The New Testament church needs walls, as well. These are spiritual walls.
We have five walls in our church.
First, we have the wall of the biblical standard for baptism, which is primarily born again salvation (Ac. 2:42; 8:36-37). We aren’t hasty in this matter. We do our best to baptize only those who give evidence of salvation (2 Co. 5:17; 1 Jo. 2:3-4). We make sure that each person understands all points of the gospel (1 Co. 15:1-4). We don’t baptize complete strangers; we want to know the individual well enough to discern if he has been born again. We require that each baptismal candidate appear before the church leaders and their wives and give his or her testimony and answer any questions that might arise. We give opportunity for the church body to express any misgivings about about the candidate’s suitability.
Second, we have the wall of biblical standards for church membership. We are not in a hurry to receive members. A New Testament church is a spiritual body which should be composed of spiritual members. It is a spiritual temple built only with spiritual stones. The body and temple belongs to Christ, and He is the one who must add to it. The church’s part is to discern Christ’s will. We want to do our best to ascertain that the prospective member is born again (Ac. 2:41), a true disciple of Christ (Ac. 2:42; 1 Th. 1:9-10), likeminded with the church body (1 Co. 1:10), and that it is God’s will for this individual to be a part of our congregation.
Third, we have the wall of biblical standards for those who participate in ministry (Ac. 6:3; 1 Co. 4:2; 2 Co. 8:22; 1 Ti. 3:8-13). We want every minister—whether usher or musician, Sunday School teacher or public Bible reader—to have a good testimony and to be a good spiritual example, knowing that they will have a large influence on the body itself and that they will affect the church’s testimony before the world.
Fourth, we have the wall of biblical standards for ordination to leadership (1 Ti. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Nothing is more important than ordaining the right leaders in the churches, as “everything rises and falls on leadership.” God emphasizes this by the high standards listed in the Pastoral Epistles and by the fact that these standards are repeated.
Fifth, we have the wall of discipline. When a member ceases to be faithful or ceases to have the moral testimony that God requires, we raise up the wall of discipline to keep them out until they show true repentance for restoration (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Co. 5).
Biblical walls aren’t harmful. They don’t keep out those that God wants in. They help keep the church the pure lump that God has ordained.
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Co. 5:6-8).
I love our walls! It took me a long time to understand this matter properly, because church tradition is so strongly established and non-critically accepted. It wasn’t that long ago that I asked the Lord if it would be acceptable to Him if we required faithfulness of all of the members. The answer was Acts 2:41-42. Not only is it acceptable to God if we require this, it is highly displeasing to Him if we don’t, because this has been the clear standard of God’s Word for 2,000 years.
We have a lot of visitors in our church services. We have visitors who do not profess to be saved, and we have visitors who have been members of other churches. Because of our walls, we can relax, so to speak, and minister to the visitors, knowing that we have biblical walls to keep the church from being so easily corrupted.
(For more on this, see The Discipling Church, available from www.wayoflife.org.)
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