Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The historic Baptist teaching on the conditions of regenerate church membership

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

In yesterday's post we explored what I termed: "The miraculous basis for church membership". The reason for this description is because in Baptist churches, the Biblical teaching of "regenerate church membership" is maintained. In short, to become a member of the local church in the Biblical sense, the following order must be followed: The New Birth by grace through faith + Obediently submitting to the ordinance of believer's baptism = initiation in the membership of the local church. 

Today's post will aim to situate what was written yesterday in the wider stream of historic Baptist teaching. 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 will be considering excerpts from Edward T. Hiscox's Baptist Church manual, a classic Baptist work that describes this vital teaching. Bro. Hiscox lived from 1814-1901 and was a Baptist Pastor, theologian and spokesman of his day. Below Hiscox begins the discussion on regenerate church membership by noting four major elements.

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

"The very great importance of the subject hereby becomes apparent, and the question of who may and who may not be admitted to membership is one of primary moment. What are the scriptural qualifications for citizenship in this spiritual kingdom, for brotherhood in the family of the faithful, for mem- bership in the society of Jesus." 

What are the conditions on which this privilege depends? 
These conditions are four: 
1.  A regenerate heart. 
2. A confession of faith. 
3. The reception of baptism. 
4. A Christian life. 

To be sure we are clear
The excerpt above is not talking about what is necessary for a person to be reconciled to God in salvation. The above statement deals with the matter of membership in the local church. Why be sure that this point is clear? Because too often, even in Baptist churches, I have met people who thought they were Christians upon the basis of their church membership. Sadly, such assumptions reverse the order as taught by scripture. To be clear, to be initiated into a right relationship with God, you must be born again by grace through faith alone. In what we are discussing in this series of posts, the issue has to do with how one is initated into the life of the local church, which is a post-conversion issue. As will be maintained, to be a member of the local church, you must be born-again + scripturally baptized = membership in the local church. 

More tomorrow.....

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