Church Membership—Optional?

In the April 1 issue of the Standard Bearer a reader tells us that he “…can’t find a passage of Scripture that states we must do anything other (or additional) than believe on Jesus Christ for salvation.”

He need not look any further than the book of Ephesians, where we read, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).

Now if Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it, does He also love those outside the church? Did He give Himself for them as well? The answer must be “no,” by logical inference; otherwise we would have an unfaithful bridegroom, and Paul’s marriage analogy would collapse.

Love must be selective; it must be directed to a specific person, or persons, to the exclusion of others. Universal love leads inevitably to universal salvation, and a denial of limited atonement.

Article 28 of the Belgic Confession states, in part:

We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and that out of it there is no salvation, [that] all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it.

Church membership is not optional. Those who insist that they believe on Jesus Christ for salvation will be found in a local congregation of God’s people.

Ralph W. Hahn

Boise, Idaho

god is not Great

Thank you for the review of Hitchen’s book god is not Great (cf. January 1 SB, p. 165). I appreciate very much Mr. Kevin Vink’s analysis. We can easily overlook one spiritual danger while focusing on other ones. To underestimate the mindset promoted by Mr. Hitchens is a grave error, and to dismiss it as ‘out there’ is the ostrich’s response.

The days are arriving when some kind of college education is needed just to get a job. However, colleges, even the two-year ones, push Mr. Hitchens’ ideas. Professors of college programs have long been known to be huge promoters of atheism and/ or pluralism, the rights of the individual, sincerity without an attachment to truth, and unconditional toleration of all things except Christ with His cross. We need to remember that these life-views may be sirens for our young adults. The logic presented is dressed up with such noble rhetoric that it caresses the pride of life. The youth are strong, full of life and vigor, and they chafe at the reminder that they have spiritual weaknesses and needs. These youth are also adults who are making their own choices. This logic can captivate a mind that is ripe for independence and cultivate in that mind a spiritual independence from God. We may think that something so blatantly unbiblical shouldn’t even be a problem. We should remember that, in a subtle way, the ideas promoted by Mr. Hitchens stroke our zeal for individuality as well as our desire to be kings of our own lives.

Avoiding college is not the answer, but we must prepare our children for this temptation. College students are taught to question everything. This is not a bad thing, but when it encourages young students to view their religious upbringing as mere formalism and their church home as stifling, backward, narrow-minded, and dictatorial, it tempts these easintelligent students to doubt God Himself. We must pray for our youth who are at college and are called to withstand this personally. We should pray for those who currently wrestle with this temptation in their hearts and minds and for their loved ones who struggle with them. This challenging of established things and especially spiritual things appeals to everyone’s sense of importance. Satan’s very first argument to Eve, “yea, hath God said…” still resonates today.

As the last days approach, there will be an increase in scholarly heresies, but I believe that there will also be an increase in glaring unbelief pawning itself off as the ‘honest’ or ‘real’ life-view. Our young people may already be tempted to listen when nice, decent-living professors and fellow students befriend them and proceed to teach them that they should ‘grow up’ and ‘get the big picture.’ Under the banner of self-assertion they are pressured to rethink what they have been spiritually ‘fed’ by their upbringing and they are encouraged to decide for themselves if God really exists.

Individualism and independent- mindedness might not be bad things in themselves, because God made each of us unique and we are not spiritual robots. However, it is our calling to understand these concepts in the light of God’s Word, instruct ourselves about the selfishness and egocentricity they can lead to, and be aware of how this all works against the good of the body of the church. We should set examples for our youth and live in unified harmony as a church body when we are tempted by ideas of self-rule that arise from within our own hearts. How quickly we as a people can become like the Israelites during the time of the Judges when “…every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25). Without reminders and examples, our young people may quickly lose their reliance on the Body of Christ and the spiritual strength it provides. The knowledge of God’s presence and personal identity are soon jeopardized as well if we lose sight of the truth about His body and our duty to one another.

Mr. Vink suggested that Mr. Hitchens’ complaint about threats is nothing more than an attempt to gain pity. I believe that Mr. Hitchens’ references to the threats were not intended to evoke pity but were his attempt to prove that religious people are guilty of a double standard when, as he alleges, they claim the love of their God and yet can hate venomously and even threaten a man’s life when he disagrees with their views.

Mr. Vink finds it hard to believe that Hitchens honestly holds to the convictions written in his book. I would dare to say that Mr. Hitchens does indeed firmly hold to his convictions, just as surely as Satan holds to his. As Lewis Chafer points out in the third chapter of his book, Satan: His Motives and Methods (Kregel Publications, 1990), “Satan, like a fond mother, is bending over those in his arms, breathing into their minds (emphasis mine) the quieting balm of a ‘universal fatherhood of God’ and a ‘universal brotherhood of man’….” He also points out in his ninth chapter that “it is not strange that the world assumes to have advanced beyond that which is repeatedly said to be the manifestation of the wisdom of God; branding as bigots, insincere, or ignorant, all who still hold to the whole testimony of God.” Hitchens has clearly made conscious choices and is busy recruiting many with his writings.

With thanks to God for your work and Word in theStandard Bearer. 

Mrs. Brenda Hoekstra

Hudsonville, Michigan