Sunday, August 28, 2022

To Join a Church

By Ron Bartanen


    Imagine yourself to have lived in the days shortly following the beginning of the church. Jesus has been crucified at Passover after a preaching ministry of approximately 3 ½ years.  His body had been placed in a borrowed tomb, its stone-entrance sealed with a Roman seal.  His enemies thought they were rid of Him, surely confident that they would no longer cringe at the mention of His name   He would surely soon be forgotten.  Then there came the disturbing news that Jesus’ tomb was mysteriously empty.  And then, less then 6 weeks later, on the day of Pentecost everything changed.  The once-fearful disciples begin boldly proclaiming a risen-Christ, testifying that for a period of 40 days they had seen and companied with Him.  All efforts to silence them were futile, as they were charged with having “filled Jerusalem with your doctrine” (Acts 5:28).  The church Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18) was now a reality!

    On that Pentecost Sunday on which the church had its birth, the apostle Peter proclaimed the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, as recorded in Acts 2.  At the conclusion there was no appeal to the crowd gathered to “join the church of your choice,” or, for that matter, to join any church.  Instead, they are called upon to believe that the crucified Jesus was now “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Convicted believers were then commanded to “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (v. 38), with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Not a word is said about joining a church.  However, the Lord, not men, did something as people were baptized.  He “added to them (\to the disciples)” (v. 41), and later, “the Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved” (v. 47).  The Lord, who knows the hearts of all, adds to the church. He alone “knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).  When individuals comply from the heart to the standards He has set (cf. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:1-4, 17-18), they may have confidence that the Lord will be faithful to His promises.

    One may join denominations, which originate with men, but the Lord alone determines who are members of “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Denominationalism and sectarianism, both of which are contrary to God’s plans for His church, divide those who would be followers of Christ.  How shameful that believers are in a situation that contradicts Jesus’ prayer: “that they all may be one….” (John 17:21).

    If you lived in those days you would have found no denomination to join.  There would be no denominational creeds or rules to be learned and submitted to.  You would simply find local congregations, undivided by different standards and names.  Believers were simply Christians, followers of Christ, submissive to His word as revealed by the Holy Spirit to His apostles.  If we believe and practice only what they believed and practiced in that day, would we not be what they were—Christians only? Why should it be otherwise today?
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at:

No comments:

Post a Comment