One of the most popular misunderstandings about church membership is that one “joins the church.” It is common in modern denominational churches that one responds to the invitation, and the local church votes whether or not they will accept him or her as a member of that church; then, the member is baptized. This is what man teaches and what many churches of men practice today. We do not practice this at the Gardendale church of Christ because this is not what the Bible teaches.
In Acts 2:37 after hearing a strong sermon about how Jesus is the Christ, the people asked, “Men and brethren what must we do?” In Acts 2:38, they are told: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” A few verses later, we read about the response: “Then they that gladly received the word were baptized, and the same day there was added unto them about 3,000 souls.” (Acts 2:41). To what were they added? They were added to the church. Who was it that added them to the church? Acts 2:47 says: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
What do we learn? When these sinners heard the gospel of Jesus, believed it, repented of their sins and were baptized, they were added to the church spiritually by the Lord Himself (see Acts 2:36-41, 47). Note: Baptism preceded church membership and there was no system of voting people into church membership.
The story is told of a man whose wife kept after him to “join the church.” Finally, after being worn down, the man came forward one Sunday and made his wishes known. The preacher told him the congregation would vote on his church membership as soon as he admitted to having a “salvation experience.” The man said he had some type of experience and the members voted him into the church. A week later he was baptized. After a couple of weeks, the man felt really burdened with guilt that he had lied about having an “experience.” The man came forward the following Sunday and confessed that he had lied about his experience. The church immediately voted him out. The man replied to the congregation: “I have never heard of a church who voted a man in for telling a lie and voted a man out for telling the truth!”
Friend, when we add to God’s word, these are the problems we can encounter. The choice to become a member of the Lord’s church was never left in the hands of mere men to decide for another person. The Bible tells us there was no voting involved, no “experience,” but the penitent soul gladly received the word and was added to the church by the Lord Himself. Forgiveness of past sin in the blood of Christ and church membership happen at the moment the sinner is baptized into Christ (Acts 2:36-41, 47; Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:26,27). The believing soul is added to the Lord’s church which was purchased by the blood of Jesus and is the saved body of Christ (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22, 23; 5:23).
The Gardendale church of Christ invites you to come visit with us where you will never be embarrassed publically by questioning, but you will be treated as an honored guest. What better way is there to start the New Year than by starting to attend public worship with your whole family? Consider this your warm welcome to come and visit with us where Jesus Christ is Lord and the Bible is respected and followed.
—Michael R. Baggett