Thursday, October 9, 2014

Historic Baptist Teaching on Church Membership: Born-again, Evidencing Salvation

Acts 2:42 "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls."

Introduction & review:
In yesterday's post we considered the conditions of church membership as spelled out by Edward T. Hiscox's classic treatment: "The New Directory for Baptist Churches". As mentioned yesterday, this writer finds the Biblical teaching of regenerate church membership a very significant teaching in understanding the nature of the local church. In short, regenerate church membership emphasizes the need for everyone on the church membership roles to be born again and having publically expressed that miraculous work of God through public profession of faith in believer's baptism. We looked yesterday at the following conditions spelled out by Hiscox:

1. A regenerate heart. 

Below Hiscox continues his lively discussion on regenerate church membership by noting the next requirement for being a member of a local church (at least among Baptist churches), namely evidence of salvation or what he calls "A Professed Faith."

Excerpts from Edward T. Hiscox's "New Directory for Baptist Churches" on the subject of regenerate church membership

A professed faith (or evidencing conversion). 
"Before the Church can consistently welcome one to its fellowship, the members must obtain the evidence that he, too, is of like precious faith with themselves; that he has also passed from death unto life, and become a new creature in Christ. The bond of fellowship among the saints is the love of Christ shed abroad in all hearts alike, binding all in a common experience, a common hope and a common sympathy to the Cross, the one common centre of their new life. 

In order to make this fellowship real and personal to each, the new-comer who seeks admission to their company must give them the evidence that he, too, has been born of the Spirit, and become an heir of God. 

How is he to give and they to obtain this evidence? By a confession to that effect, and by such change in character and conduct on his part as he is able to show. Without this, no evidence of fitness for membership with the disciples becomes apparent, and no fraternal fellowship is begotten. This confession of faith is made verbally, by a declaration of the great change which has transpired."

Now let me stop the reader for just a moment to reflect on what we have read thus far. According to Hiscox, those who desire membership in the local church must had been necessarily born-again by grace through faith. The evidence of such a miraculous work of God will show up in their conduct toward the cross and the character of their life. Such evidence is confessed freely and verbally by the one desiring to join the church. Passages such as Romans 10:8-10, Titus 2:11-15 and 2 Peter 1:3-11 bring to mind these evidences of one's attitude toward the cross, changed character and confession before others of their said faith in Jesus Christ. Hiscox continues below... 

"He who remains silent, and can bear no testimony to the loving kindness of the Lord, gives small reason to believe that he is a child of God. The declaration of those who experience this spiritual transformation in all ages, climes and conditions, is substantially the same: " Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul." — Ps. 66:16. And thus is realized the declaration: " With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth con- fession is made unto salvation." — Rom. 10:10. 

Without a confession of saving faith in Christ, and a profession of pardon and peace through the blood of the Covenant, there can be no spiritual fellowship, and membership in the Church would be little more than a pretense. 

Those who accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour are expected to declare their new obligation. By this confession largely the Church gains the evidence that they have passed from death unto life. The old Baptist way, from times immemorial, is, to have persons wishing to unite with the Church, to come personally before it and "relate their experience," tell what the Lord had done for them and in them. However much such matters may be referred to pastor or deacons or committees, as preliminary, candidates must come personally before the Church and speak for themselves. 

And this custom should be heroically maintained. They need not plead timidity, and say they cannot speak in the presence of others. They deceive themselves. If they have experienced anything, they can say something about it. If their hearts have been changed, they can speak of it. If they know the love of God, they can say so."

Thus we close out today's post. I pray these past several posts have proven helpful to the reader in understanding where Baptists come from in understanding the Biblical teaching on regenerate church membership. Tomorrow we will consider where believer's baptism factors into membership in the local church.

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