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10 things you should know about church membership (Part III)

This week’s editorial concludes our series of editorials on “10 things we should know about church membership”1. Feel free to refresh your memory on points 1 to 7 (accessible via our website at before delving into points 8 to 10 in this editorial.


May we be reminded of the meaning of membership and renewed in our commitment to Hermon as members of Christ’s local body!

Pastor Luwin Wong 

8. Membership facilitates discipline.

Matthew 18:17 says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Who is “the church” there? Is Jesus telling the disciples that anytime any professing Christian remains unrepentant, that every Christian in the world should be told about it? No, he’s referring to the local church. But as soon as we say that, we are assuming that there was a clear way of discerning who was part of the local church. Who did they tell? Every Christian in the same city? Every Christian who had ever attended that local church more than once? It’s more likely that they were to tell the members of that local church.


Paul assumes as much in 1 Corinthians 5:12. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” Paul assumes the church in Corinth knew who was in it and who was not; so how did they know who was who? There seems to be, in 1 Corinthians 5, some clear way of discerning who’s inside and who’s outside a local church.


You get the same idea in 2 Corinthians 2:5–6: “Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure — not to put it too severely — to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This paragraph is talking about the same sinning brother from 1 Corinthians 5, the one who was sleeping with his father’s wife. Evidently, they had exercised church discipline toward this man. But notice who did it — “the majority.” The majority of who? That word “majority” suggests that there was a known number of people who made up the local church in Corinth. The majority of that number had decided to subtract this man from that number, to warn him that he should not count himself redeemed if he remained unrepentant.

9. Membership facilitates the elders’ accountability to God.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Heb. 13:17). Our church leaders “will have to give an account” for how they watch over our souls. But how can they give an account if they don’t know whose souls they’re responsible to oversee?


In 1 Peter 5:2–3, Peter tells the elders to “Shepherd the flock . . among you,” and then he says elders should not be “domineering over those in your charge.” The word there is actually “over the allotments, the portions, the lots.” It’s as if Peter’s saying that certain people were allotted by God’s providence to be in a particular church, under particular elders, at a particular time. These people made up “the flock among you” which the elders were to shepherd. They weren’t to shepherd every flock — just the flock “among you”. Again, it’s not a proof-text. But Peter thought the elders of the church he was addressing knew which particular Christians “belonged” to their flock — which ones God would one day hold them accountable for overseeing.

10. Membership expresses love and obedience to Jesus.

By calling yourself a Christian, you’re saying that you submit to the kingship and authority of Jesus. But Jesus has delegated some of his authority to his under-shepherds — pastors and elders of local churches. Jesus wants his sheep under the care of those under-shepherds. But if you refuse to submit yourself to any of the under-shepherds that Jesus provides for you, how can you say you’re submitting to Jesus?


When the risen Christ confronts Saul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, he asks him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul said, “Who are you, Lord?” And Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus identifies himself so closely with the local church that he considers himself persecuted when the local church is persecuted. What about you — do you identify yourself with the local church?


(1) Paul Alexander, (Nov 8, 2019), 10 Things You Should Know about Church Membership, Crossway. Taken from


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