Isn’t the idea of membership just a modern American idea?
The ancient Romans understood each citizen to be a member of their society in the same way that our hands, eyes, feet, and so on are all members of our body.
The New Testament church was composed of people who had publicly joined themselves to the church such that Paul can assume that the Corinthian church will know who is “inside” and who is “outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
The church in Corinth excluded an unrepentant sinner “by the will of the majority” (2 Corinthians 2:6), which presupposes a defined group of people, all of whom together had the right to act as a church.
Even the idea of excluding someone from the church because of unrepentant sin (see Matthew 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2:6 presupposes that there is some defined body to which a person belongs. If there were no formal membership in the New Testament, then Jesus and Paul’s teaching about church discipline would be meaningless. If someone doesn’t formally belong, how can they be kicked out?
For more great resources from Mark Dever and 9Marks Ministries, visit www.9marks.org