The Individual Christian's Responsibility to the Local Church of Which He Is a Member (II)
Temple Terrace, Florida
We have seen that the obligations of each individual Christian to the local church of which he is a member are: (1) to be free from divisiveness (I Cor. 1); (2) to stand firmly upon the word of God (I Cor. 2); (3) to labor for the building up of the body of Christ in teaching others (I Cor. 3-4); and (4) to lead a righteously moral life (I Cor. 5-7). Continuing that line of thought, other responsibilities appear evident from the book of First Corinthians.
5. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to be genuinely concerned about the consciences of others (I Cor. 8: 1 - I 1: 16). The greater portion of this section of the book deals with the customs of the day which exhibit not only the character of the participant but also the attitude he has toward others who might be weaker in faith than he. In the matter of eating meat, some brethren were evidently taking their liberty at the expense of other brethren. In chapter eleven, the admonition is that each should respect his proper Place in God's order of authority. Those who do not do this exhibit an improper influence upon their brethren.
I cannot be so selfish as to be unconcerned. If that which I do causes another to lose faith in God, in some part of His word, or in me as an example, I have sinned. If what I do causes him to sin in some way, I have also erred. Even though my action may be right in itself, I have no right to hurt my brother.
Children of God are sometimes heard to say, "Well, it isn't wrong and I am going to do it. I do not really care what he thinks about it." Or some might say, "If I worried about that I never could do anything." My friend, if it is a matter of jeopardizing the soul of your brother, you do not need to do anything (Matt. 18:1-7)!
Christianity is a religion of giving. It started with giving when God delivered over his Son to a cruel world. To gain from the religion of Christ, I must first give. I must give over a few things and I must give up a few things.
6. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to join with the other brethren in proper worship (I Cor. 11: 17-34). The brethren at Corinth were destroying themselves because of improprieties in their worship, especially as they concerned irregularity in their partaking of the Lord's Supper. Some would not come when the others did, some worshipped improperly when they did come. The very life of any congregation of God's people depends upon its worship. We must all be there every time we possibly can and we must be dedicated to proper worship while we are there.
One very important purpose of worship is the edifying of the people who worship with us (Col. 3:16). Those who are constantly arguing that the Christian does not need to be present for worship at any service, forget the essential responsibility each of us has to all the other saints to edify them and build them up through worship. I refuse the church a needed part of its fife when I refuse to come or when I take lightly the worship when I am present.
7. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to respect each member in his place (I Cor. 12).
At Corinth, many became worried that someone else had a more prominent place in the church than they. Men refused to serve because of jealously. Paul warned them to use what they had been given in service to Christ and to remember that it is God who had given these gifts to men. Each Christian's part in the family of God is of equal importance with that of every other Christian, regardless of the prominence it appears to have. All cannot do the same things and each should be happy to see others working and fulfilling the mission of the Lord's body.
I owe the local church my best efforts. I owe the local church my recognition of the value of the position occupied by each of the others. I am obligated to bold up the hands of the others in their work as much as they are responsible for encouraging me in my work. This is true of my feelings toward the elders, the deacons, the preacher, the song-leader, or any other saint. When I do not support the functioning of other parts, I hurt the church.
8. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to be filled with love (I Cor. 13-14). The church will only grow as its members are full of love ... for each other, for the lost, and for the Lord. Love evidences itself. A church full of hatred is not happy and will not prosper. A church full of love has to grow.
Even visitors can tell that we are full of love. Visitors to our assemblies will not love us if we do not love ourselves and show love for them. Our guests will turn away, shuddering from the coldness of our attitudes. I owe it to the church to exude love toward everyone every time I appear with others.
9. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to be filled with hope (I Cor. 15). Paid wrote that the greatest thing going for the church at Corinth was their belief in the resurrection of Christ and thus in their own. Christians know that they will be immortal and incorruptible. What an advantage it is to be filled with hope for the future. What a powerful influence it is in the community when a congregation of people really believes in that hope. Doubting the ability of God to care for us and showing a lack of concern for eternity can only deteriorate the church.
You have, no doubt, seen people who almost appear anxious to go to God, people whose very lives show the preparation for heaven and whose speech is filled with the expectation. That person is a most valuable asset to the local church. He helps to keep us in mind of our goals. It is the heavenly goal that so many churches are forgetting when they turn to recreation and entertainment as the means of securing members. Only the worldly are fooled by such.
10. My responsibility to the local church of which I am a member is to sacrifice freely in support of its work (I Cor. 16:1-4). The local church has financial obligations which must be met regularly and other responsibilities which come up unexpectedly. They must be met whether I give or do not give, or whether I am present or away. If it is right for the congregation to pay its obligations, it is obligatory that I do my part. Even if I must be away at times, I should make arrangement for my contributions to find their way into the treasury where they are depended on. The elders and others cannot carry on a consistent program of work if I fly here and there and do not dig in as an integral part of every aspect of the congregation's life.
Conclusion: My place in the local church is one of great importance, whoever I may be. For the church to properly function, every member must be working zealously and be filled with the' proper spirit. Paul stuns up his epistle to Corinth saying, "Finally, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (I Cor. 15:58).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 32, pp. 8-9