Working With The Local Church
“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples… So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:26,28 ESV)
The apostle Paul, apparently, did not understand responsibility to the Lord the same way many today do. When he returned to Jerusalem, he clearly understood that he needed to associate with the church in that city and labor with them in being the pillar and support of the truth. I have heard more and more individuals express that, “Church isn't a requirement of salvation.” There are a few observations I want to make about this.
First, such thinking does not recognize the plain teaching about the church and salvation. The Bible says, “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23b ESV) It is a huge mistake to think that there is no link between the church and salvation. The church is the body of people who, with Christ as their head, will be saved by Him. Is this group larger than a single local congregation? Certainly. However, membership in the body of Christ requires you to seek out other believers and meet with them to encourage them, worship God with them and work in His service with them. (See Hebrews 10:23-15) This is why Paul sought out the saints in Jerusalem, joined with them and, “went in and out among them.” (Acts 9:26, 28)
Second, such thinking does not understand what the church is. The church is not a human organization or business venture. It is a spiritual family. Members of that family are, “adopt[ed] as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:5 ESV) The church is organized by God, it is directed by its head, Jesus the Christ, and it is led by the Spirit of truth through the Scriptures. It belongs to God. It does not belong to a pastor, a preacher, a corporation or the whole collection of saints that make it up. We cannot be associated with God without being in His church. We cannot be lead by Jesus with out being a part of His body. We cannot be associated with God and His Christ and not be an active member of the church and, seeking out the members of that family, assembling with our brethren to encourage them, worship God with them and work in His service with them.
Finally, such thinking does not understand that we need the church as much as the church needs us – even the local congregation. The church holds us accountable. It bands us together into a strong hawser that moors us to the quay of Divine truth. The Bible tells us, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV) A local church keeps us safe. It makes us strong. It gives us security in the storms of life. God did not organize the church because He thought it would be a novelty for some Christians to participate in. God organized the church because we can’t do it without the strength that the fellowship of believers provides us.
The next time the saints in Lafayette are scheduled to assemble, think about these things as you decide whether you should be there. Ask yourself, if Paul entered Lafayette would he seek out the church here, join himself to us and go in and out among us? I think he would. I think that is what he understood his responsibility as a Christian to be. Why isn’t it ours? I think we know that it is. Ω