"The responsibilities and duties of members of a Christian church are simply the responsibilities and duties of Christians. Church members, like Christians, are to be baptized and regularly attend the Lord's Table." -Mark DeverIn continuing to answer the question about "Why Christians need the local church." We should consider what are called the ordinances. The Catholic Church at the time of the Protestant Reformation had seven of these ordinances which they called sacraments and claimed them all to be necessary for salvation. Coming out of the protestant reformation, we can rightly understand there to be two sacraments or ordinances that Christ commanded Christians to follow together. While they do not provide salvation, they do point to the good news of Jesus Christ saving sinners.
The two ordinances that we see Christ commanding the church to follow and the Apostles practicing are the Lord's Supper and Believers Baptism. They are expected of those who are saved and are necessary in the process of becoming more like Christ. (1 Cor 11:24-25)
BaptismThe first act of obedience for a follower of Christ is baptism. In Matthew 28, part of Jesus' last instructions to his disciples was to baptize new believers. Through out the rest of the New Testament, we see this practice continued. Through church history a connection has been made between the act of baptism of the individual and the corporate worship of a body of believers. Any new believer who is wanting to follow Christ, should follow Christ's command and example in baptism. This is properly done in connection with the local church, so that fellow believers can rejoice with the new believer over what Christ has done in their life.
Reasons to be baptized:
- Follow Jesus' example. (Matt 3:13-17)
- Follow Jesus' command. (Matt 28:18-20)
- Identify with Christ. (Col 2:12, Rom 6:4, Gal 3:26-27)
- Show outwardly what has happened inwardly. (Acts 2:41)
There are however examples from Scripture where baptism is practiced and it does not seem to be in connection with the local church. For example, Philip baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 solely in the presence of the Eunuch's entourage. So, does this mean this is the proper method of baptism? No it means there was not a church (group of believers) in the area, and thus the church consisted of Philip and the new believer. In places where there is a church (body of believers) new believers should be baptized in their presence.
The Lord's Supper (Communion)There are no examples in scripture of the Lord's Supper being taken as an individual practice void of the local church. Communion is to be taken in community with other believers.
The Lord's Supper serves to:
- Unite believers together on the common ground we share. (1 Cor 10:17)
- Be an impetus for resolution of conflict between members. (Matt 5:23-24, 1 Cor 10-11)
- Remind the believer of the price that Christ paid on the cross. (1 Cor 11:24-25)
- Draw the believer to repentance over sins prior to taking part in the Lord's supper. (1 Cor 11:27-30)
- Point the believer's attention forward to when Christ will return. (Matt 26:28-30, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18)
- Proclaim the gospel. (1 Cor 11:26)