PCA Membership Vows, Part 1
I once had the privilege of waiting at the airport with a group of friends for the arrival of three special people. Two had left for China, but three were on the return flight. And their friends and family members stood around in anticipation of greeting the newest family member who had been recently adopted. Not only did this family grow in number, but a new member would soon be added to the local church as well. In the reception of this new child into the family, it was striking that many church members were also present. The tapestry of the Church is made with many faces and many backgrounds and stories, but there is a story that is common to all who would come to join the Church of Jesus Christ. Last Sunday we had the honor of seeing our number at All Saints increase. As our new family members stood before us, we heard them make declarations and promises. I want to spend the next several weeks walking through the five questions that are asked of all new members as they join our church and examine the underlying biblical principles at work. I heard one pastor summarize the five questions in this way: Sin, Savior, Sanctification, Support, and Submission. Each question is common to all of us as we are united as one body under Christ, our Head.
Before we consider each question, I want to remind you what is taking place when someone stands before the congregation and affirms these promises. Ephesians 2:16-22 says, “… [Christ has] reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” These verses express the trinitarian work of the Father, Son, and Spirit in saving, adopting, joining together, and preserving his saints together in one Church. As a congregation, we seek to reflect this truth in the very name of our church—All Saints Presbyterian Church.
The “declarations and promises” reflect the principles at work in these verses as we are being united together under a common confession of what we believe concerning our sin, our Savior, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the support we have in one another, and our submission to God’s design for his Church. We are brothers and sisters, adopted as family members and united together under these five affirmations in one church body. What a joy it is to hear afresh these vows every time a new member joins our church and to be reminded of the design and purpose of Christ’s Church in which we are bound to one another. In these declarations and promises, we are assured that Jesus will bring us all to the end, when God will make his dwelling place with us for eternity. And until that day, his Church will endure. As the book of Revelation reaches its end, we are told this, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Rev 21:7)” We are bound together in these five declarations and promises unto that end!