Church Membership (3)

1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy? 2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?

In my last post I looked at the preamble to the Membership Vows of the PCA and today I would like to look at the first two vows required to become a member of a PCA church.

The first vow concerns the fact that we were dead in our “trespasses and sins, in which [we] formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:1-3) We must admit that our status apart from Christ was one of animosity, and that we deservingly lived under His wrath; (John 3:36) so much so, that apart from “His sovereign mercy,” we were without any hope. Granted, there are many contemporary churches who diligently side step any mention of man’s sin, and God’s wrath, but to do so is to act like an oncologist who tells his patient not to worry, go home, take an aspirin, and everything will turn out beautifully.

The second vow concerns the foundation of our Christian life: the person, the obedient life, the sacrificial death, and the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. One must vow that he is not trusting in anything that he has said, done, or thought in order to be made right with God, but instead, is trusting in Christ alone for his salvation. While we can not look into anyone’s heart of hearts to determine beyond a shadow of doubt that he is redeemed, we require all communicant members of the church to have a credible profession of faith. This is why the session spends significant time with each one desiring membership, discussing in whom his (or her) hope of salvation resides, not to be cranky or judgmental, but for that one’s own spiritual good.

One does not necessarily need to be able to nail down the exact date and time that he became a Christian, but he needs to be able to give assurance that he is trusting in Christ alone now, for Christ truly is our “only comfort in life and death.” We need to take seriously Peters admonition in 2 Peter 1:10 to “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” unto salvation. May Christ continue to grow His church for the eternal glory of Himself, and the eternal good of His people.

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