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Pastoral Letter - 09 Dec 18                                                 

Dear Calvarians, 

There are a number of special programs as we come to the end of the year. Come and praise the Lord for His abundant blessings.

.   15 December (Saturday, 5:30pm) - Carols Alive

.   23 December (Lord's Day, usual worship times) - Christmas Sunday

.   24 December (Monday, 7:30pm) - Christmas Praise Service (English)

.   25 December (Tuesday, 4:00pm) - Christmas Gospel Service (Mandarin). In light of the Gospel Service, there will be no prayer meeting that evening. Members are encouraged to invite your friends to the Gospel meeting

.   31 December (Monday, 8:00pm) - Year End Service (Combined Service). Lord's Supper will be served. Close up the year in church, praising the Lord for all the blessings 

.   1 January 2019 (Tuesday, 8:15pm) - Prayer meeting. Begin the New Year on the right note by coming to the Prayer Meeting.

.   6 January 2019 (Lord's Day, 10:30am) - Calvary's 46th Anniversary and Dedication Sunday (Combined Service).

The Obligations of a Believer

This a follow up from last week's pastoral. In Calvary BP Church, we require all worshippers who wish to join the church to go through a Basic Bible Knowledge Class, an interview with the Board of Elders, and a public confession of faith in Christ by transfer or water baptism. One of the questions asked of new members is - "Do you promise to pray for, support, labour with, and be subject to the discipline of the leaders whom God has set over this church?" 

The first obligation of a believer is submission to the church leadership. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).  

The Bible says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).  

Church Membership is Submission to Church Leadership

Our first obligation is to submit to the leaders whom God has appointed over the church. But there is more. The writer of Hebrews says we should ensure that our leaders find it a delight as they watch over us; that "they may do it with joy." Practically, it means that we are to do whatever it takes to make sure that the oversight responsibilities of church leaders over us is not burdensome. To be sure, there are some shepherds who are hirelings. But it is equally true that there are many sheep who are more like goats.  

Submission to the local church is therefore a mark of a believer. This is not to say that all church members are saved, and non-church members are lost. Membership in a church does not tell us who is and who is not a true believer. There will be members who are not saved, and non-members who are saved. Our Lord Jesus talks about the goats among the sheep and the tares among the wheat. But church membership is a sign of a believer's commitment to Christ and obedience to His Word.

There are also specific issues in a person's life that will require the church's involvement - infant baptism, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and death. And the extent of the church's involvement in these matters will depend on whether or not the person is a member of the church. There are also other matters such as service in the church, taking on church leadership that will depend on whether or not the person is a member of the church.  

One issue in which church membership will play a determining factor is church discipline. Church discipline is reserved for church members. A person who is not a member of the local church cannot be subjected to church discipline. A man cannot be put out of the church if he is not in it the first place. He cannot be excommunicated if he does not have communion in the body of believers. Church members who sinned are biblically disciplined. But in the case of a non-member, who has sinned, the church leaders would have to treat him as unbeliever and the response is evangelism. 

Church Membership is a Testimony to the World

Paul writes, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church of God stands on the ground of truth, which is the Holy Scriptures. Paul told the Ephesians that the household of God "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:19-20). The Bible is the foundation of the local church. 

The local church is the pillar of truth in the sense that it ought to reflect the truth. The pillar is the superstructure. The pillar is that which is seen by the world, and that which is seen by the world must be an accurate reflection of what really is.  

Thus, members of a local church must reflect the beauty of Christ. Paul says that we are to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).  

There are social clubs in the world that demands a high standard of conduct from its paying members lest by their misconduct, they sullied the name of the club. The Church of Christ should exact no lesser demand because if church members are unethical and immoral, they sullied the name of our Saviour and give occasion for the enemies of Christ to blaspheme His Name.  

Church Membership is for Stewardship of God's Gifts

Peter says, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). The church is a gathering of people which a myriad of spiritual gifts, and the church, as a whole, are to be faithful stewards of these gifts.  

Business enterprises plan and organise so they could optimise their resources and maximise profits. They do it for earthly treasures. The church is concerned about heavenly treasures, and we should be just as diligent and careful in our administration of God's manifold grace.  

This principle applies to the use of our talents, time and treasures. Church membership requires a commitment to the ministry of the church, and members are called on to support the work by their prayers, attendance, service and resources. In prayers, we are "pray one for another" (James 5:16). In attendance, we are not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25). In service, we are to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10). In giving, we are to "bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house" (Malachi 3:10).  

And as members of the church, we do all these for the glory of God and for the good of the church. May our Lord be praised.

Lovingly in Christ

Pastor Isaac 


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