On Church Admission, Part I.
Ok, it’s been a while since we’ve talked “Church Talk” so I’m a bit over due. So here we go and I’ll try not to make it too heady. Now, we’ve seen that the CHURCH in its truest form is a lot more than just showing up to some building on Sunday morning. The Church is a gathered body of Christ followers, called out from the world for Him. They then act out His mission on earth today. They are part of Him; or, in him. So the question for today, actually for a few days, is how does one become part of such a revolutionary group of folks?
I mean the Church is not a civic organization like the Lion’s Club in which one pays a fee and then recites an oath of loyalty for membership. Entrance into the Church is arrived at by entrance into Christ by faith. Everett Fergusson summarizes this point by stating that “one becomes a part of the church by being in the people of God, being incorporated into the body of Christ, and receiving the Holy Spirit.” The basis for this entry is the finished work of Christ on the cross. In Ephesians 2:8 Paul states that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Along that same line Paul notes that in opposition to works for salvation, now “a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21). This truth makes Christianity separate from all other forms of religion. Entrance into the body of Christ is based on what Jesus has done and not on what we must do in order to merit His approval.
While this message is one of a gift from God, mankind is still required to respond to that message. The New Testament gives no evidence to universal salvation. In other words, everyone goes to heaven including Hitler and Stalin. Rather, the message of Christ is one that demands our acceptance or rejection. Positive response to Christ is what brings one into the fellowship of the saints. In summarizing various texts, a proper response can be delineated as follows:
1. Faith or Belief
The entire book of Romans conveys the truth that it is one’s faith opposed to works of a law system that brings one into Christ. In illustrating this point, Paul remembers Abraham and notes that he “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3). This concurs with the historical statement of Jesus that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
To further illustrate authentic faith, James notes that “Even the demons believe that and shudder” (James 2:19). Again, Fergusson notes that “An analysis of faith shows that it involves the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It encompasses the assent of the intellect, the thrust of the emotions, and the obedience of the will.” Thus, Abraham’s faith was shown to be authentic by his’ placing Isaac on the altar. The tension lies in perspective. While we can neither earn nor maintain our salvation by works, our authentic faith will produce works. Real faith and belief will cause us to do something; it will cause us to respond to Christ.