“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 12:25 ESV).
This theme pervades the book of judges, illustrating time and again Israel’s downward spiral into sin when the people were left to themselves. Not only does this book show the need for Israel to have a king then, but in the context of the whole Bible, our need for the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Men, please join us for this edifying study through judges in the days ahead, beginning on Sunday, March 24 at 6:00 PM.
For the dates for Men’s Bible Fellowships on Sunday nights, please click here to view our church calendar.
In Acts 6:11–14, Stephen is falsely accused of blaspheming God by speaking ill of the Mosaic Law and the temple. Acts 7 then records his speech, notable because it is the longest speech in Acts and one by a non-apostle.
Given a quick read of his speech, we might wonder why it took Stephen 50 verses (Acts 7:2–53) to answer these charges. A closer examination of his words, however, reveals a carefully-crafted response that not only answers the charges against him, but also builds a case to rebuke Israel, ending in a climactic fashion by doing just that.
In leading up to his climactic rebuke, Stephen speaks of how Israel historically sinfully treated the very ones that God had sent to deliver them, how God in turn exalted these prophets, and how God then used these men to deliver His people. Stephen obviously speaks of other people and issues along the way (Abraham in Acts 7:2–8; the temple in Acts 7:44–50), but we will focus on Joseph (Acts 7:9–16) and Moses (Acts 7:33–43) in order to show how Stephen would parallel Israel’s persecution of them with how they had treated Jesus and continued to treat His followers. As Stephen would put it, “As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51).
First, we consider how Joseph was treated by his brothers, “the patriarchs” (Acts 7:9). They were “jealous of Joseph” and therefore “sold him into Egypt” (Acts 7:9), the beginnings of his sufferings, identified as “all his afflictions” (Acts 7:11). “God,” however, exalted Joseph in that He “was with him and rescued him…and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh…who made him ruler over Egypt” (Acts 7:9–10). Joseph then went on to deliver his family during “a famine” and “great affliction” (Acts 7:11; cf. 7:11–14).
Second, we consider that Moses was treated in a similar way. He was stirred to help his fellow Israelites and even killed an Egyptian in his zeal (Acts 7:23–24). “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). In fact, one Israelite represented the nation when he “thrust him [i.e., Moses] aside” and asked, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” (Acts 7:27). Even after the exodus, Israel again “thrust him aside” and followed idols instead (Acts 7:39). Despite these sufferings, Moses was “sent as both ruler and redeemer,” spoke to the God at the burning bush, led Israel out of Egypt, and was given the Law (Acts 7:35–38). Moses suffered before and after delivering Israel and was exalted in his role as deliverer.
Third, we see that Joseph and Moses bring us to Jesus. In the climactic conclusion to Stephen’s speech and the description that followed, we see the suffering and exaltation of Jesus. “As your fathers did,” Stephen stated (i.e., as they persecuted Joseph and Moses, not to mention the prophets – cf. Acts 7:52), “so do you” (Acts 7:51). Specifically, these Israelites had “betrayed and murdered” Jesus, “the Righteous One” who was prophesied by Moses to come (cf. Acts 7:37; cf. Deut 18:15). Despite His sufferings at the hand of Israel, however, God exalted Jesus. As these Israelites rushed to end Stephen’s life, Stephen testified that Jesus was “standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55–56). And though Joseph and Moses were used to deliver Israel from famine and Egypt, Jesus could bring these Israelites no deliverance at this time—they murdered Him, would murder Stephen, and would continue to persecute Christians thereafter (cf. Acts 8:1–3).
Perhaps we could add Stephen as a fourth in this text as one who experienced suffering and glory. He was obviously not meant to eclipse Jesus in the text, but he does seem to function as an example for Christians in general—like him, they also would be persecuted (cf. Acts 8:1–3). Though he sought to deliver his fellow man by giving them the gospel, his listeners made him suffer instead of receiving this salvation. His exaltation was seen as Jesus gave him a standing ovation, so to speak, to welcome him to glory for faithfully giving the gospel, even to the point of death.
May we all as Christians be like Stephen in that we are willing to suffer as messengers of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And whether the Lord lets us die a martyr’s death or rescues us at His return, our glorification is waiting, which is to “be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
2018 was a bittersweet year for FBC. We said goodbye to three of our saints—Marilyn Knight, Frank Ewardsen, and Erna Whalen. 2019 has begun with our saying goodbye to Richard Kenders. Though we miss each one, we rejoice in their confessions of Christ. For those who know Him, to be absent from the body is to be present with Him.
We also said goodbye in a different way to Carl and Sarah Conrad, our music director and his wife. While we are always sad to see someone move away from our flock, we rejoice to know that he is attending a good seminary and that they are both getting new opportunities for service and training in the Lord’s work.
Though we had prayed for another intern to fill his shoes, God answered this prayer in an unexpected way. The Lord has brought us several new faces to FBC over the last couple of years, one of the families being the Hockemas. Instead of an intern, the Lord had already providentially arranged for us to add an experienced shepherd from within our own flock. Pastor Hockema has been a source of wisdom and blessing to me and the whole church. We are the richer for every family we receive, and I thank God for a plurality in our pastoral leadership.
Sometimes His ways are different than our ways, but we know that His ways are always better. As Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).
Looking ahead, please pray that the Lord would bless our plans for 2019. We have our upcoming pastor’s conference in May as usual, and other events will be announced, hopefully more evangelistic events than last year, giving a healthy emphasis on outreach. Other plans include evangelistic services during March 15–17, evening services in the summer, and a handful more afternoon services than last year.
The most significant changes for 2019 are the additional services and evangelistic events. As to the evangelistic events, we hope to reach out more to others for the sake of making disciples. As to the additional services, while our Bible Fellowships are beneficial, a service for the gathered church is the greatest means of availing ourselves to the grace of God in a collective setting—grace through prayer, preaching, singing God’s praises, reading Scripture, and observing the ordinances. What serious-minded Christian can object to gathering with God’s people and receiving His grace in all these ways?
My hope and prayer for 2019 is that each of us will take full advantage of the times that the church gathers in order to grow in grace together. As we do, I pray that God will bless the quality of our church, give us a zeal for the lost, and thereby increase the quantity of the church through making disciples for Him. May God bless us in 2019!
Exodus: Rescue & Relationship
400 years after Jacob and his sons traveled to Egypt to be with Joseph, Israel is still there--although no longer as sojourners but slaves. Join us as we study God's amazing rescue of His people and the developing relationship He initiates with them.
May we--with Israel--"know that I am the Lord your God" (Ex 6:7 ESV).
To see which Sunday nights the ladies meet, please click here to view our church calendar.
What did it mean that Stephen’s “face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15), and why did it look this way? We first meet Stephen as a deacon, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). He was appointed to coordinate meals for widows (cf. Acts 6:1–7), but he was also an evangelist. He was “full of grace and power…doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). This grace and power go together and describe the boldness of Stephen and God’s confirmation of his witness through wonders and signs (cf. Acts 4:33). The mention of grace likely implies that God extended His saving grace to others through the witness of Stephen (cf. Acts 11:23).
When opposed by others in his endeavors, Stephen refuted his aggressors, and “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10; cf. Luke 21:15). So, they lied, stirred up the people, arrested him, falsely tried him, and eventually stoned him, making him the first martyr of the church (Acts 6:8–7:60). His story has echoes of the final days of Jesus.
At the outset of his trial, as Stephen prepared to speak once again full of wisdom and the Spirit, the Bible records what everyone saw when looking at Stephen: “And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). What did this angel-like face mean?
In answering this question, we recall that angels can be brilliant, shining creatures. Remember the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb—“His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (Matthew 28:3). If Daniel 10:6 describes an angel (some say the preincarnate Son of God), “his face” is “like the appearance of lightning.” If Revelation 10:1 describes an angel (and again, some say the now-incarnate Son of God), “his face was like the sun.” The angelic creatures who guided the heavenly chariot in Ezekiel’s vision had four faces each, and as to their faces and even their whole beings, “their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning” (Ezekiel 1:13). The point of similarity between the face of Stephen and the face of an angel was most likely this—it was a shining face.
A shining face is seen on other humans in the Bible as well. In descending from Sinai with the tablets in hand, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God…behold, the skin of his face shone” (Exodus 34:29). This shining apparently was somewhat frequent at this time. “Whenever” Moses spoke with God while on the mountain, “the skin of Moses’ face was shining” (Exodus 34:34–35).
Consider also the face of Jesus. At the Transfiguration, while Jesus “was praying, the appearance of his face was altered” (Luke 9:29), meaning “his face shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2). When John saw Jesus in his vision many years later, “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
Putting this all together, we can easily conclude that the alteration of Stephen’s face was an act of God to make it shine. The purpose for doing so seems to be along the lines of what took place with Moses—just as the shining of Moses’ face indicated to Israel that Moses spoke on behalf of God because he spoke directly to Him, so also the shining of Stephen’s face indicated to Israel that Stephen spoke on behalf of God as well.
Digging further into the context of Exodus 34 and Acts 6–7, perhaps we could also suggest that, just as Moses gave the law and was confirmed as God’s spokesman with a shining face, so also Stephen’s face indicated that was speaking on behalf of Christ who came to fulfill and thus “change the customs that Moses delivered” (Acts 6:14). A new era had come, and God was giving evidence to this through His messenger’s words and even His messenger’s face.
What a sobering thing it is to see hearts this hard—the Jews rejected the gospel proclaimed from a mouth in the midst of a shining face. While we are not prophets who will speak with shining faces today, may we learn from the example of Stephen to boldly give and defend the gospel by the wisdom and Spirit of God.
On December 30, 2018 a new study entitled “The Holy Spirit and What Biblical Spirituality Looks Like” will begin in our Christian Life Hour.
This study will meet in the East Classroom and will be led by John Ihne, one of the deacons in our church. We would love to see you there as a part of this exciting study.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ~2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
Does Acts 6:1–7 tell us anything about deacons, technically speaking? After all, the word deacon is not used, some of the seven men appointed to ministry also preached (Stephen and Philip), and the seven’s appointment was for a singular task, not serving the church’s tangible needs as a whole.
While such a description may push us towards describing the men in view as something other than deacons, it is fair to conclude that Luke was indeed describing the first appointment of deacons within the church. The task given was managing the distribution of food to widows, an example ministry of how deacons minister to the church. While deacons are not required to teach (cf. 1 Tim 3:8–13), neither are they forbidden from doing so. As for the word deacon, their ministry in Acts 6 was to “serve tables,” and the word serve is translated from diakoneō, the verb form from which we get our title deacon (cf. 1 Tim 3:8, diakonos).
When compared to 1 Timothy 3:1–13, Acts 6:1–7 provides further indicators that deacons are in view. One contrast between an overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8–13 is that an overseer was to be able to teach, but not a deacon. In Acts 6:1–7, the apostles were unique as apostles, yes, but they also functioned as the church’s first overseers and were thus given to the “preaching of the word of God” (Acts 6:2), which is also described as “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). The seven, however, were appointed in order to keep the apostles from being distracted from this focus, and the preaching of Stephen and Philip was something in addition to and did not take away from their ministry to the widows. Just as overseers and not deacons have to be able to teach, so also the overseeing apostles needed to give their time to teaching and not the seven who were appointed to serve the widows’ tables.
A comparison between Acts 6:1–7 and 1 Timothy 3:8–13 also shows that, just as the seven were to meet certain character requirements, so also are deacons in general. In Acts 6:3, being “of good repute,” being “full of the Spirit,” and having the “wisdom” necessary to oversee a practical ministry is simply shorthand for the more detailed requirements for deacons found in 1 Timothy 3:8–13.
Having explored the above, we see something of the amazing unity and diversity that Christ has ordained for the church. Just as some members may be the mouths who speak the word of God, so also others are the hands that tend to the church’s specific, tangible needs. One ministry could not exist without the other, and when these ministries work in harmony, the word of God increases, disciples multiply, and many become obedient to the faith (cf. Acts 6:7).
Psalm 23 has been precious to the saints throughout the ages. It gives comfort in the midst of death, and it strengthens our delight and trust in the Lord because He is our Shepherd.
Its author is David who knew the Lord as Jacob did, “the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day” (Genesis 48:15 ESV). As king of the nation, David knew Him as the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1 ESV). And, David, too, was a shepherd—first of sheep and then of Israel. God “took him from the sheepfolds…to shepherd Jacob his people” (Psalm 78:70–72 ESV). David was uniquely qualified to write Psalm 23.
In looking at the first four verses of this psalm, we see that…
Our greatest delight is to know the Lord as shepherd (Psalm 23:1–4).
We can summarize how the Lord ministers to us as our Shepherd in four ways:
First, the Lord gives (Psalm 23:1).
David’s statement “I shall not want” stems from having the Lord as his Shepherd—He gives to us Himself as our Shepherd, which meets our greatest desires.
But how exactly does He shepherd us? Psalm 23:2–4 lists in detail how the Lord ministers as Shepherd.
Second, the Lord guides (Psalm 23:2).
The Lord guides us to be at peace, pictured by the guidance of a sheep to “green pastures” and “still waters,” places where sheep can safely eat, drink, and rest. Through His Word and the gospel, the Lord guides us to be at peace, if nothing else, with Him through Christ who died for us (Romans 5:10). If this is so, we will experience this peace in full when He brings us into His glorious kingdom (cf. Romans 16:20).
Third, the Lord governs (Psalm 23:3).
Using the word “governs,” we capture the idea of the Lord watching over and bringing back a wayward sheep. The word “restore” (šwb) implies these thoughts.
This word can be used to describe physical restoration, whether strength (Lamentations 1:11, 19) or life itself (1 Kings 17:21, 22). Spiritually speaking, the soul can be restored by a comforter (Lamentations 1:16) or faithful messenger (Proverbs 25:3). As David uses the word here, the imagery of the shepherd restoring the sheep indicates that the Lord brings His wayward children back to Himself and makes them spiritually whole.
Isaiah used this word when he foretold that the Christ would restore Israel to the Lord (Isaiah 49:5 ESV). Christ likewise does so for us today: “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 ESV).
The reason for restoring His sheep is “for His name’s sake.” The Lord will not allow His reputation as Shepherd to be shamed by a sheep’s wayward walk. He gathers us away from evil ways to lead us unto “paths of righteousness” so that others think highly of Him as a Shepherd.
Fourth, the Lord guards (Psalm 23:4).
In perhaps the most memorable portion of this psalm, David speaks of when he would “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Death is so close to the sheep that it is overshadowed by it. This “shadow of death” (ṣalmāwet) is not just literal darkness but indeed speaks of death. It is elsewhere paralleled to “the gates of deep death” (Job 38:17) and the death-giving desert, “a land of drought” (Jeremiah 2:6).
Despite walking in death’s valley, “evil” brings no “fear” to David because the Lord is present with him (“you are with me”)—notice how David moves from speaking about to speaking to his Shepherd. An Ancient Near Eastern shepherd led by going ahead. Here the Lord walks beside the sheep in this valley. Only He is present, it seems.
Furthermore, the valley’s evil brings no fear because “comfort comes from the Lord’s “rod and staff,” tools of defense against enemies (cf. 1 Samuel17:35) or for controlling the sheep through such a perilous walk.
Summarizing the Lord’s shepherding ministries up to this point, we saw that our greatest delight is to know the Lord as shepherd because He gives Himself to us, guides us in following Him, governs us back to Him when we go astray, and guards us as death is near (Psalm 23:1–4).
Coming to the last two verses of our psalm, we see that…
Our greatest dwelling is in the house of the Lord (Psalm 23:5–6).
At this point, David breaks from the imagery of the Lord as his shepherd to speak of what it is to dwell in the house of the Lord. We could summarize these verses with two statements:
First, the Lord gives His people a grand entrance (Psalm 23:5).
We see this entrance into the house in how the Lord prizes His people.
The Lord Himself is the table-master who delights to “prepare a table” for his guests. The psalm thus moves from a personal metaphor of sheep and shepherd to something even more intimate—companions at the table who eat together.
The Lord even goes so far as to “anoint my head with oil” and make sure the guest’s “cup overflows.” Anointing a guest with oil was an act of celebration (cf. Psalm 104:15) or welcoming someone into the home (cf. Luke 7:44, 46). An overflowing cup showed an abundance lavished upon the guest. This picture shows us that the Lord lavishes His love upon us as His children who make up the household of God.
Once in the house, we see also that the Lord protects His people. This table, anointing, and overflowing cup are “in the presence of my enemies.” Whereas David once spoke of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, now he has moved to sitting at the Lord’s table because the enemies have been conquered or have been held at bay so that feasting can take place. Either way, the picture is one of protection—He keeps us in His house, and once there, there is no one that can harm us.
Second, the Lord gives His people a grand eternity (Psalm 23:6).
The psalm moves from (1) being led by the shepherd (Psalm 23:3) to (2) walking with the shepherd (Psalm 23:4) to (3) eating with the Lord (Psalm 23:5) and finally, to (4) dwelling with the Lord forever. The intimate setting for a meal in Psalm 23:5 anticipates constant fellowship in Psalm 23:6.
In this final scene, we see this grandy eternity in how the Lord pursues His people. They are not the one’s to chase “goodness and mercy,” but these blessings rather “follow” them. This takes place, yes, “all the days of my life,” but it is something true for the one who will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Besides this promise, a note of comfort closes the psalm with one last use of šwb. Earlier translated “restores” in Psalm 23:3, the semantic range of šwb allows for “dwell” in Psalm 23:6. While “dwelling” is the primary thought, having Psalm 23:3 in mind, David may have meant to recall that wandering sheep, if truly God’s sheep, will be shepherded back into the fold and with such grace that such a one will one day never wander again. Just as the Lord pursues His residents with blessing, so also He preserves them in bringing them to heaven.
Summarizing our look at Psalm 23:5–6, we saw that the Lord meets our every desire to want nothing else (cf. Psalm 23:1) because He does more than minister to us in the present—He will faithfully love us for all our days in heaven and graciously ensures that we will be there.
Whether we are facing the best of times (Psalm 23:1–2, 5–6), looking death in the face (Psalm 23:4), or walking away from the Lord (Psalm 23:4) – if we are God’s sheep, we will see (Psalm 23:1) or be faithfully and firmly shown (Psalm 23:3) that our greatest delight in this life and the one to come is only found in Him. May we delight in our Shepherd all the days of our life and for eternity.
*For many points made above, see Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72 (TOTC: Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 127–30.
The body of Christ is something bigger than the local church, and believers should in theory be able to serve at one church just as at another. However, heresy, ecumenicism, ungodly living, misunderstanding, and disagreements abound in many churches today, making it necessary for a local church to spell out in detail its confession and covenant to which the church holds its members accountable.
In other words, the early churches checked their members for belief in Christ and devotion to godly living, and we are forced to be more detailed about the matter today thanks to 2,000 years of heresy and ungodly living. There has been and is so much of what not to believe and practice out there that we have to state and clarify with precise detail what it is that we do believe and practice. This level of detail, at least to me, is the primary difference between us and the early church when it comes to the practice of local church membership.
But, you may ask, does the Bible really teach church membership? Consider this—churches knew how many people were added to their number (e.g., Acts 2:41). In that number, a church was to know who its widows were (1 Tim 5:9), know which men among its number could be suggested for deacons (Acts 6:3), and even know the membership’s exact number in order to determine a majority vote (2 Cor 2:6), something likely used to determine its elders and deacons (Acts 6:3; 14:23; Titus 1:5). ((In Acts 14:23, the appointment of elders is described by the verb chairotoneō, a verb meaning “to raise the hand,” an act used in a voting process. Titus 1:5 describes the appointment of elders with the verb kathistēmi. Likewise, Acts 6:3 uses this same verb for the appointment of deacons. Considering these passages together, it is plausible to conclude that just as an elder was appointed to his office through a congregational vote, so also a congregational vote can be used to appoint a deacon to his office as well.)) The very nature of a shepherd assumes an identifiable flock to whom he is accountable and who have committed themselves to one another and his leadership (cf. 1 Thess 5:12–13; Heb 13:17).
So how do we grant church membership today? At the first, it should be through baptism—the convert pledges to God before the church that he is in Christ, and the church affirms this confession by administering baptism to the convert (cf. 1 Pet 3:21). The church and convert thus commit themselves to one another, which is the very essence of church membership. After that, should one transfer his membership from one church to another, whatever the justifiable reason may be, the receiving church may simply recognize the individual’s prior membership, which assumes a credible profession of faith and baptism (which all assumes a chain of rightly-ordered churches).
That the whole church should be involved in a member’s inclusion is also implied in the church’s role in a member’s exclusion (e.g., Matt 18:15–17; 2 Cor 2:6)—just as a church majority provides for an exit, so also the church majority allows for an entrance.
So how does a church inform and examine a candidate for membership as it concerns the church’s confession and covenant? Pastors can go through this process on an individual basis in smaller churches, and sometimes it is helpful for larger churches to have a class on the matter if there are multiple people simultaneously desiring to become members. Perhaps a membership committee involving pastors and deacons should examine prospective members as well. However the process takes place, as the shepherd has interviewed a sheep for his prospective entrance into the flock, should things move forward, the shepherd can knowledgeably and confidently recommend the individual sheep to share his testimony before the flock in order for the church to knowledgeably accept such a one into membership.
Among other reasons that could be given, I believe the practice of formal church membership is necessary in our context in light of the presence of denominationalism, false churches, and worldly living that is clearly at odds with the Christian life. Individuals commit to a church’s confession and covenant in order to identify themselves in a certain way and distinguish themselves from others in both what they believe and how they live.
The NT indicates that the church should practice what we call church membership. The church knew who its members were and were not by what they believed and how they lived. While this practice may look more formal or informal from one congregation to the next, it is a practice that exists to one degree or another in every healthy, biblical church. Below are a few strands of evidence from the NT that together make a strong argument for church membership.
The early churches knew their constituencies with precision. They kept track of who was “added,” sometimes recording the number (Acts 2:41; cf. 2:47; 5:14; 11:24). Within that number, a church could even track its widows and their ages (1 Tim 5:9).
Specific Ministries and Accountability
Knowing its membership, a church could choose members for specific ministries and hold them accountable. Peter was accountable to the church in Jerusalem for making disciples (Acts 11:2, 18), Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22), and Barnabas and Saul together to Antioch (Acts 13:3; 14:27). Churches sometimes appointed representatives to minister to or inquire of other churches as well (Acts 15:22; 2 Cor 8:19–20; cf. 8:18–21). ((Kevin Bauder, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2012), 92–99.))
Churches have pastors (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), which assumes established bodies of people who are accountable to follow their leadership (cf. 1 Thess 5:12–13; Heb 13:17). Likewise, deacons are men initially suggested by the church from within the church’s membership to its leadership for their respective ministries (Acts 6:3).
A defined membership for the church is necessary to exclude those who do not belong (Matt 18:15–17). This exclusion is for those who, in significantly deviating in doctrine or practice, are no longer identifiable as Christians (e.g., 1 Cor 5:1–13), and it is carried out by a majority vote of the assembled church (2 Cor 2:6).
Just mentioned above, Paul described a repentant individual as one once excluded by “the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). Having a clearly defined membership, the Corinthians knew their exact number in order to determine a majority vote.
In a leadership situation, Luke used the verb cheirotoneō in Acts 14:23 to refer to the appointment of elders, literally meaning to “stretch out the hand” in a voting situation. ((BDAG, s.v., “χειροτονέω.”)) The members voted their pastors into leadership, which again assumes the churches knew who their members were and who could vote.
From Acts 6:3 above, the same word for appointing deacons (kathistēmi) is used of elders in Titus 1:5, which means that elders, too, were suggested by members from among the membership, implying a clearly defined church membership.
While an early church may not have been as formal as many churches today, there was at least an expectation of belief and living necessary for being admitted into its membership, an admission carried out by the existing membership. However formal or informal a church may be about the matter, the NT indicates that church membership must be present in some way.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.