all we are commanded to do toward this "brotherhood" is to "love" it (1 Pet. 2:17). There is no organization to this church, except Jesus is its "Head" (Eph. 1:22,23) and all Christians make up His "body" (1 Cor. 12: 20). 
 

    The local church is a different matter. People often deny what is plainly affirmed in Scripture by thinking they can be saved without belonging to any "organized religion." "There are hypocrites in all the churches" is another hackneyed phrase. What is the truth? 
 

    Three years after Paul's conversion he went to Jerusalem and attempted to "join himself to the disciples" (Acts 9:26). One should not wonder why when one learns what Christians are to do within local churches.
 
Individual Christians Are To Eat The Lord's Supper, Along With Other Christians On The First Day Of Every Week: -- "When you assemble yourselves together" (1 Cor. 11:20). The universal church can't do this, but local churches were commanded to do so and did. Paul practiced what he preached (Acts 20:5-11) and provides an apostolic example for us to follow today. 

 

Individual Christians Are To Speak "One To Another" which involves others in our singing (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15). While we can worship God privately in song (Jas. 5:13), these other passages obviously show we have local congregational responsibilities in this area as well. 

 

Individual Christians Are To Give Into A Common Treasury On The First Day Of The Week (1 Cor. 16:2). This is to be done for evangelistic and benevolent purposes. (Phil. 4:15,16 2 Cor. 11:8,9; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8,9; 1 Tim. 5:16). On an individual basis, Christians are to help those less fortunate as ability and opportunity arise (Eph. 4:28; Rom. 12:8; Matt. 25: 34-40). Many works in which local congregations engage themselves (and I speak of Scripturally authorized works) require financial backing. A meeting house rented or owned, utility bills, maintenance, song books, elements for the Lord's supper, and other authorized works of the church require money. If everyone had the attitude of some who believe they have no responsibilities to any one local work, it would be impossible to either plan or carry out the work of that local congregation. 

 

Individual Christians Are To "Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works," and much of this is done before, during and after we assemble (Heb. 10:24,25), which assembling together Paul says in context we are not to forsake! When people "float" from one congregation to another, how can they "consider (take careful note of each other's spiritual welfare, Vincent's Word Studies) one another" well enough to stimulate them in spiritual matters? This obviously implies a responsibility to the local church. 

 

Elders Are To "tend the flock of God which is among you" (Acts 20:28). The "universal" church has no elders, but local churches do (Acts 14:23; Ti. 1:5). Elders must know who is among the flock they are commanded to oversee, and sheep are to "know them that...are over them in the Lord...and esteem they exceedingly highly" (1 Thes. 5:12,13). It should go without saying (but because of misunderstandings we are happy to say it) that the above command-ments demand a close, working relationship between elders and members of the church they oversee, Since elders are responsible for watching "in behalf of your souls" (Heb. 13:17), they must know those for whom they are responsible. Common sense would seem to dictate some definite "membership list" for local congregations. Members "floating" from one church to another and never "placing membership" obstructs the very good that God designed in this element of local church government. 

 

It Is Evident That Communication Existed Between Congregations As To Who Were Considered Faithful Christians: -- (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1,2; 1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 3:1). Again, this demands that one be considered a member of some congregation and known well enough to be "commended." 

   

Paul Pictured The Church As A Body Having Individual Parts (Christians) Or Joints: -- Supplying different needs, but all "fitly framed and knit together" to cause the "growth of the body" (Eph. 4:16). Therefore, individual Christians are to provide what they are able to provide for the growth and encouragement of others, and they in turn are helped (in different ways) by others. From a practical point, this can only be done through the closeness God intended to characterize local churches of Christ. 

     Let us keep in mind an eternal principle God stated through Moses -- ("And Jehovah commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Jehovah our God, for our good always" Deut.6:24). The responsibilities we have as members of a local congregation are "for our good always." 

 

---Phillip Owens

 

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Are You Attached?

 

    The amputation of a part of ones body is at best an unpleasant consideration. Just trying to imagine having an arm or leg cut off probably makes most of us a little squeamish. No one wants to have a part of their body permanently severed. Amputation invariably handicaps the body and destroys the part that is amputated. Our body parts must stay connected to our bodies for the benefit of the body and the life of the parts!
 

    The church is a body. The body parts are the church members. "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12). But some members think, act and speak as if they've been amputated. 
 

    They think that their presence isn't necessary in assemblies. A church functions as a body in its assemblies. It worships, it edifies and it communes. What if all the parts of the body felt that they didn't need to assemble? Would the body be able to function without all of its parts coming together? Would it not be more like a lifeless carcass, mutilated in some chain saw massacre with its parts strewn all over? The body is made up of parts, and every part must maintain its connection to the body! "For in fact the body is not one member but many" (1 Corinthians 12:14). 
 

    They talk as if they are not part of the church. They'll refer to the church that they are supposed to be a member of in the third person. Instead of saying "We had a gospel meeting" or "Our attendance was good" they'll say, "They had a meeting" and "Their attendance was good." But just because a member talks like he is detached from the body, doesn't mean that he is. "If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body?" (1 Corinthians 12:15-16).
 

    They act as if the church can do just as well without them. Every part of the body has some function. Some parts may appear to be more important than others, but EVERY PART has a role to play if the body is to be at its best. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary" (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
 

    These things being true, why would any church member stay "detached" from the church? Are you attached?

 

---Steve Klein

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