Meaningful Church Membership Part 2: Communion of the Saints

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mcm2tcots-thumbThe Lord’s Supper is often commonly referred to as“Communion.”This is a special word that conjures images of closeness and intimacy; it evokes the idea of relationship.It is significant that it was in association with this meal that John “leaned on [Jesus’] breast” (John 21:20). It is a meal of deep spiritual and relational significance. At this meal we hear, as it were, God affirming His covenant with us. We are reminded that we are His people and that He is our God. Therefore, to claim that you are Christian and yet consistently reject the Supper offered by the Saviour is absurd. It is wrongheaded in its thinking, hypocritical in its testimony and perhaps ultimately damning in the end.

Baptism likewise is an ordinance that the Christian and the local church is to take seriously. It, like Communion, is not an option.

Every case of a conversion in the book of Acts involved the same four elements: repentance from sin, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, as expressed in baptism, accompanied by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For one therefore to claim to be a Christian and yet refuse to be baptised is clearly contrary to the biblical norm and expectation.

As a local church, we are persuaded that the Lord has mandated baptism by immersion of the professing Christian. It is for this reason that no one is admitted as a member of the church apart from such obedience. But we must be clear here: Going through the motions may get you wet, and it may lead to your name being on the membership list, but it is no guarantee that you are a Christian.

It is tragic to witness those who have proved to have been only “lying in the water”—in more ways than one.

Our baptisms include a series of questions, culminating in the individual then publicly professing to follow the Lord as His faithful disciple. But how sad when the individual, having been covered with water—symbolising death—subsequently disappears, rarely to be seen again. To treat one’s profession of Christ as Lord with such contempt can be damning. For even though such a person may not be taking the Lord seriously, nevertheless the Lord takes them seriously. He will hold them accountable for every idle word, including the idle word of an empty confession (Matthew 12:36).

The point that must be emphasised, both with the Lord’s Supper and baptism, is that these ordinances are about “connection,” they are about a covenantal confession and commitment. And since they are carried out in the context of the local church, they are about the “communion of the saints.” To refuse to exercise these means of grace is to reject Christ and His Body. At the risk of being misunderstood, the local church is washed together and dines together. As a congregation, our desire is to foster such communion of the saints. In fact, when church members ignore such relational gifts, we grow deeply concerned.

Now, I can almost hear the cacophony of accusations of “legalism”! But let’s not be so quick. The Bible clearly teaches that one’s profession of faith is evidenced by works. Without Holy Spirit-produced works we can conclude that faith is dead (James 2:26). And so if there is no meaningful (as defined by Scripture) expression of the communion of the saints, we might be wise to be suspicious about one’s profession of faith. Faith works. And therefore faith worships—in communion with the saints.

When a wife/mother prepares a meal for the family, it is rude to deliberately refuse to gather to partake. In my home there are times when a family member is unable to be at the meal due to some other responsibility. But I can’t think of a single time when notice was not given. In fact, in most cases, real and thoughtful effort is made to be in attendance for the supper. Yet far too many Christians treat the Lord’s Supper with less respect than they would for their family meals.

At BBC, the expectation is that church members will honour the Lord, as well His brothers and sisters, and pitch up—well-washed—for the meal. We only admit to the Table those who are baptised, and who give evidence that they are committed to being washed together by the Word, as a member of a local church. In other words, communion is for the saints, it is an expression of the communion of the saints.

If someone professes to be saved and yet is not hungry for the meal prepared by the Lord, then something is seriously wrong with their appetite. They evidently are not spiritually healthy and they require help. And it is this health to which BBC is deeply committed. As a congregation, we are hungry together and we help together that we might be healthy and truly happy (“blessed”) together.

Sadly, there are far too many churches that are quite content with a membership that is fairly careless and therefore neglectful of membership privileges and attendant responsibilities. The result is a “bunch” rather than a body. But only a body can truly appreciate and experience the communion of the saints. For those looking for a care-free membership with little or no expectation, you truly do not know what you are missing. There is nothing like biblical and therefore meaningful fellowship.

As Christians partner together in the local church for worshipful service, they will increasingly appreciate that the ordinances prescribed by our Lord Jesus Christ are not ordinary. In fact, a proper appreciation of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper is an extraordinary blessing when observed in the context of the communion of the saints.

[To read Part 1 in the “Meaningful Church Membership” series, click here.]

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