Membership Requirements (Ephesians 1&2)
The Local Church is an Embassy
The Kingdom of God is that which is made up of the Church Universal throughout all of time. It is the heavenly kingdom to which every true believer belongs and will belong for eternity to come. The embassy of that kingdom on the earth is the local church. The local church is the outpost or embassy of the Kingdom in a foreign land. It is the tangible representation of the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world. When we, as the local church, receive new members into the congregation, we are not accepting those people into the Kingdom, but rather we are affirming those who are members of the greater Kingdom to also be members of the representation of that Kingdom in the local church. This affirmation is based on the criteria of His Word and the person’s profession of faith. As new members are joined to the local church, the church body agrees to take on the oversight of the Christian’s life and discipleship, while the Christian agrees to submit to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the local church.
– In what ways can the local church be compared to an embassy in a foreign land?
– In what ways are you carrying out your responsibility to care for and oversee the life and discipleship of other members of the local church?
Criteria for Membership: Credible Evidence of Conversion
In Ephesians 1, we have a detailed description of God’s work for us through adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, giving us an inheritance, and sealing us in His Spirit. Conversion takes place when God’s work for us becomes God’s work in us. It is when dead, disobedient, damned sinners (2:1-3) are made alive, accepted, and assured (2:4-7) by God, His grace, and His gift (2:4, 8). When God’s work for us in Christ, becomes God’s work applied to us by His Spirit, it produces changed lives.
– How is the description of God’s work for us as described in Ephesians 1 currently affecting your relationship with the Lord?
– What confidence can we acquire in seasons of trials from the reminder of what God has done for us and in us?
Criteria for Membership: Submission to the Local Church
In the local church, when God’s work for us becomes God’s work in us at conversion it results in unity among believers. Just as our membership in the universal body of Christ makes us united with all of God’s people universally as one man and one nation (Ephesians 2:11-22), so also all Christians are to submit to a local body where they agree to live in unity with other believers. The local church is the place where our membership to the universal body of Christ is expressed and lived out. The great and foremost commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” always produces the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So also, being reconciled to God means being reconciled to others who are also reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:15-16).
– What are other passages that speak of the unity that the local church is to have based on their reconciliation to God?
– How is the description of God’s reconciling work for us and in us affecting the way you are relating to others around you who are also reconciled to God? Does the unity described in Ephesians 2:13-22 accurately describe your relationship with other believers?
Criteria for Membership: Baptism
Along with credible evidence of conversion and submission to the church’s membership, leadership and doctrine, a Christian must also be baptized in order to join the local church. Baptism is a public identification with Jesus and His people, displaying what has taken place within the individual. It is a public uniting of the believer to the local body and a reminder of what God has done for us in Christ.
– What does it mean to be united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-7)?