By Johnny Stringer
Why am I a member of the church of Christ? Because when I obeyed the Lord’s conditions for the forgiveness of sins, he graciously forgave me and began to count me as one of his people that is, a member of his church.
In accordance with scriptural usage, I use the term church of Christ to refer to the people belonging to Christ those who are saved. The term translated “church” (ekklesia) was used to refer to a group of people, and it was used with reference to different kinds of groups. When Jesus promised to build his church, he meant that he was going to have his group (Matt. 16:18). His group consists of those who are saved through his blood and on his conditions, which are set forth in his testament. When one obeys those conditions, therefore, he is saved and, consequently, added to that group of saved people (Acts 2:38, 41, 47).
This group may be described as the church of Christ because it belongs to Christ. I, therefore, sometimes refer to the saved as the church of Christ. At other times I refer to them as God’s people, the body of Christ, the church of God, the Lord’s body, and other such terms that accurately describe the people belonging to Christ. I am a member of that group because I obeyed the conditions for salvation.
If you ask me why am a member of the particular local church of Christ with which I am identified, my answer is different. I have chosen that local church for four reasons: (1) It consists of those who have met the Lord’s conditions for salvation and are therefore members of his church. (2) Like the churches we read about in the New Testament, it is independent, not affiliated with any denominational organization. (3) Those making up that group are devoted to letting the Scriptures guide them in all their activities; hence, I can participate with them in their worship and work with-out engaging in unscriptural activities. (4) I am located near enough to its place of assembly that I can regularly assemble with that local group.
The religious world is confused with respect to church membership. There are many denominational organizations among those professing to be Christians. Many people think any of these is fine; other more conscientious souls may believe that they should find the one that most closely follows the Scriptures. In fact, no denominational body is scriptural, for the Scriptures do not teach that local churches should organize themselves into denominational bodies.
In the New Testament, one set of congregations were not organized into one denomination while another set of congregations were organized into another denomination. There were no denominational bodies. There was no such thing as an individual searching to find which denomination he should join. The term church was used sometimes to refer to all the saved (Matt. 16:18) and other times to refer to the saved in a locality who banded together to work and worship as a unit (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 11:8; Rom. 16:16). It was never used to refer to a denominational body.
Rather than searching for which denomination he should join, one should search for what to do to be saved. That search should lead him to discover that when he meets the conditions for salvation, he will then be a part of the Lord’s church; he will not have to search for it. Then he must search for a local church consisting of Christians with whom he may participate in the congregational activities God has ordained in the Scriptures. The only searching for the right church that is required is the search for a scriptural local church.
In explaining why we are members of the church of Christ, Christians must be careful to avoid giving the impression that we have selected a denomination called the Church of Christ because, of all the denominations that exist, the Church of Christ is the one that is right.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 14 p. 5
July 17, 1997