Why Join a Church?

July 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Q&A | 6 Comments
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Question: Do I need to “join a church?” In other words, why would I even consider becoming a “member” when I can attend church without it?

Answer: I don’t know of a Bible verse that says “thou shalt have thy name officially added unto a local church’s membership list.” However, I think the reason we don’t see a command like that is because it would have been almost unthinkable for the men that the Holy Spirit used to write the Bible that someone would become a part of the body of Christ, and then NOT join a local church assembly. The Bible doesn’t command church membership in explicit terms, because it implicitly ASSUMES it for Christians.

Read Hebrews 13:17 and I Peter 5:2 and I Corinthians 1:2 and 5:12 and Philippians 1:1 and Acts 8:1– just to cite a few examples – and you will see the necessity of placing yourself under the authority of local church leadership. How is a pastor supposed to determine who is and who is not a part of the “flock” if people refuse to formally commit? Even in the Old Testament the people of God were listed formally in order to keep track of who was a part of the family of faith. (See Psalm 87:6.)

Additionally, the principles of submission, accountability, relationship, church discipline, and identification as the bride of Christ are all key reasons for joining a local church.

The Determination, Demonstration, Distribution, and Designation of the Spiritual Gifts

October 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 9 Comments
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But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

I Corinthians 12:7

The spiritual gifts are demonstrated by their manifestation and display within the Body of Christ. This means that no Christian should feel left out or “giftless,” but it also means that you are depriving the Body of Christ of something that God wants it to have if you are neglecting to exercise your spiritual gift or gifts.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:8

The word of wisdom is the gift of being able to apply knowledge or truth to a situation and to discern a course of action. The word of knowledge was a gift of direct divine revelation. It was a truly supernatural gift, and arguably no longer available or needed since we have a closed cannon of Scripture.

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

I Corinthians 12:9

Every true Christian has a gift of faith for salvation, but some Christians are able to believe the promises of God with a greater certainty, and to stand upon them in times of difficulty, hardship, or persecution in special ways. The gift of miraculous healing is not operational today in the way that it was during the time of the Apostles. If it were, then it should be put into practice at the nursing homes, pediatric cancer wards, and burn treatment centers, rather than only at the big event centers where money is being collected.

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

I Corinthians 12:10

The gift of miracles probably included healings, although it would have been more comprehensive. The gift of prophecy today would be a gift for the effective proclaiming of God’s Word, or what we could call preaching. The gift of discerning of spirits was an ability to spot false prophets and charlatans. The gift of divers kinds of tongues allowed certain believers to supernaturally speak in a language or languages not naturally known to the speaker. The gift of the interpretation of tongues was the ability to understand what was being said in other languages without prior knowledge.

These gifts do not comprise an exhaustive list, and they need to be discovered through practical service more than an analytical or a psychological test.

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

I Corinthians 12:11

The spiritual gifts are distributed among a body of believers according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

I Corinthians 12:12

The analogy of the human body is used to help us understand this distribution.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

I Corinthians 12:13-18

This reminds us that the Holy Spirit is also God, and perhaps God the Father has placed you into the part of the Body that He wants, and then the Holy Spirit determines which gift(s) you will need to function in that capacity. Just as there is diversity in a human body, there are a diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ, and certain members may need multiple gifts. A hand needs the gift of catching, but also the gifts of throwing, grasping and holding, and caressing. A person acting as the hand of the Body of Christ may not need a speaking gift, but he may need a discerning gift or a gift of mercy.

And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:19-21

The emphasis here is on the importance of working together. Otherwise, the gifts become things to brag about, or to fight with, rather than tools given for building.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.

I Corinthians 12:22-24

Everybody likes to look at pretty hair or an attractive face. We like to hear winsome words and see graceful movement. Nobody wants to see your pancreas, your lungs, or even your brain, but no one could reasonably assert that these “parts” are less important.

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

I Corinthians 12:25-26

A body at war with itself will die, or at least not function properly. It will limp along, and it will suffer. The body is an organism, not an organization, but an unorganized organism will die.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

Once again, the Holy Spirit stresses unity AND diversity.

What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts? How are they to be exercised? To what end?

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:28

The designation of the gifts is for the edification of the Church.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Therefore, it makes no sense to be bitter about someone else’s gift. If we do that, we are criticizing God, and, really, committing another form of idolatry – thinking we know better than Him.

Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

I Corinthians 12:29

The obvious answer to this is no.

Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

I Corinthians 12:30

Once again, the obvious answer is no, although this is very much overlooked by some Pentecostals and Charismatics who make speaking in tongues a test of salvation or a measuring stick for Holy Spirit-anointing.

Now another, even more important, factor is added to the equation of unity and diversity: maturity.

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

I Corinthians 12:31

Too many people assume that this means everyone should desire the more visible gifts, but the “best” gift for you is whichever gift(s) that God has chosen, in His perfect will, to give you. Covet what He wants you to have. He will give you the desire of your heart if your desire is to know and serve Him. The more excellent way is (as will be shown in I Corinthians Chapter 13) “charity” – agapeChristian love.

The Know-Bodies

March 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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Paul had received the true report of gross sin being tolerated in the church at Corinth.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

I Corinthians 5:1

This may or may not have been technically considered what we call “incest” (sexual relations between blood-relatives) if the “father’s wife” was not the son’s biological mother, but it was legally considered to be incest, and it was a violation of the law of God.

The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Leviticus 18:7-8

Most Bible commentators believe that this was a a step-mother/step-son relationship, but it was still considered wrong (sinful), even among the gentiles, and the worst thing about this behavior was not even that it was occurring (Paul was not shocked to hear of sinners sinning), nor even that it was being allowed to go unchecked among the Knows (confusing the Knows and the Know-Nots), but that the church members were PROUD OF IT!

And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

I Corinthians 5:2

They were congratulating themselves on how nonjudgmental they were. They should have been grieved as though someone had died, but instead they were bragging about their liberality and tolerance!

Today’s pop culture Christianity would ask: “So, why is this such a big deal? Shouldn’t a Christian church be just the place for the very worst sinners? Isn’t it a hospital for sinners, not a showplace for saints? Who are we to judge? Jesus didn’t tell anyone to be mean – ever.”

The reason it is so serious is because open undisciplined sin practiced openly by members of a Christian church, and allowed to go unchecked by the leaders and the congregation, affects more than just the specific sinners involved. Consider some of our metaphors for the Church:

1. The body

a. An infected hand must be taken out of general service.
b. It must be especially tended to.
c. It must be watched closely.
d. If the infection can’t be cured quickly, it needs to be cut off to prevent the whole body from becoming infected.
e. Amputation is harsh – mean – no one wants to be the “ax-man.”
f. But it is sometimes necessary for the preservation of the rest of the body.

2. The family

a. A family member must be loved.
b. But also corrected
c. Sometimes not allowed to take part in every family activity
d. If you won’t set the table, you can’t eat with the rest of us.
e. If you are hurting the family, sometimes, for the good of the rest of the family and your own good, you must be kicked out of the house

3. A business enterprise

a. Like a bank teller whose drawer keeps coming up short
b. May have to be demoted to parking lot security guard for a while
c. And, ultimately, may have to be fired

Church discipline can be a tricky and a messy business, but these things are not to be done out of malice, spite, or joy. They are done with broken hearts and trepidation, but they are to be done decisively.

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I Corinthians 5:3-4

The Corinthian church could administer discipline in this particular case by explicit Apostolic authority. Today, in a case like this, where the sin was being indulged openly and unrepentantly, we would have authority to administer the discipline publicly within the church – not hatefully, but harshly, and, yes, decisively: “taken away from you” (V. 2); “purged” (V. 7); “put away” (V. 13).

This is how extreme the matter was:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 5:5

This may sound, upon a superficial reading, like they were trying to take away his salvation, but it was just the opposite (notice the woman is not dealt with at all – because she was apparently not a Christian). This was an attempt to: (1) prove his salvation, for the Holy Spirit’s seal may never be broken; (2) aid in his sanctification by drastic means, knowing that the destruction of the flesh was the most loving thing they could do. The hope was that this man would learn the error of his ways, and it seems to have worked.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.

II Corinthians 2:4-8

Discipleship Lesson 6: The Local Church

February 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, I Corinthians | 70 Comments
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God has established three main institutions here on earth: the family; the government; and the local church. The local church acts as Christ’s body in carrying out God’s purposes in reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

I. What is the local church?

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Acts 14:27

The local church is not a building.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

There is “The Church,” which is the Bride and Body of Christ, and which consists of all the born-again Christians from all times and from all over the world. And then there is “the local church.” Local churches are made up of people who meet together regularly to worship and serve the Lord in a specific place.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

I Corinthians 12:14-20

Each part of your body has at least one specific function. Each member of the local church should have at least one specific function. Not all members have the same function.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:21

No part of your body can function alone. In the local church, members aren’t meant to function alone.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

I Corinthians 12:22-23

Each member’s contribution is important.

For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:24-28

A properly functioning body operates as a single unit. A local church should operate in harmony and unity.

II. What are the responsibilities of the local church?

The first local church was organized in Jerusalem.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42

The local church’s responsibilities include: the teaching of the Word of God; fellowship with other believers; prayer.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:41

The local church should observe the two ordinances of the Church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 2:43

The local church should be a testimony of God’s grace and power.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 2:44-45

The local church should be involved in mutual assistance and ministry.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:46-47

The local church should reach out into the community and glorify and praise God.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

According to the Scriptures the number one priority of the local church seems to be to build up, teach, and strengthen believers.

III. Why is it important for you to be involved in a local church?

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

There are three basic growth stages in the life of a believer: (1) observe and learn; (2) participate; (3) lead by serving.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

As a believer who belongs to a local church, first you learn, and then you teach what you have learned.

IV. Questions

A. How should you decide with which local church to become involved?

Pray about it.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

B. What are some qualities you should look for in a local church?

1. Evidence of evangelism

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 7:20

2. A belief that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is absolutely true.

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Titus 1:9

Members should be encouraged to read the Bible as much as leaders.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

3. Ministry to needs

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1

4. Support of missionaries

And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 13:3

C. What are two of the main purposes of the local church?

Reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

V. Memory verses

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go

July 16, 2010 at 8:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Few things will stir up a hornet’s nest of disagreement among Christians like the issue of what type of clothing is appropriate. This should not be the case, however, since the Bible’s principles for Christian dress are clear: modesty and distinction (I Timothy 2:9; Deuteronomy 22:5).

Colossians 3:12 deals with a less divisive, but equally important, issue: What the Christian should be wearing on the inside. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”

Imagine what it would be like if Christians wore special belts around our waists that made us feel, in our deepest parts, a desire to forgive those who are suffering from having done horrible things (bowels of mercies). What if we had special shirts that made us go to great lengths to do good for others (kindness)? Or how about hats that made us think neither too little, nor too much, of ourselves, but simply kept us from thinking of ourselves at all (humbleness of mind)? What if we had shoes that kept our feet moving in response to God’s power, instead of trying to run ahead in our own power (meekness)? Maybe we could even put on overcoats that helped us bear with patience the faults of others, while we remember how much the Lord puts up with from us (longsuffering).

I suppose, in the world’s eyes, we would look pretty funny. They would say we were “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” But, perhaps, in God’s eyes we would appear as one big unified body, ready to go wherever God sent us, ruled by His peace, doing His will, and seeking His glory (Colossians 3:13-15).

S.E.R.V.E. the Lord in Children’s Ministry

June 7, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Biblical Teaching | 4 Comments
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Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Romans 12:11, emphasis added

S.erving the Lord: Prepare for each week’s service as though you are serving the Lord – not just for your pastor or leader, or even the kids, but like you are doing it for the Lord.

E.arly: Don’t just be on time – be early! (at least 15 minutes)

I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

Proverbs 8:17, emphasis added

R.eliable: Try not to miss your turn to help unless you absolutely have to.

Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

I Corinthians 4:2, emphasis added

V.aluable: You are a valuable part of your church family and of the team. Make it a priority to come to meetings.

For the body is not one member, but many.

I Corinthians 12:14

E.ncouraging: Encourage the kids all through the week. Call them, send cards, meet their parents, etc.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

S.erving
E.arly
R.eliable
V.aluable
E.ncouraging

Eternal Infamy vs. Eternal Honor

March 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Eternity | 5 Comments
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Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your own personal name written down in the pages of God’s everlasting Word? Don’t answer too quickly. First, you might want to ask, “What would it say about me?”

It is a great honor for men such as Job, Moses, Paul, and Stephen to have their names inscribed in the Bible, but, for a few others, it is an eternal shame. One such example is Diotrephes. He is named only once, but it’s not good:

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

III John Verses 9-10

Apparently, Diotrepehes was a proud man, with a love for being “first,” and a willingness to step on a few toes and heads to get there. He was not averse to attacking the Lord’s work, or even the Apostle John. We get a picture of Diotrephes tossing people out of the congregation left and right.

One key thing to remember, though, is that, while Diotrephes did cast people out of the “church,” he did not cast them out of the “CHURCH.” A “church,” which we usually use to refer to a building, is a local assembly of believers, but there is a greater sense in which “THE CHURCH,” is the called-out assembly of all the true Christians in the world. This Church is both the Body (I Corinthians 12:27) and the Bride (Revelation 21:9) of Christ.

Men may remove other men from a local congregation of believers, but Jesus Christ will never withdraw eternal life from His own Body or divorce His own Bride. This is the promise and assurance of salvation.


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