Series Intro: What is a New Testament church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not something you “do.”
Overview; Part2; Part3;
I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:
- Gospel believing individuals
- Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
- Recognizably covenanting together
- Regularly meeting around God’s Word
- Under legitimate leadership
- Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table
Let’s take a look at the third essential component of a NT local church: Recognizably covenanting together
A covenant is an agreement. In this case, it is an agreement between believers in Jesus Christ to fulfill the Lord’s commands and the one another passages of the NT. When I covenant with you and others to be part of a NT church, I am stating that I will love you, protect you, admonish you, pray for you, minister to you, confront you, etc. I am also asking the others to do so for me.
Why would we say that there needs to be a recognizable covenant between these baptized believers?
First, because the NT shows this was the case.
A. In the NT, ”Disciples” and “Church” were interchangeable (1 Cor 1:2,10; 1 Thess 1:1,4; 2 Thess 1:1,3; Phil 1:1; 4:15 Col 4:15,16). When Paul addressed a church he was addressing individual believers. When he was addressing believers, he was assuming they were in the church.
B. In the NT, The Disciples were part of specific churches (Acts 13:1; 3 John 10; Rev 1:4,11; 2:10,23; etc.).
C. In the NT, The elders were responsible for specific churches (Acts 13:1; 14:23; 20:17; 16:4; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1-3; Phil 1:1 cf. 3:17; 4:9). This demonstrates that the elders had certain individuals over which they had to exercise care. They would have to give an account (Heb 13).
D. In the NT, Churches accepted members from other churches (Paul – Acts 9:17-29; 11:25,26; 13:1-3; Barnabas – Acts 4:32, 34-37; 9:27; 11:22-26; 13:1-3; Apollos- Acts 18:27,28; General- 2 Cor 3:1; Rom 16:1,2)
Second, without a recognizable line, one cannot restrict access or expel those who Christ has restricted.
A. Logically: A boundary clarifies those who are in, and clarifies those who are out. Try kicking someone out of a group that doesn’t exist.You have to have a group to kick them out of it.
B. Biblically: The NT demonstrates the existence of a boundary marker Acts 2:44-45; 2:41, 47; 4:4 (Acts 5:1-11); 6:1-2; 11:22, 26; 12:5; 13:1; 14:27; 15:3, 4; Heb 13:17; 1 Cor 5:13
The church is the Body of Christ made up of those individuals who have been redeemed, baptized, and are now covenanting together.
What other evidences of this would you add?
Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Leeman, Jonathan. Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. 1st ed. Crossway, 2012.
Harris, Joshua. Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2011.