The Church And Its Membership
by Pastor Peter Niaves III, Ph.D.
Presented by Saint Luke Evangelical School Of Biblical Studies

The meaning of the word "Church as used in the New Testament is a called out or assembled group of people. There are two distinct applications: The first is a gathering of people, not necessarily Christians who have assembled together (1 Corinthians 1:2; Gal. 1:2; Philippians 1:2) Take note of Acts 7:38; 19:32).

The second would be a more important usage. It denotes a calling out from the Old Creature into the new, being gathered together by the Spirit into one body where Christ is the Head. This would include all and only those who have been saved between the day of Pentecost and the return of Christ to receive his own. There are organized churches worldwide but these should not be confused with the one church of which Christ is the Head. Little or nothing is said of the organization of churches and its membership in the Bible so therefore emphasis must be placed on the true church and the membership, which is formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Word Church is not found in the Old Testament because the church did not exist. It was a mystery of the New Testament (Ephesians 3: 3-6). The word Church is used only four times in four Gospels. A local assembly of people, (Matthew 18:17), A prophecy by Christ of the True Church yet to be formed (Matthew 16:18), The True Church could not exist until Christ died and was redeemed by His blood (Ephesians 5: 25-27). The True Church also could not exist until Christ' resurrection and ascension because Christ first had to become the Head over all things to the Church.

The final step for the creation of the church was the advent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, Baptizing all members into one body (1 Corinthians 12:14).

The Bible has three divisions of the human family, The Jews, The Gentiles and the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32).

The Jews or the Children of Israel

They are a nation that sprang from Abraham in the line of Isaac and Jacob, which were divinely chosen by God. This nation of people has been miraculously saved throughout history. They will become the Dominant, Glorified people in the Kingdom age. (Isaiah 62:1-12) The eternal promises of Jehovah cannot be altered. They include national entity (Jeremiah 31:36), A land (Genesis 13:15), A Throne (2 Samuel 7:13), A King (Jeremiah 33:20,21) and a Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:16).

The Gentiles

They are a vast unnumbered people, excluding the Israelites, who have lived on the earth from Adam to Christ until the present.

Except for certain individuals there is no record found of any special relationship or any promise made to them. Prophecies of the Old Testament do predict great earthly blessings to come to the Gentiles in the Future Kingdom, but for now they like the Jews, partake of the privileges of the Gospel.

The Church of God

Once again please note that the term "Church" does not reference the membership of any organized church and it membership but to the entire redeemed company of those who will be saved in this present age. They are a distinct people; each being born again enters the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). Destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). No longer in Adam partaking of the old creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are in Christ and the new creation (Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:10). In the sight of God their nationality has changed, neither Jew nor Gentile, all are in Christ (Colossians 3:11). They are now citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:3). All promises, possessions, and positions are heavenly (2 Corinthians 5:17,18). Being a member of the Church of God distinguishes you from all the people of the earth.

The Church Membership

"Could a person be saved and not be a church member?" This depends on the meaning of the word church. A person may be a Christian and not be the member of a local organized church. As a matter of fact, all persons should be saved before joining a church. It is impossible for a person to be saved and not be a member of the Church, which is Christ's own body. Salvation is the uniting of the saved ones to Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

On earth, we the members of the church are seen as pilgrim bands of witnesses because once saved we are not part of this world (John 17:16; 1 John 3:2) Being heavenly people, the Church is recognized as the "Bride of the Lamb", co-reigning with the King and a partaker in the glory of the eternal Son of God.

Salvation is only through Christ and men are saved when they receive Him as their Savior, This alone enrolls them as a member in the Church.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:8-10

copyright 2000 Pastor Peter Niaves III, Ph.D.
Used by permission.