Christ gives his Word to call us into union with Him (Rom. 1:6; 2 Thess. 2:14). In Ephesians 4:15–16a, Paul commands the saints of God to grow into Christ in all things. Christ is the head ofhis body; all our growth, which lifts us into closer communion with him, comes from him. Therefore, one must be a member of Christ to be a member of the body of Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15a, 17, ‘Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? . . . he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.’ A faithful relationship with the church grows out of a faithful relationship with the Lord Jesus. The mark of a true member of the church is not merely what he or she does for the church. It is a faithful response to Paul’s challenge in 2 Corinthians 13:5: ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?’ You are not truly in the church until Christ is truly in you.
4. Personally trusting in Christ. Colossians 2:6–7 says, ‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.’ True church members receive Christ personally as Prophet, Priest, and King (for that is what ‘Christ’ means). We receive Christ by Spirit-given faith (John 1:12). This faith is active trust; it rests upon God in Christ for salvation. William Ames (1576–1633) wrote, ‘Faith is the resting of the heart on God . . . We believe through Christ in God.’5 Paul tells us that we must continue as we have begun; we must go on trusting in, resting on, and looking to Christ.
A church member would be disturbed if he discovered his name was missing in the church membership directory. How much more should we be concerned that our names are written in the Book of the Lamb! Do not assume you are a believer because of a response you made or something you experienced years ago. Ask yourself, ‘Am I trusting in Jesus Christ alone to make me right with God? Is he my only hope for eternal life, or am I trusting that the sincerity of my heart or my good works will open heaven’s gates for me?’
5. Making diligent use of the sacraments. I am not suggesting that baptism and Lord’s Supper have the inherent power to save. Trusting in the sacraments for your salvation is idolatry. In its historic Reformed usage, sacrament means a public sign and seal of the covenant between God and man. Sacraments are also called ‘ordinances,’ for Christ ordained their use for the worship of his people. They are a means of grace, the Word made visible.
We neglect the sacraments to our spiritual harm. Some people in evangelical churches view the sacraments only as empty rituals because God’s people have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But are we more spiritual than Jesus, who gives us the Holy Spirit? Christ commands us in the Great Commission to baptize (Matt. 28:18–20). He also tells us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19). So sacraments are not meaningless rituals. They express our faith in Christ and are used by the Spirit to confirm and deepen our faith. They publicly bind believers together as one church (1 Cor. 10:17; Eph. 4:5). Membership in Christ’s church demands that we publicly receive holy baptism and partake of the Lord’s Supper, trusting that, as Christ’s ordinances, they are means by which he works in our hearts and lives.
6. Practical obedience to Christ. In John 14:15, Jesus says, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ He later adds, ‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them . . . loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him’ (v. 21). Obedience is the best expression of love for Christ. Loving obedience to Christ is also the way to experience more of the love of Christ. According to his promise, he will show us more of himself. Obedience is not mere rule-keeping; it is the expression or fruit of a faith relationship with Christ, as ‘faith worketh by love.’
Thomas Boston (1676–1732) was a champion for the gospel of free grace among the people of Scotland. Yet he reminded us that if Christ is our Head, we will want to keep his commandments. Speaking of the relationship between Christ and his people, Boston said:
Jesus Christ, the head of the covenant, is their head with their own consent. With heart and good-will they have taken him for their head, for all the purposes of the covenant . . . And they have taken him as their head for government, as well as their head for nourishment and support. They have delivered up themselves unto him, to be ruled by him, as well as to be saved by him; to be governed by his laws, and not by their own lusts, as well as to be saved by his grace, and not by their own works.6
Receiving Christ’s Word is the first mark of a faithful church member. Union with Christ’s Person is the second mark, for Christ is the Head of the body. From our living Head comes all our spiritual life, and to him rise all our hopes and desires. Let us cling to him in personal faith, celebrate him in the public sacraments of the church, and follow him in practical obedience.