WHAT IS A COVENANT?
Our Covenant-Keeping God
Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV)
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Ezekiel 20:43–44 (ESV)
43 And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves for all the evils that you have committed. 44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
Ezekiel 36:22, 27 (ESV)
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came…And I will put my Spirit within you.”
Hosea 2:19–20 (ESV)
19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
“A covenant is a promise by which we obligate ourselves to one another in such a way that the obligation of one party is not dependent on the faithfulness of the other.” (Mark Driscoll)
Old Testament Covenants
- Genesis 6-9 – Noah / the flood
- Genesis 15-17 – Abraham / circumcision
- Genesis 17 – Isaac
- Genesis 26 – Jacob
- Exodus 19-24 – Moses / 10 commandments
- 2 Samual 7, Psalm 2, 110 – David
WHAT IS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?
The local body of Christ is God’s vessel in which He produces gospel transformation in us (Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:24-29) and through which gospel restoration is carried out into the world (Acts 26:17-18; 2 Cor. 2:14-3:6; 5:18-21).
Church membership is committing yourself to a specific body of believers through thick and thin, submitting to the elders, and taking responsibility for the advancement of the gospel in your own life and in the lives of those around you.
1. Committing yourself to a specific body of believers through thick and thin.
Romans 12:1 – “Present your bodies as living sacrifices.”
Acts 2:42 – “They devoted themselves.”
Hebrews 10:24–25 – “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.”
2. Submitting to the elders.
Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”
1 Peter 5:1–2 – “So I exhort the elders among you…shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”
3. Taking responsibility for the advancement of the gospel in your own life and in the lives of those around you.
“By identifying ourselves with a particular local church, we are telling the church’s pastors and other members not just that we commit to them, but that we commit to them in gathering, giving, prayer and service. We are telling them to expect certain things from us and to hold us accountable if we don’t follow through. Joining a church is an act of saying, ‘I am now your responsibility, and you are my responsibility’.” (Mark Dever)
Romans 12:4-13 – “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”
Ephesians 4:1-15 – “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
WHY CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?
Biblical indication of church membership in New Testament times:
- Keeping a list of widows in the NT church (1 Tim 5:9-12)
- Church discipline only makes sense in the context of church membership (Matt 18:15-17 – the process defined, 1 Cor 5:11-13 – the process illustrated)
- After Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead, it says that “none of the rest dared join them” (Acts 5:13). – “Join” is a word denoting being held together like glue and makes sense in the context of church membership
- Pastoral leadership and oversight makes sense only in the context of church membership, otherwise how does a pastor know who he is actually responsible for? (1 Tim 3, Titus 1, 1 Peter 5, Acts 20:28)
- Metaphors for the church only make sense in the context of a defined church membership – flock, temple, body, household. Shepherds know their flock, sheep know who their shepherd is. A Temple building is a picture of a collection of bricks (members) who have a specific place and function and must be joined to the structure in order for it to function as it should. In a Household, you are either a member of the family or not.
Biblical reasons for joining a church:
- You prove that you’re not ashamed to identify with Christ or His people
- You stop being an independent Christian and place yourself under the discipline and protection of other Christians
- You participate in a stronger, more unified effort of God’s people to obey Christ’s command to reach others
- You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gift “for the profit of all”
- You openly demonstrate the reality of the body of Christ
- You demonstrate your commitment, not to “spiritual hitchhiking,” but to “the proper working of each individual part” in the visible body of Christ
- You encourage a ministry when you consider it faithful and join it
(Taken from http://biblicalspirituality.org/whyjoin.html)
Benefits of church membership
- Moving from being a consumer to being an investor
- Joining not simply the community of Christ but the cause of Christ.
- Not about what can be received but what can be given
- Invitation to genuine intimacy
- Saying you submit your lives to the spiritual authority of that community
- Welcome genuine accountability
(Taken from Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus)
The North Church covenant member’s commitment to the church:
- I will submit to the Scriptures as the final authority on all issues (Ps. 119; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- I will take seriously my own pursuit of Jesus and His command to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), recognizing the role of spiritual disciplines (i.e. regular Bible reading, prayer, etc.), participation in weekly worship services, communion, North Church community, service and a life that glorifies Jesus (Ps. 105:1-2; Ps. 119; Jn. 17:3; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:24-47; James 5:16, 19-20).
- I will live a life of humility, understanding my need to continually repent and renew my mind. I will do this by taking my sin and confession seriously, and willingly receiving accountability and correction from the elders and other members (Matt.18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5; Heb. 10:24-25).
- I will submit to the authority of the elders as my God-appointed spiritual watchmen (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7,17; 1 Pet. 5:1-5, Eph. 4:11).
- I will be involved in regular community, recognizing that God’s means of gospel transformation in me and through me happens in the context of people loving well and doing life together. This includes taking responsibility for the spiritual growth of those in the NC community by way of loving and intentional accountability, rebuke, encouragement, prayer, and unity (Matt. 18:15-20; John 17:20-26; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; Heb. 10:24-25).
- I will not be a consumer, but will do my part as a member of the North Church family in seeking out the ways God has specifically gifted and called me to serve and build up His body (Matt. 20:28; Lk. 9:23; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:1-16).
- I will take seriously my call to be on mission with the gospel every day, recognizing that God has specifically placed me in my context as a missionary to bring about gospel restoration amid a broken world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 17:26-27; Eph 3:7-13).
- I will steward the resources God has given me, including my time, talents and money (Prov. 3:9-10; Rom 12:1-2; Gal 5:22-26; Eph 4:1-16; Heb.13:5). This includes regular financial giving, service, and participation that is sacrificial, cheerful and voluntary (Rom. 12; 2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).
The North Church elder’s commitment to each covenant member:
- We will faithfully teach the gospel and keep it central to all that we do as a church, never neglecting the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27-28; Col 1:21-23).
- We will prayerfully and biblically appoint elders and leaders in the church (Lk. 6:12-13; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 5:22; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
- We will be men of God who humbly and passionately pursue personal relationship with Jesus and lead the church out of the overflow of the work God is doing in our own hearts first, by his Spirit (Ezra 7:10; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17).
- We will be men whose first priority is our homes and leading our families well, never neglecting them for the advancement of the church, but recognizing that the greatest leadership we can offer North Church is our leadership in the home (1 Tim. 3:4-5; 5:8).
- We will take seriously our call to shepherd and care for you (1 Peter 5:2-3), seeking your growth and maturity as a disciple of Christ, in part by equipping you for service (Eph 4:11-13) and praying for you regularly (James 5:13-16).
- Where necessary, we will exercise church discipline by lovingly rebuking and correcting unrepentant sinful behavior that is harmful to the individual and the entire church body (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5), as well as receiving correction and living in repentance when we fall (1 Tim. 5:19-22).
- We will take the lead in regular financial giving, service, and participation that is sacrificial, cheerful and voluntary. Our giving lives will be an example to the body (1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Cor 8-9).