Monday, February 8, 2021

When The Roll is Called Up Yonder . . .

By Gerald Cowan

    “The Lamb’s Book of Life”(Revelation 20:12, 21:27) is not only the roll book of Christians but is God’s complete record and roll of the persons saved and added to His list of those approved and accepted by Him from the beginning of time until the end of it: all those who came to the Lord by whatever way He appointed for them and were then perfected in Christ (Hebrews 10:9-14) when they accepted him as the ultimate way (John 14:6), the last step into God’s congregation for heaven. The book(s) will be opened and all the names read out on God’s final roll call for eternity. You and I, along with everyone who ever lived will “be somewhere, listening”– hoping to hear our names called.
    “Don’t Take My Name Off the Roll.”
    How often we hear that said by people who have absent from worship and service activities of the church – sometimes for a long time – and have not supported any part of the works program of the church. They often realize and admit that their negligence is wrong. There is no acceptable and valid reason for their failure. They are not sick, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated. To make things worse, they do not honestly intend to start being faithful – at least not in the near future. But they are anxious that their names not be dropped from the church directory or membership roll.
    Strange, isn’t it, how much saving power some attribute to a man-made listing of names? A church roll is nothing more that a list of professed members or attenders. It usually contains only the location of the members but says nothing at all about their spiritual condition, their real relationship to the church or to God and His Christ. It has no saving power at all and is not verification of one’s salvation. Can you imagine God, on the day of judgment, examining all the church roll books in order to determine who is to be saved in heaven and who is not? Being on a church’s roll is not the same as having your name on an employer’s payroll. I’ve had my name on a few of those, but am not currently listed on any – I might feel more secure about my present and future welfare if were guaranteed payment for performance in a regular job.
    When a person does not attend, does not support the church, and does not respond when called upon to serve, why should his name be kept on the roll – or on the payroll? There is very little value, perhaps no value at all, either to the person or to the church in keeping his name on a membership list. Taking one’s name off the list does not remove him from the church and adding his name to the list does not make him a member. Those who isolate themselves from the church and refuse to participate in its activities forfeit the right to be called faithful members of the church – they forfeit any claim to the rights and benefits of membership.
    Look at it another way. If your name is kept on the roll but you are not fulfilling your Christian obligations as part of the church, you are actually no better off and no worse off than if your name were removed. Taking your name off the roll could be a way to acknowledge the action you have already taken. By negligence and indifference you trample underfoot the Son of God; by disrespect you put Him to shame; by your sins you separate yourself from Him (Hebrews 6:6 and 10:24-29, Isaiah 59:1-2).
    Taking one’s name off the published roll does not solve the problem of one’s true relationship to Christ and the church. But such an action creates the very real danger that the person thus dropped will be ignored and perhaps completely forgotten, not admonished and exhorted to notice and escape the jeopardy into which he has fallen, not made aware of the distance he has drifted from the Lord.
     Souls may then be lost forever which, by proper attention and personal contact, might have been restored to God. Failing to warn the wayward, neglecting the negligent, dismissing the delinquent and departing, not seeking the straying, not rescuing the perishing, not correcting the corrupted, not lifting the fallen, not reviving the fainting, not encouraging the discouraged, not even praying for the persecuted and mistreated — these and many more such failures are common sins of some of those listed on the roll book of the church.
    Here’s a more practical use and value of the membership roll. Make notes for your own use (mental or written on your copy of the roll book, though not published or publicized, which will reflect the true relationship of those listed to the Lord and to the church, their known needs, their strengths and weaknesses, and some indication of their true spiritual condition (be careful about judgements here). They might be identified as SHUT-INS because of age, illness or infirmity (no one would then assume that lack of attendance and involvement indicated a poor spiritual condition. It could be helpful to identify ACTIVE MEMBERS, those who are interested, helpful, regular in attendance, faithful in support of the church (the ones we like to call “faithful Christians”). Also note the INACTIVE MEMBERS, those uninterested, unwilling to serve, irregular or erratic in attendance and support, not dependable (the ones we surreptitiously label “unfaithful Christians”).
    No doubt many or most would object to having such information published for all to see. But, like it or not, this is the kind of record God keeps on each one of us, and His record is always current – everything good or not good is noted – errors are noted, correction of errors and forgiveness are also noted. It is not enough that our names are known to God. Jesus said we should rejoice if we can know our names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20). But only the faithful are listed in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12, 15). The unfaithful have their names erased from the heavenly directory (Exodus 32:33). One who ceases to serve and to fellowship the people of God when he is able to do so on earth has no valid church membership either on earth of in heaven. His name will not be called when the roll-call of the saints is sounded out. When the roll is called up yonder ... will you be there? Will your name be called?
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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