The ideal of a regenerate church membership that both Hammett and Dever expressed was the experience of the first church in Acts 2:37-47. Every member of the church at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost was a baptized and serving believer.
At salvation, we become members of the Universal Church or the Body of Christ as 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 teaches. Then it becomes the believer’s responsibility to join a local church. Paul in 1 Corinthians is writing to saved church members at the local church at Corinth (1:1-2).
At salvation, our names are recorded in heaven in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Philippians 4:3). Then it becomes the responsibility of the believer to get his/her name on the church roll of a local church. Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians at the local church at Philippi (1:1).
The goal of the local church is to have the same names on its church’s roll as on heaven’s roll. So that When The Roll is Called up Yonder all of you will be there.
The word “Church” is mentioned 114 times in the New Testament and over 90 refer to the local church. It is not enough to be saved and a member of the Body of Christ or the Universal church to succeed in the Christian life. Though both the Universal church and the Local church are taught in the New Testament, the Local church receives the much greater attention.
Marks of a Regenerate Church Membership
1. Converted Church Members
Luke records how the first church members were converted in Acts 2:37-38.
A. These Jews who were attending the feast of Pentecost “heard” (2:37) Peter preach the first Christian sermon. Peter would later write “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away; but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
B. These Jews then repented. That is, they changed their mind from rejecting Christ to receiving by faith Christ as Savior.
C. These Jews at the moment of salvation received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 says this is true of every believer. The Holy Spirit gives the believer the supernatural power to overcome sin in his life as Paul explains in 8:2-4.
Calvin is credited with saying, “If your faith has not changed your life it has not saved your soul.”
Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18 wrote, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation or person.” Regeneration gives us new life and new desires.
1) A converted church membership is necessary because the church is congregationally ruled as seen in Acts 15:3, 4, and 22. If all of the membership are not believers, then God’s will cannot properly be discerned. The Scriptures teach that “In the multitude of counselors there is wisdom.” The counselors must be converted for there to be wisdom and safety for the local congregation.
2) A converted church membership is necessary in order to minister “to one another.” There are over 30 “one another” commands in the New Testament. Only believers can obey these commands.
a) “Love one another” is found 19 times.
b) “Encourage one another” is found 4 times.
c) “Forgive one another” is found 4 times. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul instructed us to forgive one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you. The unconverted has not been forgiven.
e) “Edify one another,” “Provoke one another to good works,” “Accept one another,” “Teach and exhort one another,” “Bear one another’s burdens.” Only believers can obey these commands because we are supernaturally empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
2. Committed Church Members
Luke informs us that these new converts “were baptized.” New converts being baptized in Acts is a consistent pattern (Acts 8:12, 9:18, 10:47, 16:31-34). We call this mark of a regenerated church membership “Believers Baptism.” In none of these passages were unconverted infants baptized. Most denominations baptize the unconverted giving them a false sense of security. With such strong Scriptural evidence for “Believer’s Baptism” how did the church start allowing the unconverted to be baptized and therefore be members of the local church?
Church historians point back to Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 as the Fall of the Church. After his alleged conversion to Christianity Constantine made Christianity a legal religion. The state started supporting the church and evidentially the church and state were no longer separate.
Every citizen of the state should be baptized to be a member of the church and all infants were baptized. For 1000 years during the Dark Ages church membership was mixed instead of regenerated. Even the Reformers did not correct this problem. It took the Anabaptist and the finally the Baptist to insist on separation of church and state and a converted church membership.
A. Baptism is a believer’s public confession of Christ. In Romans 10:9-10, Paul states that saving faith is followed by a public confession.
B. Baptism is a believer’s commitment to discipleship in a local assembly. Once these new converts in Acts 2 were baptized they immersed themselves into the life of their local church. They were simply obeying Jesus’ great commission found in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus commanded the church to “Make disciples” by winning sinners to Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things He taught.
1) Baptism is a commitment to the church’s “teaching” (2:42).
a) Jesus was called “teacher” 45 times and “rabbi” 14 times.
b) The new convert is now a “disciple” which means “learner.”
c) The new convert’s pastor is a “pastor/teacher.”
d) The Holy Spirit gifts other believers with the gift of teaching (Romans 12:7) such as Sunday School teachers, AWANA, and our Youth Ministries, and Ladies Ministries.
2) Baptism is a commitment to “fellowship” (2:42).
a) Our fellowship is modeled after the Trinity (John 17:24).
b) We fellowship because we are made in the image of God. After God created Adam, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”
c) For the first time in Acts 2 the word “fellowship” is used in the New Testament. Now that the Holy Spirit was given, believers can fellowship with one another. This was not true before Pentecost according to the prediction of Jesus in John 7:37-39.
d) The Holy Spirit makes us family (Romans 8:14-17).
e) Fellowship does not take place in a Sunday morning worship service. Vertical worship takes place which is very important. Horizontal fellowship takes place in small groups as these first church members enjoyed in Acts 2:46.
3) Baptism is a commitment to worship (2:42). Worship is when we corporately as a body give to God according to Psalm 29:1-2.
a) We worship in the observation of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” Worship is Christ centered not man centered.
b) We worship when preaching is Christ centered (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
c) We worship when we participate in our church music which is Christ centered (Colossians 3:16).
4) Baptism is a commitment to service (2:44-46). The first church members gave to those in need which enabled the church to have great influence in the community. This is also seen in the next example provided by Luke in 4:32-37. Later, James the pastor of this church at Jerusalem would write James 2:14-18.
5) Baptism is a commitment to evangelism (2:42-47; 4:32-37). Evangelism was the result of a regenerated, committed church membership on the community. The community witnessed lives being changed as a result of a regenerated, committed church membership and were attracted.
The worship service was not a man centered evangelistic service, but evangelism resulted from the church learning, fellowshipping, worshiping God, and giving to others. The church services were not seeker sensitive but produced seeker sensitive believers.