Before we can look at a Church Covenant, we must first ask ourselves the question, “Is Church Membership Biblical?”
Definite number of sheep in the flock
Peter admonishes elders to watch over the flock (people of the church.) Jesus teaches us that a shepherd knows how many sheep he has and keeps track of each one. In the early church, there was a clear keeping track of how many sheep there were. The book of Acts refers repeatedly to the number of Christians within the local churches. How do you have a definitive number of people within a local church? You must have some form of membership or definition of who is in the flock and who is not.
Binding and loosing
Jesus grants the church the authority to bind and loose. This binding and loosing has two applications, both of which apply to the concept of church membership. In the context binding and loosing refers to sin and repentance. The church has the authority to declare that someone is still in their sin and unconverted. The church also has the authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all who repent and believe. Secondly, the church has the authority to bind believers into its membership and loose members out of the flock based upon their repentance and faith or lack thereof.
Examples of binding and loosing
Paul wrote to Philemon encouraging him to vouch for Onesimus and receive him into the church; this is where the concept of the church letter originated. The church in Jerusalem refused to allow Saul to join them until Barnabas vouched for his conversion. The church at Ephesus was very leery of letting people join until they had thoroughly vetted them.
Why church membership?
Church membership is necessary to keep wolves out of the flock. It is also necessary to confirm the faith of people who are struggling. It is necessary to keep the church pure by excommunicating unrepentant sinners. Lastly, the congregation is tasked with making decisions to ensure the church is following Jesus. If you do not have a definite membership comprised of believers your church will be governed by unregenerate goats and wolves.
Who is eligible for membership?
The Scripture is clear that only baptized believers in Jesus Christ can be members of the local church. It is also clear that Christians should seek to join themselves to a local body of Christ (church.)
Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Have you been baptized? Are you a member of a local church? Will you help the church maintain its purity and witness?