Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
This is a subject of importance for prospective members and current members.
The answer isn’t because we’re worldly or traditionalists or masterminds. It comes down to the Gospel and the Bible, the Christ ordained nature and design for Christ’s people in local congregations.
The Church is A Believing Church (Nature) (Acts 2:41)
The Church isn’t made up of those who visibly associate with it. It is made up of those who’ve believed the Gospel. This is true both universally and locally.
Given the nominalism of nominal Anglicanism in the 1600s Baptists were doubly sure that the visible Church would only be made up of those with credible confessions.
Membership is for believers.
The Church Has Christ-given Authority (Design) (Mt 16:18, 18:18)
Those called out from the world and united to Christ in faith are His representative body on earth. Believers have the responsibility to seek out visible entrance/association with local congregations. To churches He has given the authority to “bind and loose.” It is the body and not prospective member who ultimately affirms who it believes may enter. To apply and be admitted to the Church is an important matter. It is the skeleton that gives shape to the body. The structure that sustains, enables and guides all of the ‘one another’ relationships and activities within the body (not unlike baptism and marriage).
Early Baptists rigorously applied this in welcoming new members and in discipline. Great solemnity was observed in covenanting together to form the local body. Local Christians were seen as “brothers and sisters,” those with whom one had a unique relationship.
Membership identifies who represents Jesus.
Church Membership is Biblical (Authority)
From the emphasis on local congregations, the selection of Deacons, discipline to the submission to leaders, numerous verses bespeak membership in the local church.
Early Baptists didn’t invent membership, they observed what they saw in Scripture and applied it to their reformation of the church.
Membership is biblical.
Church Membership Works
Aside from biblical warrant it is difficult to conceive of any other way of defining/organizing, objectively, who and what the church is.
The Baptist practice of membership has remained an effective means of ensuring the world knows who represents Jesus for 400 years.
Membership works and so we practice it.
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