It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body… If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’
1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 19-21
Why do I believe in church membership? There are probably a dozen big reasons, but I’ll summarize a few of the foundational ones in a sentence:
Because I am a part of the Christian Body of Christ, and that Body is in turn made up of individual, local bodies of Christians who are accountable to and for one another.
This is a normative thing I see in the New Testament. Christians are spoken of and spoken to as integral parts of individual, local churches. Churches whom they are accountable to and churches whom they are accountable for. So at some point I should no longer merely be visiting a Christian body; I should be one of its eyes, fingers, or ears. If I’ve been born again, then I’ve been grafted into Christ’s body. I should live like it. I should be grafted in to a local body.
And this all makes sense, guys. There’s a reason why we don’t see a lot of isolated, disconnected Christians in the New Testament. God is saving a people, and so I know that community is both to His glory and necessary for our good. I can’t be who I’m called to be in Christ if I’m not being prayed for and discipled by and even admonished by other Christians. And I can’t be who God would have me be if I refuse to do the same myself for others. If I try to live the Christian life apart from a local church I’m doing something that is disobedient, dangerous, and selfish.
I know the pains and costs that come from being covenanted to other people. There are great risks that come with it, and sometimes great wounds. But our Lord knew those risks, too. He knew them in the Upper Room as Judas Iscariot dipped his bread with Him, and He knew them when Peter forsook Him the night before the Crucifuxion. I’m confident He knows them when I sin against Him. And yet He chose and chooses to wed Himself to a people. To be a Savior of the church. Our Savior counted the cost, and chose to love and ransom and cleanse a sinful people.
And because I love Him, I want to love what He loves.
I believe in church membership because I need to be what I have been called to be: A working part of the Bride and Body of this Jesus Christ.
And so I want to give myself to her as He gave Himsef for her.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.