Sunday, August 02, 2009

2 Low Views of Christian Profession and Church Membership

I was reading this morning from Paul Bayne's exposition of Ephesians, as I am preparing to teach on the epistle in Sunday School this fall. I'm thankful for Tentmaker publications as one who has reprinted a number of valuable old commentaries by Puritans such as Bayne, Nicholas Byfield, etc., that are otherwise unavailable in recent printings.

In the introductory comments covering verse 1, Bayne examines the addressing of the letter as "to the saints which are at Ephesus", and comments,
"We see the vanity of many who think they are not tied so strictly as others, because they make not so forward profession. Warn them of an oath of wanton dissoluteness, they slip the collar with this, they are not of the precise brotherhood; yea, they allow themselves in that, for which they will be on the top of another, because they profess no such matter, as the other doth; but in this is their gross ignorance; ask them whether they will be members of the church, they answer yea. If thou wilt be a member of God's church, thou professest thyself a saint..." (p. 8, Paul Bayne, Ephesians)
The world (and increasingly the church) generally has a low view of what it means to profess Christ. Since to the world "going to church" is just something people want to do with an hour a week (or an hour once in a while when they need a spiritual 'pick-me-up'), professions of faith in Christ are not seen as terribly shocking things (when it should be). To claim the mantle of Christianity, particularly in this country, is to claim very little - in our culture to be known as one who goes to church is of little consequence, and little difference is expected in those who make such an admission.

The fact that the world errs in what it means to make a Christian profession is neither suprising, nor should it be particularly problematic for us - they will think whatever they will. The problem arises when we become content with the world having a low view of what it means in terms of what we expect of ourselves. When the church is content with people within its doors making "light" professions - professions of mere attachment and not wholesale devotion to Christ - we are in trouble. It's a major problem when we in the chruch are happy to be known as Christians as long as people identify our profession with a simple 'religious preference'. The moment it becomes known that we regard ourselves and the church as striving after holiness and newness of life, we become uncomfortable with our profession of faith in Christ.

Brothers and sisters, to profess Christ IS indeed to profess that you are striving after holiness of life, and aiming to walk as Christ did in this present darkness. We cannot be content with the worldly definitions of what it means to profess Christ, but constantly have recourse to what the Word of God says our profession means and must entail. The church isn't a social preference, or a weekly get-together... but it is the very body of Christ - association with which Christ Himself told us requires one to 'count the cost'. It isn't an idle thing.... but a serious undertaking. Are we prepared to face up to what our profession actually entails for our lives? Or are we willing to take our cues from the world?

2 comments:

thecalvinistvent said...

Todd,

I the current state of mind most professing Christian folk have toward "church." From each Lord's Day to another, the support of her should be the Christian's whole purpose. Now lest I be misunderstood, I do not mean some Roman view of the Church. Rather, that Church is not simply a *part* of our lives (as you noted, a place to go one hour a week), but rather it is the very essence and foundation of our lives.

Todd said...

Absolutely! The church ought to be our primary identification... not "I'm a physicist" or "I'm a computer tech" but "I'm a lamb in Christ's flock". There is no more defining characteristic than our being bought by the blood of Christ and part of his fold... and yet where do we failingly tend to put that label? Far down the list, I fear (and I'm as guilty as any).

 

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