|Vol. 14 No. 7 July 2012||
Sometimes questions arise as to whether it is scripturally necessary, or even scripturally permissible, to “place membership” with a congregation. A modern brother or sister may raise the objection, “I’m a member of the church of Christ, and that’s good enough for me.” What this person means is, “I am a member of the universal church of Christ, but I have no interest in serving in a local congregation.”
Others seem to believe that placing membership is a denominational concept, rather than a scriptural concept. However, the term simply means to identify oneself with a local congregation with which he was not previously identified. This is done when a Christian has to leave his former congregation, either due to moving or similar circumstances, or due to doctrinal or practical error that has overtaken one’s former congregation. Please consider a few reasons why it is both scripturally permissible and scripturally necessary to place membership with a faithful church of Christ after leaving another.
(1) In the New Testament, each first-century Christian is understood to be a member of a particular congregation. The New Testament does speak of the universal church of Christ, into which the Lord adds the saved when they are baptized (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 5:23). However, far and away the New Testament most often uses “church” to refer to the local congregation (Acts 14:27; 20:17; Romans 16:1, 23a). Paul wrote “to the saints which are at Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Here it is expressed that he wrote to “saints” or Christians – but were they not saints who were members of the local church at Ephesus? He wrote “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:2). “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). Whether Paul addressed “the saints” at (whatever location) or “the church” at (whatever location), he was addressing the same group.
(2) Members are responsible to function within the body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:16), and the body functions within each local congregation. There is no larger organizational structure of the church (compare with Philippians 1:1). If we do not function within a local church, we do not function within the church at all.
(3) Christians have the responsibility to submit to a local eldership (or men’s business meeting where congregations do not have qualified men to serve as elders), while each eldership has the responsibility to oversee the flock it is among (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). If one never submits to an eldership, he never complies with his responsibility to submit to an eldership, and he hinders the elders from performing their responsibility to oversee the flock.
(4) After Saul was converted and returned to Jerusalem, he knew he had to identify himself with the congregation there. This is why “he assayed to join himself to the disciples” there (Acts 9:26). There is no difference between this and what is sometimes called “placing membership.” If Saul saw the need to identify himself with a faithful congregation where he was living, why would we not have the same need?
If one lives in an area where there are no faithful congregations, placing membership is obviously not an option. In such instances, one should again do what the first-century Christians did, and establish congregations in those areas (Acts 8:4ff; 11:19-21). Otherwise, placing membership is both scripturally permissible and scripturally necessary.
Mark N. Posey
Paul’s one consuming desire was to have Christ enlarged, even if his own body and life were lost. Magnify means to make or declare great, increase. It is used in the following passages: Matthew 23:5; Acts 19:17; Luke 1:58. I want to look into this text and challenge us in living lives that magnify Christ. Therefore, how can you and I live lives that magnify Christ?
Christ is worthy of being Magnified! Notice the following passages: Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 5:12, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease!”
Why is Christ worthy of being Magnified? Certainly there are reasons given within God’s Word to indicate why Christ should be magnified by New Testament Christians (cf. 1 Peter 2:5-10, especially vs. 9-10). We have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light (Colossians 1:13). We who were once not a people, are now a people (Ephesians 2:14-18). We who had not obtained mercy now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 1:3).
How Paul Magnified Christ! Paul’s desire was to ― magnify Christ in my body, whether by life or by death (cf. Philippians 1:12-26). Some of the following was gleaned from Wiersbe.
Paul’s Chains (1:12-14). Because of Paul’s chains, Christ was known (1:13). The same God that used Moses’ staff, Gideon’s pitchers and David’s sling, used Paul’s chains. The chains gave him contact with the lost. Because of his chains, Paul was able to further the cause of Christ and share the Gospel “in all the palace, and in all other places,” something he might not have done if he had been free.
Paul’s Critics (1:15-19). Because of Paul’s critics, Christ was a preacher (1:18). Paul was able to rejoice, not in the selfishness of his critics ("―some preach Christ from envy and strife...from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supporting to add afflictions to my bonds”), but in the fact that Christ was being preached. There was no envy in his heart. It mattered not that some were for him and some were against him. All that mattered was the preaching of Christ.
Paul’s Choices (1:20-26). Because of Paul’s choices, Christ was magnified (1:20). To the unbeliever, Christ is small; other things and people are far more important. However, Christians can magnify Christ for the unbeliever by right choices. This becomes a lens that makes Christ big and close. As we depend completely on Christ, stand for Him no matter the situation and fervently serve Him, Christ will be magnified in our bodies.