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January 23, 2011
As we saw earlier, every local church is an assembly of believers in a local assembly. In that article, we did not look at who should be a member of a local church.

Joining a Church

As we look at membership in a local church, we need to first define what the church is. First, there is the global body of Christ which is called the church. God has already determined what the membership requirements are for membership in the body of Christ. That requirement is salvation. If one is not saved, he is not a part of the body of Christ, he is not a part of the global church. Second, there is the local church. The local church is a "local" assembly of believers within the body of Christ.

Acts 2:41-47 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (43) And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. (44) And all that believed were together, and had all things common; (45) And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (47) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
In this passage, we see who was added to the church: those who were saved and baptized. This is the requirement for membership in a local church. Baptism is our outward symbol of the inward transaction which has taken place.
2 Cor 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
In the United States, the local church is also a political organization. The local church rightfully enjoys an exemption from the payment of taxes. However, to enjoy that exemption, the local church must have a system of internal government. The local church must, then, have formal guidelines for membership and participation in the administration of the church. Again, we look to the Scriptures to see what that requirement is. 2 Cor 6:14 gives us the precept of Separation (we will look at practical separation and ecclesiastical separation in later posts). Specifically, we are not to be bound together with unbelievers.
In both passages, we see that the local church should simply be a body of believers. Since baptism is the outward symbol of one's salvation, baptism then becomes a requirement for membership.

Removal From A Church

Mat 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (16) But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (17) And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Church discipline is a doctrine which many so-called churches have lost, but it is a clear Biblical teaching. Jesus, Himself, instructs us in the three steps of this practice. When someone offends us, or does something to damage the church or the cause of Christ, we are to go to that person individually, privately, and discuss the offense. If both people are right with God then this was an innocent mistake, the offense will be dealt with and it goes no further. If there is a rebel involved, it may take another step. So, two or three witnesses are taken and the offender is confronted yet again. Hopefully, the offender will realize the gravity of the circumstance and repent. Still, there will be those who refuse to repent of their transgression. In this case, he should be brought before the church, publicly. If he still refuses to repent, then he should be removed from the role of the church and treated as any other unsaved man would be treated. In my opinion, anyone who refuses to see their transgression after all of these steps have been taken has, very likely, never been saved.