Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 22, 1971

Your Personal Duty

Edward Fudge

The religion of Jesus Christ is basically an individual matter. It involves a personal relationship of one human being with Jesus Christ. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25), but the church is "built" one stone at a time as men are sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word (Eph. 5:26; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet. 2:5).

Sometimes people put a wrong KIND of emphasis on the "church." This wrong KIND of emphasis leaves the idea that men are saved on a group plan, or that their individual responsibility is drowned when they are baptized. Some people seem to have the idea that all they need to do is "get in the church, pay dues, and keep membership current — then wait for the last train to glory!" This notion does not come from the Word of God. YOUR salvation depends on YOUR faith and obedience — in the beginning and until the end. "The church" cannot add one inch to your progress unless YOU do YOUR part on an INDIVIDUAL basis.

Then Why Have A Church?

Someone might ask, "If this is so, why have a church at all?" This is a good question. But there is also a good answer! Nowhere in the Bible do we read of God's PERSON, but of a PEOPLE of God. The man who individually comes into Christ, comes into the body of Christ — and a body has many members, not just one (read 1 Cor. 12). Earlier I said there is sometimes a "wrong kind of emphasis" on the church. There is also a RIGHT kind of emphasis on the church. That is what I am talking about here. One can leave the extreme of "group-policy" religion for the other extreme of "alone-ness." Neither comes from Scripture.

The Old Testament people of God were also called a "church" (ekklesia, group, congregation, Acts 7:38). One man did not wander out of Egypt to be an Israelite by himself. Israel was a PEOPLE of God, a working group — of individuals functioning together. The New Testament people of God are also called a "church" (ekklesia, group, congregation, Matt. 16:18). They exist as co-members of the body of Christ, not as isolated individuals in the world.

The fact that God has said this is reason enough. But we can also see wisdom in this "togetherness" of God's people as "church." Perhaps it can be said under four headings.

1. There is STRENGTH in numbers (Eccl. 4:9ff).

2. There is MORALE in companionship (Heb. 10:23-25).

3. There is NEED for Christians to praise God together as a gathered body of His people (1 Cor. 11-14).

4. There is a NEED for Christians to cooperate together in a financial way on a local basis (2 Cor. 8:9, 13-15; Phil. 4:12-15). For these reasons, individual saints need the fellowship found in a church relationship. This is God's way.

Working Together

God calls men into a fellowship of saved individuals (1 Cor. 1:9), and then He equips them for service together (Eph. 4:11ff). Each man is to use his own ability to God's glory and his brethren's growth (1 Pet. 4:10,11). Titus was to "set the church in order." (Tit. 1:5). Timothy was to conduct himself "in the household of God." (1 Tim. 3:15). Both expressions suggest a working arrangement of the individuals who are, together, "the church" in a given place.

The first emphasis is personal and individual. You cannot pass on to "the church" your own duties (1 Tim. 5:16). Each man must bear his own burden (Gal. 6:5). At the same time, God has provided for a "togetherness" of individuals which is not to be overlooked. Yet this "working together" of members is for the PERSONAL BENEFIT of EACH INDIVIDUAL concerned. It provides HIM strength, boosts HIS morale, gives HIM opportunity to praise God with His fellows, and enables HIM to cooperate financially with others of common faith, as they work together toward a common goal in Christ.

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