Proper Church Membership -- By: Felix Runquist
CenQ 5:1 (Spring 1962) p. 47
Proper Church Membership
Field Director, Inter mountain Conservative Baptist Fellowship
According to some, the New Testament does not teach church membership. Because of this false teaching, some Christians are satisfied to take Christ as Savior, but refuse the responsibility of being a member of His church in their local community. In examining the New Testament, we find that membership in a local church is- taught and practiced.
The name “church” defines membership. The original Greek word “ecclesia” is derived from two Greek words “out” and “summoned”— hence, the ones who have been called out of a community and gathered together for a definite purpose, at a definite place, and of a definite number. It was used to denote such a definite assembly as the legislative assembly meeting in Athens, the nation Israel in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38), and the city government of Ephesus (Acts 19:30). These are definite groups in which one is- either in or out.
The word is used in Acts 19:32 to denote a mob, and at first this might seem like a very heterogeneous assembly, but when we analyze a mob, we realize that here are people come together for one purpose (this time to kill Paul) and to one place. When the mob gathers, you are either in or out— you are either a part of it or not a part of it.
However, “ecclesia” is never used to denote a mixed multitude come to listen to someone speak, as the crowd which followed Jesus, for they came for diverse purposes; some only half listened, and others came and went. So the word “ecclesia” defines a church as “people of definite purpose, definite place, and a definite number”; you are either in or out.
The additions to the church require membership. “And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). A simple rule of arithmetic says you cannot add a definite number to an indefinite number (see also Acts 2:47).
The discipline of the church rests on membership. In Matthew 18:17, “Tell it unto the church,” must refer to a definite people, meeting in a definite place. “But if he neglect to hear the church”—here a definite body speaks—“let him be unto thee as a heathen man.” You cannot put a man out of an organization of which he never was a member. I Cor. 5:4, “when ye are gathered together,” is a definite business session...
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