Qualifications for Church Membership
In a nutshell, the qualifications for church membership are:
Salvation has two aspects, one of which is ignored by many today,
A few years ago Paul Crouch (of TBN) said, “I don’t care about your doctrines as long as you name the name of Jesus…” Satan and Judas named the name of Jesus. I don’t doubt they would be acceptable to TBN and many others.
Luke 13:3-5; Jonah 3:6-9; Mark 6:12 We see that repentance is necessary.
Romans 4,20-21; Gal. 3:11-14 (for a full understanding, read the all of both chapters).
John the Baptist, whose ministry was “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, (Mk. 1:1) preached, saying to the people, “Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 5:2). His was the baptism of repentance. when John was cast into prison, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). When the apostles were sent forth they “preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12). The Lord Jesus after his resurrection said: “Thus it is written and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:46,47). Peter on the day of Pentecost said. “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). And Paul, who testified at Ephesus for three years “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21), proclaimed in Athens, “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The N.T. is full of the doctrine of repentance. It is the doctrine of the gospel. The law knows nothing of it. The language of the law is, DO and LIVE - not Repent, that you may be pardoned. Repentance involves such a change of mind in regard to sin as is indispensable to a proper appreciation of the blessings of the kingdom of Christ. Therefore no one is a candidate for church-membership unless he has repented of sin and trusted fully in Christ for salvation.
After repentance comes faith as a necessary qualification for church membership. Great importance in the scriptures is attached to faith in Christ, as will appear from the following passages: “He that believeth on him is not condemned” (Jn. 3:l8).. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36), “By him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:39). See also Jn. 20:31; Mark 16:16; Rom. 3:25,26; and Rom. 5:1.
These passages clearly show that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. Although faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8), it must be exercised and is that which brings the soul into vital contact with the blood of the atonement. It unites us to Christ.
Faith in Christ - the faith which instrumentally achieves the sinner’s justification before God - is an essential qualification for church membership Every penitent believer is a regenerate person and should seek church-membership. Regeneration is the spiritual process by which we become new creatures in Christ - are born again - born of the Spirit - born of God - redeemed - saved, etc. etc. “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus:” (Gal. 3:26).
Saving faith is receiving the Lord Jesus Christ into the heart as one’s own personal Saviour and Lord and believing that He is there. We can say again that the only suitable materials of which to construct a church of Christ, so far as spiritual qualifications are concerned are: regenerate, penitent, believing persons.
To be born again you must be converted. Conversion involves turning from sin, and man by nature is unable to do this (Jer. 13:23). Conversion involves coming to Christ (Jn. 6:37,44,65). There is an evangelical repentance and there is also a legal repentance. Sin must be admitted - abhorred and abandoned. Repentance and faith are both gifts from God. There are three elements in “Saving Faith”.
This can be illustrated by a shipwreck in a storm. You are on this shipwrecked craft far at sea in a terrible storm. The ship is sinking and you know that you will soon be drowning in the water if a rescue cannot be found. A large lifeboat is let down and you are urged to get on board. The lifeboat will take you to safety. Are you going to put your dependence in it or go down with the sinking ship. This lifeboat is your only hope. Christ is your only hope of escaping hell. Christ is the Saviour not a Saviour.
Regeneration, repentance, and faith are private matters between God and the soul. They involve internal commitment, but of this commitment, there must be an external manifestation. This manifestation is made in baptism.
There can be no visible church without baptism. Baptist churches are the only churches on earth that require a person to profess to be saved before the person unites with the church or is baptized. An observance of this ordinance is the believer’s first public act of obedience to Christ. The penitent, regenerate believer is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is a visible, symbolic expression of a new relationship to the three persons of the God-head. We are said to be baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:1-15). In baptism our sins are declaratively remitted - formally washed away (I Pet. 5:21).
Christ gave the Great Commission to the church before Pentecost. Matthew 28:18-20 gives us the four points of our marching orders:
A great awakening took place under Peter’s preaching, and repenting thousands accepted salvation through Christ (Acts 2:41,47). The converts to the faith were first baptized and then added to the church. This shows baptism to be a prerequisite to church-membership.
No one is entitled to baptism unless he can be taught and then he is not entitled to it until he has been taught and has received that teaching. That leaves out infants and others (Acts 2:41, 8:26-59). The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch required much water; going down into the water, a burial; and a coming up out of the water.
One who has believed at the preaching of the Word and has been scripturally baptized by one having the authority of a local N.T. Baptist church can be given the authority (with one or more others) to go out, make disciples, baptize and start another Baptist church. This has been going on since the apostolic days and is why we have true Baptist churches today.
There are 4 aspects of Baptism which can be easily remembered by the acronym SPAM:
1. A proper Subject - a saved person
2. A proper Purpose or design - to show salvation not procure it
3. A proper Authority or administrator
4. A proper Mode - immersion in water
So salvation is the first condition of baptism. Others make baptism a condition of salvation. With Baptists it is:
· Blood before water
· Christ before the church
· Salvation before baptism