In the denomination which I serve, there are five vows required for one to become a member of a local church. There are only five, and they don’t cover topics such as:
- How should we walk in holiness on the Lord’s Day?
- What ought one believe regarding tithing?
- Does the Holy Spirit still speak audibly to some?
- When and how much water should be used in baptism?
- How is one to “Christianly” educate their children?
- Can one imbibe?
- Is salvation completely God’s work, or is it a joint-venture?
- What is the proper view of end-times?
- How serious is the sin of ________ (fill in the blank) in comparison to others?
- How much of the Westminster Standards must one appreciate?
It’s not that these topics are unimportant. It’s not that God’s Word does not help us answer these questions as we learn to think after him. It’s not that these topics are off-the-table for discussion and for leadership development. However, these topics are not those which are most important. They are not the matters which ought to separate worshiping believers one from another. So, that being said, what are the five vows of membership which we deem to be so important?
1) Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope, except in His Sovereign mercy?
There is a Law-Giver who has his Law. It is summarized in two overarching precepts, it is presented in Ten well-known commandments, and further applied in hundreds of other ordinances and rules. God’s Law covers all our actions, words, desires, and thoughts.
When then Lawyer looks at us in the light of his Law, he makes the following declaration, “There is none righteous, no not one!” None are holy and just. None are lawful.
Consequently, instead of maintaining and/or meriting God’s approval, all of us deserve his displeasure. And there is nothing we can do about this; we are without hope.
Friends, this is our present acknowledgement. Notice, it does not say, “Have we sinned in our past?” It does not say, “Were you a sinner some time ago?” No, all who are vow-making members of our church recognize themselves as sinners in the sight of God. Yes friends, that’s who we are, but that’s not all we are.
2) Do we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do we receive and depend upon Him alone for our salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
Jesus is the Lord. As such he is the Law Giver, the Lawyer, and the Law Man.
Jesus is also the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, and the Savior of Sinners, and because of his compassion, person, and work, there is Good News for us devilish sinners. The Gospel is the spiritual-swap made possible by God. Because of Jesus, all penalty is removed from our account. Because of Jesus, an eternity of righteousness is granted to us. Because of Jesus, the Wrathful Judge proves to be our Approving Father.
And what do we do to receive this spiritual-swap — this free gift? We retire and receive. We quit and accept. We cease depending on any works of man, and depend upon Christ alone for salvation, reconciliation, intimacy, acceptance, and approval.
Friends, this is what we believe. This is our testimony. So serious are we about the Gospel that we take vows before God and man.
3) Do we now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ?
God shows undeserved benefits to all men and women. All men and women have experienced his common grace,.
However, God showers grace upon his children. Therefore, as we received union with Jesus Christ, we also received the communion with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, as the Holy Spirit moved into the Sanctified Temple, so today the Holy Spirit enters and dwells within Christ’s sanctified children. This is not a possibility. This is not a second-step. There is nothing one must do to make this happens. There is nothing one can duo to keep this from happening. Bottom line, a believer can’t have Christ without the Spirit. As the song says, “You can’t have one without the other.” If you have Jesus, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is one of God’s greatest graces.
Therefore, we get to do what we ought to do. As Christians, we abide in the Spirit, pray in the spirit, walk in the Spirit, keep step with the Spirit, and thoroughly enjoy being fruited by the Spirit. And what does this look like? The Spirit helps us live as a follower of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus hates sin; we get to hate sin.
- Jesus loves righteousness; we get to have holy desires.
- Jesus lives purely in the midst of temptations; we get to flee youthful lusts.
- Jesus hate Lucifer; we get to take our stand and fight against the devil.
- Jesus loves worship; we get to learn, pray, eat, drink, baptize, and praise.
- Jesus loves his neighbors; we get to sacrifice for those we come into contact with.
Consequently, with this in mind, we make a fourth vow …
4) Do we promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of our ability?
Jesus loves his family and has sacrificed greatly for her.
Jesus envisions groups of people, scattered across the planet, from one generation to another, enjoying him in worship, encouraging one another in fellowship, all while engaging themselves in missionary adventures — local and global.
Therefore, we value, prioritize, participate in, support, serve, and sacrifice for the earthly institution envisioned by Christ. Towards this end we give our time, talents, and treasure. Towards this end we give our word.
5) Do we promise to submit ourselves to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to pursue its peace and purity?
Because we are family, we swear to care.
Elders and Deacons are envisioned by Christ, described by his Word, provided by the Spirit, and chosen by the congregation. Their primary calling is to shepherd and serve their brothers and sisters, and so serious are they about this work that they take extra vows.
Therefore, we look around town, prayerfully consider our options, and select our family and fathers. To them we honor our Lord, obey his Word, and place ourselves under their spiritual care. This we swear to do.
Additionally, we will be those who look around and “study the peace and purity of the church.” We know Satan is deceptive. We know sin is like a virus. We are aware the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Therefore, we promise to care for our brothers and sisters.
Sin is like a virus, so we are diligent to help our hurting brothers and sisters. And sometimes, we can be that which harms the unity and purity of the church. Therefore, we work together to enjoy Christ’s righteous relationships.
Friends, these are the vows we made before God and man, and these are the vows we have all regularly broken. Therefore, let’s repent together.
Vow 1: Let’s repent of making light of our sin. Our flesh is totally deprave. We are so weak!
Vow 2: Let’s repent of disbelieving Christ’s spiritual-swap. We continually distrust the all-sufficient, imputed, completed work of Jesus. Too often we depend on God’s laws and commandments to help us get right, be right, and stay right with him. Too often, we think we are better in his sight because of our ceremonies, disciplines, practices, abstentions, and traditions.
Vow 3: Let’s repent of not walking in and with the Spirit. Too much we trust ourselves. Too little we trust in God. Too often, we do not enjoy, experience, and express our new identity.
Vow 4: Let’s repent of not supporting the church and its work in this time of virus weirdness.
Vow 5: Let’s repent of being scared, selfish, apathetic, lazy, and/or conceited. Let’s repent of considering our own interests but not the interests of others. We are fellow members of the body of Christ. We are family. We are church members. Towards this end we have taken vows. Therefore, with this in mind, let us …
- Pray more for more of Christ’s compassion
- Pray more one another
- Make daily phone calls
- Write personal cards
- Type thoughtful emails
- Befriend through social media posts and comments
- Send encouraging texts
- Put care packages and leave them on porches
- Take advantage of video prayer meetings
We are brothers and sisters. We are church members. We are those who give and keep our words. Friends, let’s be those who are quarantined, let’s be those who properly keep our social distance, but let’s not be those who are self-absorbed and isolated. We are family. Let’s be such.