Church Membership (4)

3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

While the first two membership vows deal with the reality of our justification, vows 3-5 speak of the reality of our sanctification. We proceed from the vows that speak of our entrance, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, into the kingdom; to the fruit of that grace in our Christian life, lived in His grace and for His glory.

Vow #3 speaks of our desire to live “as becomes a follower of Christ.” Those who have truly been redeemed have a desire to live to bring glory to our Lord, and not shame, as the Scriptures say, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4) And, while there is great freedom in Christian living, God has set clear parameters in His written Word as to what is right and what is wrong. We are vowing by the grace and enablement of the Holy Spirit to live our lives to please our Lord.

Vow #4 involves a promise to the “best of our ability” to support the “worship and work” of the Church. People automatically think of finances when they hear this vow, and although that is a part of the promise, it goes much deeper. It entails a seriousness about the Lord’s Day, and, that apart from providential hindrances, we will gather with God’s people to worship the One who has redeemed us from the curse of the Law. It does, however, include a giving of God’s tithes and our offerings for the work of the Kingdom (but we, as a session, have made it a policy that we will never know what someone gives in order to safeguard our desire to treat all of God’s sheep with equity as we minister to them in the love of Christ).

The last vow consists of a promise to submit to the elders, under Christ and His written Word, and to seek the purity and peace of the church in doctrine and unity of the Spirit. As the writer of Hebrews instructed, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17) It is not for the elders to micro-manage your life, but they are spiritually responsible for your soul and will use the shepherd’s crook to tug a sheep back into the fold who has strayed into the forbidden pasture of sin, where wolves threaten “to steal, kill, and destroy.” Morevover, a promise is being made that the new member will not cause disharmony, but work to preserve the unity that we have in Christ.

While we, as members of Christ’s church, still must battle the remaining sin in our own hearts, and resist the temptations of a fallen world, the Body of Christ is a realm where “steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

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