Let’s hear from some of you readers who rarely comment—I know you’re out there, I see you on my stat tracker! Just click the red ‘comments’ link at the bottom right of the post and fire away.
I do want to give some of my own thoughts on this, but I did promise to give you Dever’s answer first. So, Dever’s take will be today’s post. My take will be tomorrow’s. To a certain extent, yesterday’s discussion already went beyond what Dever says here, but for what it’s worth, here is his answer to the question posed in yesterday’s post: “Why do I worry that if you call yourself a Christian but you are not a member in good standing of the local church you attend, you might be going to hell?” (p. 22)
From chapter 1 of What Is a Healthy Church?:
A Christian is someone who, first and foremost, has been forgiven of his sin and been reconciled to God the Father through Jesus Christ… . Yet that’s not all! Second, a Christian is someone who, by virtue of his reconciliation with God, has been reconciled to God’s people… .
Through Christ, then, being reconciled to God means being reconciled to everyone else who is reconciled to God. After describing in the first half of Ephesians 2 the great salvation that God has given us in Christ Jesus, Paul turns, in the second half of Ephesians 2, to describing what this means for the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and, by extension, between all those who are in Christ… .
When a person becomes a Christian, he doesn’t just join a local church because it’s a good habit for growing in spiritual maturity. He joins a local church because it’s the expression of what Christ has made him—a member of the body of Christ. Being united to Christ means being united to every Christian. But that universal union must be given a living, breathing existence in a local church… .
Except for the rarest of circumstances, a true Christian builds his life into the lives of other believers through the concrete fellowship of a local church. He knows he has not yet ‘arrived.’ He’s still fallen and needs the accountability and instruction of that local body of people called the church. And they need him… .
So who’s responsible for thinking about what the gathering of people called the church should be like? Is it pastors and church leaders? Definitely. How about every other Christian? Absolutely. Being a Christian means caring about the life and health of the body of Christ, the church. It means caring about what the church is and what the church should be because you belong to the church, Christian. Indeed, we care for the church because it’s the very body of our Savior… .
God will ask each member of the body, ‘Did you rejoice with the other members of the body when they rejoiced? Did you mourn with those who mourned? Did you treat the weaker parts as indispensable, and did you treat the parts that most think less honorable with special honor? Did you give double honor to those that led and taught you?’ (see 1 Cor. 12:22–26 and 1 Tim. 5:17).
Christian, are you ready for the day on which God will call you to account for how you have loved and served the church family, including your church leaders? Do you know what God says the church should be?” (pp. 22-32).