“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Written to the local church in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul, cir. 60 A.D.
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a radically new life. In Christ we are changed from rebels from God to children of God. We receive forgiveness of sins and new life in the Spirit. As we learn from the book of Romans, especially chapter 6, all of this flows to us as a result of our identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. By faith we are united to Christ and as a result his death counts for ours, and we share in His resurrection life.
This amazing unity that we have with Christ through the gospel is also expressed in the unity and identity we experience in the local church. In the same way that the gospel has radical effects in our lives, so too the radical nature of the gospel is mirrored by our connection to the local church. Being united to Christ also means being united to all other Christians. This profound unity is true of all Christians everywhere and through all time–yet it is most explicitly intended to be experienced in the local church.
God intends our participation in the local church to be much more than attending worship service on Sunday morning. A brief study of the “one anothers” of the New Testament (ex. Rom. 12:10, Rom. 12:16, 1 Cor. 11:33, Gal. 5:13, Eph. 4:2, Eph. 4:32, 1 Thes. 5:11, Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:24-25, Jam. 5:16) describe a depth of relationship and a breadth of responsibility toward our brothers and sisters which cannot be fulfilled without knowing exactly who these “one anothers” actually are.
The principle of defined church membership is essential for members of a local church to truly live out the gospel in the kind of communities that God designed. This is especially true in our day and age where there are many local churches one could visit on a Sunday.
Redeeming Grace Church Membership
Striving for unity in the local church includes maintaining our relationships, loving one another, and working out conflicts according to Biblical principles of godly pursuit of one another (Gal. 6:1), repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) and forgiveness (Col. 3:13). But unity is also a unity of mind (1 Pet. 3:8) and a unity in knowledge of the truth (Eph. 4:13), which includes doctrinal beliefs.