In emphasizing the need to have scriptural reasons behind church membership, you may be surprised to learn that there is actually pushback. We live in a time when scripture is thought of as good, but not authoritative. Some contend that Jesus came so that we don’t really need to concern ourselves with these sorts of details. Others say that it is all about love so as long as we are happy in the church we are in, then God is happy. Even among those who would say they stand on the Bible, rarely are they concerned with proving their church is legitimate by the Bible.
I want to share some points on why it is extremely important for us to make sure that we have scriptural reasons behind church membership.
To begin, lets first define what we mean by “scriptural reasons”. By scriptural, I mean we should be able to go to the words that have been recorded for us in the Bible to prove the validity of a church (2 Tim 3:16-17).
By reasons I mean the “causes, justifications, or explanations” for being a member of a specific church. I also want to point out that we should have scriptural reasons, and not just a scriptural reason. For instance, a church may say, “We believe that Jesus is Lord.” Is that scriptural? Yes. However, they may go on to say, “We need to keep the sabbath day holy.” This is unscriptural. It doesn’t do us any good to try and find scripture to prove the validity of a church and then overlook its unscriptural components. The totality of God’s word is the truth, not just one verse (Psalm 119:160).
Today, thought has been replaced by feelings. People rarely say, “I think” anymore. Instead, they begin express their beliefs by saying, “I feel”. There is a place for feeling, but those feelings must be governed by the truth. Jesus said we will be set free by “know[ing] the truth” (John 8:32). We are never told to let our feelings guide our way towards the truth. But we are instructed to diligently study it (2 Tim 2:15).
The first point I would like to make is based on simple logic. It is a line of reasoning that cannot be gainsaid.
Premise 1: Scripture should be used in every decision we make (Col 3:17, 2 Peter 1:3).
Premise 2: We decide what church we will be members of.
Conclusion: Scripture should be used to decide what church we will be members of.
The second point is based from 1 Corinthians 14:33, “God is not the author of confusion”. The denominational model of christianity today is confusing. Jesus prayed for his followers to be one(John 17:21), He condemns division (1 Cor 1:10), and He makes it clear that not all churches are His (Rev 2:5). Yet we have a multitude of different churches saying everyone is ok. The confusion comes from turning to something that God did not author (unscriptural reasons). If we turn to what God did author (the Bible), it will remove confusion. This is what Jesus prayed for.
The third point is based on the historical fact that the first members of the church of Christ became members because of scriptural reasons. The Lord’s church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Upon obeying the instructions of Peter to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38), Jesus added them to His church (Acts 2:42,47). When you examine the points that Peter made in his sermon, it is easy to see that he provided scriptural reasons. He quotes from Joel 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110. Not only does he quote the scriptures, the majority of rest of the lesson is the explanation of those passages. The first example of people becoming members of the Lord’s church involves them first hearing scriptural reasons.
Fourth, 1 Timothy 3:15 teaches that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth”. The picture here is that the church of Christ will hold up the truth. That involves defending and spreading the truth. It involves holding up the truth when someone asks us why we should be members of this church. Peter said we should always be ready to give a defense for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). Defend it how? By providing scriptural reasons.
Fifth, we are commanded to give scriptural reasons. Titus 2:1 says, “But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine is the scriptural teaching that the church is supposed to propagate (2 Tim 3:16). We won’t find a scripture telling us to provide personal reasons for church membership.
Sixth, we should seek scriptural reasons because of what unscriptural reasons lead to. When unscriptural reasons are behind a church, the worship that they are offering to God is vain (Matt 15:9). That means it is worthless. Unscriptural churches will be rooted up (Matt 15:13) and accursed from Christ (Gal 1:6-9). The perceived good of an unscriptural church is actually of no value (Col 2:22-23). An unscriptural church will cause the members of that church to be lost and all those they influence (2 John 1:9-10). The unscriptural reasons will transition into valued traditions that will keep even their own children and grandchildren from seeing the truth in the future (2 Cor 3:14-18).
In conclusion, we must “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). To simplify it for our point… We need to prove it with the Bible. Prove that our way of living is right with the Bible. Prove our salvation is true according to the Bible. Prove that we are members of the Lord’s Church with the Bible. Do it now, or be ashamed in the future.
Note: This series of articles dealing with the reasons to be a member of the Lord's church is highly influenced by the book "Why I am A Member Of The Church of Christ" by Leroy Brownlow.