Thursday, September 7, 2017
I have 4,916 FaceBook friends from India, Pakistan, Africa, the Philippines, France, Germany, England, and the USA. When you befriend one person, they tell their friends. I didn’t realize I had befriended too many until FaceBook informed me the “cutoff” was 5,000. Since then, several have dropped out. Recently, I had an individual to send me a private message stating “I would like your religious church of christ.” He assured me that he was honest in his request. From that, I believe he meant he would like to be a member.
I responded to him as follows,
“John, I appreciate your desire to be in the church of Christ, but what is important is first being clothed with Jesus. If you have a Bible read Acts chapter 2 and see what those folks did for God to save them.”
I’m not sure where John resides, but looking at the way he expressed his desire, it is in another country where English is a second language. His picture is of a man, probably in his thirties. I do not know what his background is. Apparently, he saw the paragraph where I was bragging on the events at Campbell Street on Sunday, August 13 and wanted to join our “church.”
There are two ways that people entered “the church” in the first century. Some today are misinformed about both. On Pentecost, Peter preached about Jesus being God’s appointed one (or Messiah/Christ). Luke informs us, “they gladly received” his message and were baptized. Then Luke states, “and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Verse 47 tells us who did that “adding,” – “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” He did not add them to a church building on the corners of Samson and Main Street. They were added to the body of Christ as were the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus saves believing, responsive people. They were the ones added to the saved, which is the body of Jesus! Since only God does the adding, God is the one who stipulates “how” one gets into that saved category. A saved person may not belong to a local body of believers, as was true of the eunuch. After being saved, he went on his way as a Christian, but not identified with a specific congregation like the one in Jerusalem.
The second way is when one who has already been added to the saved, leaves one area and moves to another. He identifies with others in the new location who were also added by God to the number of the saved. This is what Saul of Tarsus did. “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples” (Acts 9:26). Due to Paul’s previous zeal to persecute Christians, the saved in Jerusalem were fearful of him. It took Barnabas’ help to eliminate that fear and introduce Paul to the saved as a genuine added one.
If other disciples are absent from an area that a believer moves to, he can use what knowledge he knows to teach others, as the eunuch would have done (Acts 8:35-39). Of course, the eunuch wasn’t inspired as Paul or Philip were. So, what he taught to others was restricted to Isaiah’s prophecy and the application that was made from it by Philip (Acts 8:35-38). Since the eunuch apparently attended synagogue meetings in his home town prior to visiting Jerusalem, he could teach what he had learned in that assembly. The Jerusalem congregation continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and frequented the Temple and synagogue. The eunuch would have continued his weekly habit in his home town at saints in Jerusalem continued it in theirs. Some believe an assembly of saints existed in his city prior to his trip to Jerusalem, but that would be based on assumption, rather than biblical fact. If none existed, his only information would be from what Philip had taught him. Yet, God added him to the saved on the information received from Philip, just as He added the “about three thousand” on Pentecost from what Peter preached. All the added were in the body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 3:6; 4:12). Whoever the eunuch taught, if they did what he had done, they too would have been added to the saved by God. They might need more teaching, but they would still be in the number of the saved without it. As one reads Acts 8, it shows that one is added to the saved without a large audience being assembled. No one voted on whether he could or could not be accepted as a member. God adds, not the preacher, elders, deacons, or members. One may join himself to a group of disciples after God has added him to the saved, but he is already a saved one before that joining takes place. The main purpose of his baptism was not to get on the roll book of a local group of believers. The only account of rejecting someone from joining their assembly is because the Jerusalem disciples thought he was still Saul the persecutor rather than Paul the Christian. Their “fear” could hardly be a tradition of how modern congregations accept or decline a saved person’s desire to assemble with them. The eunuch’s salvation was not dependent upon him possessing the full revelation of the new covenant. The same would be true of those he taught.
Today, one might join a local group because they are aligned with his way of thinking, yet his membership may not be in the saved because God has not added him to it. Membership at Jerusalem did not simultaneously add Paul to the saved. He was saved prior to assembling with them.
If you think you are saved because your name is on a church roll book, you are living under an assumption rather than upon biblical teaching. You need to ask yourself if you have been added to the save by God the Father! If not, you need to learn what the “about three thousand” and the eunuch did (Acts 2:27-41; 8:34-39).