To be Reformed is to have a high view of church membership; and not just membership for its own sake, but membership in the true, instituted church of Jesus Christ where the marks of the true church are clearly discerned. Lively, active church membership and diligent use of the means of grace are ideas that are interwoven into our three confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordrecht. In the light of our Three Forms of Unity, let’s take a look at the topic of Church Membership.
- Why is church membership necessary? (Belgic Confession Art. 28; Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 21; Heb. 2:12)
- To what church are we called to be members of? (Belgic Confession Art. 29; Col. 1:23; Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23; II Thess. 3:14,15)
- What means does God use within the church to work our salvation? (Belgic Confession Art. 29; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 6; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:13,14; I Cor. 1: 18, 24)
- Is there salvation apart from membership in a true church and the use of the means of grace?
- What are the dangers of not being diligent in using the means of grace? (Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17; Canons 5th Head, Art. 14)
- May we ever separate ourselves from these means (that is, from the true church) either permanently, or for a period of time? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 38; Belgic Confession Art. 28; Canons 3rd & 4th Head, Art. 17) Discuss the following reasons for temporarily or permanently separating ourselves from a true church and the means of grace:
- Voluntary military service
- How does our view of church membership shape all of the important decisions we make, or will make, as young people and young adults? (Belgic Confession Art. 28; Church Order Art. 70)
Discuss how our high view of church membership must be a determining factor in whom we will date, where we receive our education, what job we chose, and where we will live.
- What are the signs that a church is departing from the truth and losing the marks of the true church? (Belgic Confession Art. 29)
- Is worshipping on our own or with a small group a viable alternative to the corporate worship of God on the Lord’s Day? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 21; L.D. 38; L.D. 48)
- How can you, as the young people and future of the church, actively keep the Lord’s Day holy? How is your remembering of the Lord’s Day drastically different from that of the world and other churches? (Heidelberg Catechism L.D. 38)
- All of you will soon face the question of making confession of your faith. There are three questions to which you will have to answer “yes.” They are:
- Do you acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation?
- Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto; and to lead a new, godly life?
- Will you submit to church government, and in case you should become delinquent (which may God graciously forbid), to church discipline?
Study the three questions and notice how all of them confront us with our weighty responsibilities of belonging to the true church where the three marks are found and where we will be nourished by the means of grace. Think of the seriousness of the vow you will be taking and the sin of breaking this vow.
- Since we have already discussed the blessings of being an active member of the true church, let’s briefly consider the implications of leaving the true church. Discuss the following questions.
- What are the implications of breaking our confession of faith vow? (Eccl. 5:4-6; Deut. 23:21)
- What are the spiritual consequences of leaving the true church? (Gen. 13:12; I Kings 12:26-33 and I Kings 13:33-34; Acts 7:39-43)
- Is God’s blessing ever upon the decision to leave the truth for a church where the marks are not as purely found? (Prov. 23:23; Gal. 1:6-9; II Peter 2:20-22)
- Can you give biblical examples of those who left the protection of the true church and God’s blessing was upon them and their generations?