Fortner: The Need to Join a Local Church

By |February 8th, 2018|Devotional|0 Comments

‘Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples’

Read Ephesians 4:1–16

Saul had been converted by the grace of God on the Damascus Road. He had publicly confessed faith in Christ at Damascus, both by personal testimony and by public baptism. Then he came to Jerusalem and ‘he assayed to join himself to the disciples’. That is to say, he applied for membership in the church at Jerusalem. The despised church of God, which Saul once hated above all people upon the earth, he now loved above all people. No sooner did he return to Jerusalem than he found the place where God’s people met in the name of Christ and publicly identified himself with them by uniting with the congregation there.

Saul joined the church voluntarily. He was not recruited in a “church membership drive”. No one put any pressure on him, or even asked him, to join the church. Being a believer, Saul wanted to be numbered with God’s people. He considered it a privilege and an honor. ‘To be joined to a church is to become an open subject of Christ’s kingdom, a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, one of the family of God, and a member of the body of Christ visibly’ (John Gill).

Saul was fully qualified to unite with the church at Jerusalem. It is true, he had been a blasphemer and a persecutor, and his former reputation was well known. But God had forgiven him, cleansed him in the blood of Christ and received him. Therefore he was accepted by the church as a brother, beloved in Christ. He professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and was baptized as a believer. Nothing more was required to qualify him for membership in the church, and nothing less could be accepted. Church membership is for baptized (immersed) believers only.

By uniting with the local assembly at Jerusalem, Saul publicly demonstrated his commitment to those people, to their Lord and to the gospel they were commissioned of God to preach. Uniting publicly with a local assembly, the believer says, ‘My heart is joined to you in Christ by the grace of God.’ If you are a believer, it is both your privilege and your responsibility to confess Christ by baptism and unite with his people.

 Donald S. Fortner, Grace for Today: Daily Devotional Readings, (Danville, KY: Grace Baptist Church of Danville, 1986), 36.