Discover What the Bible Says about Being a Member
The word member appears throughout the Bible showing up eighteen times in the Old Testament and nineteen times in the New. A common convention in studying the Bible is to let earlier uses of a word inform our understanding of later occurrences.
Here is how the word member (usually it’s plural, as in members) is used in the Bible.
- A member of a family or household, first used in Genesis 36:6 (12 times).
- A member of the community of Israel Exodus 12:6 (6 times).
- A member of the clan Leviticus 25:45 (2 times).
- A member of the Council Numbers 16:2 (4 times)
- a member of the Sadducees Acts 5:17 (1 time).
- A member of the Freedmen Acts 6:9 (2 times).
- A member of the Sanhedrin Acts 7:54 (1 time).
- A member of Areopagus Acts 17:34 (1 time).
- A member of a body Romans 12:4 (8 times).
These occurrences—especially the initial ones—are in reference to being a member through birth, such as being borne into a family, clan, or nation (20 times). In other instances it’s a choice to join a religious faction or political movement (9 times).
A Member of Jesus’s One Body
The final use is being a member of the body, such as the body, one body, or Christ’s body (eight times in seven passages).
The final four occurrences all show up in the book of Ephesians, where Paul addresses this idea of being members of one body.
He says we’re fellow citizens with all God’s people and members of his household (Ephesians 2:19). Through the good news of Jesus, both Gentiles and Jews are members of one body (Ephesians 3:6). We are members of one body (Ephesians 4:25) and are all members of Jesus’s body (Ephesians 5:29-30).
These verses about being members of one body—Jesus’s body—all refer to the universal, global church.We’re not supposed to join a church. We join with Jesus as a member of his one family. Click To Tweet
How do we become members of the one body of Christ?
Just as people in the Bible were a member of a family, clan, or Jewish community (nation) through birth when they were born, we become members of Jesus’s family when we become born-again. Our rebirth through Jesus automatically joins us as members of one body with him.
Though many churches carry the idea of membership, either directly or indirectly, the Bible doesn’t tell us to become a member of a local church or denomination. Instead, we become a member of Jesus’s church as soon as we follow him.
Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.