Guest post by Dwayne Milioni pastor of Open Door Church in Raleigh, NC
“We must never jump to conclusions and take our leave of a church in a willy-nilly way, for joining and leaving churches are very serious matters. Most churches receive their members with sacred vows; if you joined your church this way, you should resolve to keep your vows even through difficult times. However, if the church of which you are a member seems to be on the edges of apostasy and you are not being nurtured spiritually, you may leave. And if the church has clearly crossed into apostasy, you must leave. But be very careful, and let the Bible and the marks of the church (1) The faithful preaching of the gospel; (2) The proper administration of the ordinances; and (3) The right practice of church discipline) guide your decision” (R. C. Sproul, Tabletalk, May, 2000, p. 48).
There are some good (right), some neutral (neither wrong nor right) and some bad (wrong) reasons why a person or family should leave the local church.
Recently, Baptist21 hosted a panel discussion on current topics facing the church at the 9Marks Conference at SEBTS. The panelists included: Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Tony Merida, and David Platt. The panelists discussed topics ranging from politics to baptism to church membership and more.
This clip considers the question – Is Church Membership Biblical/Necessary?
Because much of the evangelical talk about baptism in recent years has downplayed the importance of it in regard to church membership, I was glad to see serious discussion about this subject the last few days at the Gospel Coalition site. While the piece by Mathis on “open membership” falls in line with much of the discussion that does not see baptism as central to membership (we hope to write a response to this piece as well), the pieces by Horton (paedobaptism) and Hamilton (believer’s baptism) argue that it is central to local church membership.
I really enjoyed Michael Horton’s entry on paedobaptism and church membership. I appreciated the winsomeness and honesty of his disagreement, and I especially enjoyed the strong language he used. He used words like “sin” to describe believers who do not admit their children to infant baptism.
Baptism is a serious issue, so serious language is appropriate. Our Baptist forefathers recognized this. That’s why they used words like “evil” to describe paedobaptism, and that’s why some of them were willing to drown for believer’s baptism by immersion.
Much could be said in response to the paedobaptist position, but I want to focus briefly on a glaring oversight in the paedobaptist position as it pertains to church membership, and that is the new birth.
I actually agree that baptism is a sign of the covenant that parallels circumcision under the old covenant, but how is one born into the new covenant community? It’s not through generation; it’s through regeneration (Ezek. 36; Jer. 31; cf. John 3). One is born into the covenant community when they receive the Spirit, a new heart, and the law written on the heart.
This is why Baptists have historically made such a big deal about believer’s baptism in terms of church membership. We believe in regenerate church membership. The membership of the church should be made up only of those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Granted, there will be false professions, and we will make errors, so there are provisions like church membership to help us strive for integrity in our membership.
The sign of the covenant should be administered not to those who have been born, but rather to those who have been born again.
I am thankful for the series and think you should check out the posts. Serious language is in order, as well as charitable disagreement.
Baptist21 is excited to announce that we will once again host a panel at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention to be held in Phoenix, AZ.
Topic: A discussion on issues in the SBC, particularly “Mission”
When: During the Tuesday Lunch break of the SBC (June 14th)
There are still many details to be determined, such as: location, cost, etc… stay tuned for more information in the days ahead
Part 2 of Saved From… To… For…
This post is by no means comprehensive. However, over the past couple of years, God has deepened my love for the Gospel through him teaching me on the points above. It is my prayer that through a better understanding of biblical salvation, perhaps we can minimize statistics such as “twice baptized.” I also pray that a better understanding will drive a never-ending gratitude for the Gospel and fuel a quicker obedience to the commands of Christ. Finally, I pray that God would be glorified in our words and deeds as we live lives worthy of the Gospel and go to all the peoples of the earth and herald the good news about Jesus. May we never neglect so great a salvation.
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