Becoming a member of the church can mean a couple of different things. Depending on where you live, there are probably many different “local” churches. Within the Christian faith, these “churches” meet at a certain place, at certain designated times, and profess a certain belief system (e.g. denominations). These all may have their particular guidelines for membership, but how does one become a member of the church – Christ’s universal church?

How Scripture answers "When is someone a member of the church?"

Someone is a member of the church (universal) when they are baptized1,3,4. It is God doing the “adding”1, therefore, when someone is saved/baptized1,3,4 they are automatically a member of the church universally, Christ’s body7 and His kingdom!6. In the case study of Saul5, joining a local assembly requires effort by the individual and the group. Saul was already a member of the Lord’s church when he was saved (e.g. baptized) in Damascus. However, when he came to Jerusalem he had to seek out a local gathering of saints (requesting to join them), and the local group had to confirm2 that they could indeed fellowship with this person5 and together offer “acceptable worship” to God6.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Each day, as they attended the temple and broke bread together in their homes, they received their food with thanksgiving, praising God and enjoying the good will of the people. And God added to their number each day those that were saved.
Describing the days immediately following the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 were saved upon the hearing of the gospel message from Peter and the apostles.  Those “added” or “being saved” has already been defined by verse 41: “So those who received His word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”  Scripture later refers to this group of saved believers as the “church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1, 11:22, 15:4).
Scripture-block application to this question

God adds those “being saved” to the church.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

In this context, it’s only those who were saved/baptized (vs 38) who were “added” (vs 41).

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
Are we having to defend ourselves again?  Do we really need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you?   You already are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts to be known and seen by all.
Paul is commending the Christians in Corinth by drawing a distinction between the Old Law – written on stone – with the New Law of the Spirit – written on hearts.
Scripture-block application to this question

A “letter of recommendation” was a common practice to validate someone’s saved state and fellowship with Jesus Christ.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
What’s the conclusion then?  We should never continue in sin just so that God’s grace will be magnified. We can’t continue to live in sin after dying to it.  It was our baptism into Christ Jesus that united us in His death.  Our baptism was a death burial together with Him so that just as He was raised to glory by the Father, we too will be raised to have a new life.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation. Through the beginning verses of chapter 6, Paul correlates Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to the Christian’s “death, burial, and resurrection” to a new [spiritual] life.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul’s rhetorical question confirms that everyone in the Roman church – a local gathering of the universal church – had been baptized into Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

Just as our bodies have many body parts that all together form one body, so it is with Christ’s body.  Regardless of whether you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body, drinking of the same Spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth addresses many serious and difficult issues they were facing.  Division among the body was a recurring theme – addressed in chapter 1 as following after certain prominent men (instead of Christ) – and here in chapter 12 as boasts in various spiritual gifts.

Scripture-block application to this question

Just as with the local Roman church3, all members of the body (the church) were baptized into it.

And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.

And after arriving in Jerusalem, Saul attempted to join the disciples there but they were afraid of him and didn’t believe he had been converted.

Saul (e.g. Paul) has just been converted after being blinded on his way to Damascus, praying for three days, and meeting Ananias who baptized him. The church required a recommendation from Barnabas (vs 27) before having fellowship with him.
Scripture-block application to this question

Saul attempts to join the local fellowship of believers (the church in Jerusalem) after being baptized/saved in Damascus. However, because of his reputation, the church refused fellowship.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

It wasn’t until Barnabas could give his personal testimony/recommendation2 about Saul’s conversion and faithfulness that they would grant Saul fellowship with their assembly (vs 27).

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
As a result, let’s be grateful for joining a kingdom that cannot be moved and offer acceptable worship to God  – with reverence and awe – for He is a consuming fire.

In a letter dedicated to reminding the faithful to “hold fast” and remember the “better” things in Christ, the writer is making a final plea in a series of “Therefore’s”. In his grand conclusion and “victory chapter”, he argues their endurance is for the spiritual Promised Land – a city that is not made with hands (vs 26). This text beginning in vs 22 correlates with the throne scene and the 144,000 in Revelation 14 as well as the prophet Haggai’s temple/kingdom prophecy in Haggai 2.

Scripture-block application to this question

The Hebrews writer, writing to Christians abroad (no particular local church), equates their membership in Christ’s church as also citizens of His kingdom.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The context for this begins at least in vs 22 where several other analogous “memberships” are made (e.g. “city of the living God”, etc.) while inspirationally applying reference to prophetic visions in Haggai and Revelation.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

All things were put in subjection to Christ by God, including the church which is Christ’s body, who fills all things.

Paul’s opening to the church in Ephesus.  His prayer continues for several more verses, including a third “what” he is praying for them to know – specifically that “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (vs 19).

These verses closely parallel Paul’s letter in Colossians 1:18-20.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is one body and one Spirit.  Likewise, you were called to one hope that is your calling.  There’s also only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over, through, and in all.

Paul is turning to urge the brethren to be unified and to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”  to which they were called (vs 1).  He is encouraging them to do so humbly and in love (vs 2) while remembering the grace that has been given to each one (vs 7).

Scripture-block application to this question

These two passages in Paul’s letter to a local church in Ephesus (a) define the church as Christ’s body, and (b) distinguish that there is only one.

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