The List of Saints
"He's making a list…"
Is the song going through your mind right now? It's a sure thing that with many radio stations playing all Christmas songs "all the time," that you're bound to hear about Santa Claus coming to town more times that you'll want.
One problem with Santa is that he's so intrusive! He knows our schedule and he knows our behavior -- and that "list" he keeps -- it means we will either benefit from his vocation, or we will miss out on something special.
Keeping with the theme, we should talk about a couple of lists… Of course the MOST important list in all of reality is that list that we sing about in church, "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder;" this list is a reference to the Book of Revelation, Chapter 20. We read in verse, 15: "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
The obvious question is, "How does one get their name on this very important list?"
Revelation 13:8 states that the names listed in the Lamb's Book of Life were written from the beginning of the world (see also Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 20:10; Eph. 1:4; Phil 4:3; Tit. 1:2; 1Pet. 1:20) -- the names listed thereupon are a matter of God's electing grace!
Could there be a way to determine in our life today if our name is on that most important list?
This would be a matter of how important "salvation" is to someone, and how they understand the gifts of God's grace in their life.
Follow along: Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Sunday service, Bible study, the presentation of offerings, mission trips, scripture memorization, prayer, service to others… If someone engages in these practices and disciplines, will it prove that he or she is saved?
Performing "deeds of righteousness" apart from faith and union with Jesus Christ are not suitable for securing salvation!
HOWEVER, a person who is saved by grace lives a life full of gratitude to God and loves these practices and the disciplines that speak of Christ's great love for his people!
ONE MORE TIME: If your name is on the Official Membership List of a church, will that guarantee salvation? NOPE. But if you ARE saved, and can think of no greater place to be than in the presence of God, with His saints -- then you'll most likely find yourself an active participant in a Bible teaching church!
There is a little corollary here: Do you long to be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? Then you'll long to be at the Lord's Supper! Do you want to be presented pure and spotless before God? Then you'll set yourself apart in baptism. Do you want evidence that your name is written in the Lambs Book of Life? Then join with your brothers and sisters in Christ on a church roll!
WAIT A MINUTE! Did I just make a leap there -- equating church membership with the sacraments of the church? OK. There are plenty of scriptures to justify the practice of baptism and the Lord's Supper, but can we actually equate church membership with these two central practices of Christianity?
Consider the following:
- Acts 2:47 states that people were being "...added to the number day by day those who were being saved." This suggests an accounting and record of specific people being identified as new members.
- Acts 6 describes a church growing in numbers and responsibilities of service. It was a coordinated decision by the church to appoint officers to provide direction for the growing numbers of members.
- In Acts 8, we learn the sad circumstances of the church being, "scattered;" indicating the importance and goal of mutual collaboration.
- Romans 16 is an address to a whole list of members of the Roman church.
- Galatians 6:10 indicates that a select group of people comprise, "...the household of faith."
- Ephesians 2:19 records that the saints are no longer a part of the world, but "...members of the household of faith."
- 1 Timothy 5:9 refers to a "roll" of widows who are to receive proper care from the church.
- Hebrews 13:17 says that church leaders, "...must give account," of those whom they oversee.
- (and have you ever been through a "One Another" Bible Study series? The New Testament repeatedly commands believers to engage in Christian living with, "one another." How could we ever fulfill these imperatives if we are never with God's family at church?)
- Finally, Jesus' ministry was all about seeking first, "the kingdom of God." Where might we find that kingdom? In the very place were Jesus is regarded as Lord and Savior! It is the church that he is advancing against the gates of hell (Mt. 16:18); and Jesus is the Master and Shepherd over it. He will call out his own, and he will bring them together under his care, feeding, guiding, and providing. Is this not what baptism and the Lord's Supper communicate? With these covenant signs, we belong to him and also desire to be in his presence. These are the practices the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained to identify the members of his kingdom, distinct from "the world."
All this to say: the heavenly list of God should reflect an earthly list of those who desire to be forever with the Lord. And subsequently, it is the duty of church leaders to manage and maintain such lists, and if necessary, remove people from that very list. (This is a weighty and sobering teaching: Spiritual "keys" are entrusted to church leaders for spiritual matters. Paul exhorts in 1 Corinthians, that a notorious sinner ought to be, "removed from the midst" [1 Cor. 5:13] of the church. However, these same keys OPEN the door for all who love God's Kingdom and long for the appearing of Jesus Christ -- Just as the "notorious sinner" of 1 Cor. 5, is restored back to the church after his repentance [2 Cor. 2:8]).
The Richland Session is taking a final look at the list that comprises our church membership. It is our prayer that this list will grow and become populated with believers who seek, "the kingdom of God and His righteousness."
Such a list keeps the Session accountable to our congregation; taking note of who is in need of prayer, contact, and encouragement in the faith.
Such a list helps the congregation determine who our leaders should be since they are the ones who elect them. Knowing who our members are brings about a shared ministry and encouragement. For congregational meetings even to occur, "a quorum" must be established. How could we do so if we did not know who was officially a member?
Such a list keeps our church accountable to our presbytery; providing an accurate assessment of the health and growth of our church. Our numbers are directly tied to a fair sharing of resources among our shared presbytery ministries.
Such a list speaks of our broader connection with the whole of our denomination as we seek to advance ministries on a scale that we could never accomplish all by ourselves: worldwide missions, ministerial education, church planting, orphan care, etc.
So, it's about lists and whether we are on one or not. In the case of Santa, I was joking with my children the other day that Santa's job must be pretty simple these days -- how many truly "good" kids are there in the world anymore? Does he visit about as many homes as a single Fed Ex driver on his or her route?
The list at the End of the Ages is eternally important, and is not a joking matter! The Lord Jesus Christ said that no one can come to the Father except by him. The apostles proclaimed that there was no other name than Jesus Christ given under heaven whereby we must be saved! We must embrace Jesus Christ and live for his kingdom, otherwise there is no life in us -- apart from God's grace!
And because life, and the Gospel, and the reign of Jesus Christ is so vitally important, it is the duty of our Elders to "give an account" of the flock here. We have never been perfect in our performance, but we desire faithfulness to Christ and his sheep.
So, if you have never had membership anywhere with a Christian church, please do so.
If you are a longtime visitor to a church, please inquire into the nature and function of that church's leadership and determine how you can advance the Kingdom with them.
If you were at one time a member of Richland ARP, and are now truly connected to another faithful body of believers, please let us know via our message box on our website homepage. We'll arrange a transfer letter.
If you have not been to any church in quite awhile, please make a return! What we do in this life (& the life to come) is a matter of our hearts longings. May we express: "One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple." - Ps.24:4
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