Are God's people "church members?" What is a "member of the Church of Christ?" Are "memberships" to be placed into "local churches?" flow does the Ho­ly Spirit use the word, "member," in the New Testament?

Jesus said, "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off', and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of the members should perish, and not that thy whole body be cast into hell" (Matt. 9:30).

James wrote, "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things" (Jas. 3:51.

Paul stated, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12). "...gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body..." (Eph. 1:22, 23)· "And he is the head of the body, the church..." (Col. 1:18).

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary lists five different usages of "member." Two of his definitions are germane to the thoughts in this article. "Member: 1. Archaic· A bodily part or organ, esp., a limb. 2. One of the persons composing a society, community, or party."

The foregoing Scripture excerpts clearly evidence the exact kind of "member" the Holy Spirit uses in His teachings. Without exception, in the New Testament, a "member" is a part, or organ, of a body. By figure, "member" is a spiritual part, or spiritual organ, of a spiritual body. This fits the first definition of the word given by Webster.

Denominational teachers misuse the word, "member." They exchange the Biblical use of'"member," as a bodily organ, for "member," as one of a society, community or party. In so doing, they. have as many, types of party members as there are denominations. There are "Catholic members," "Baptist members," "Presbyterian members," and perhaps upward to a thousand other types of party "members." A Baptist "member," for instance, is not a "Catholic member." We should be wise enough to know that an organ ("member") is not one of a party ("member").

The New Testament speaks in many figures. Figures are to be understood in the same way they are commonly used today. Nothing should be read into a figure that was not there in the first place, nor intended by its user. One should not take a part from one figure and replace that part with a part fi-om another figure. Each figure should completely stand in its own imagery and action.

God uses many and varied figures to relate Himself with His people, in whole and in part. He teaches a tender, near, and dear relationship that He holds to each one of His people, representing them as parts in His figures. In turn, each person, or part, is shown to have a like tender relationship with all other persons, or parts. Here are a sampling few.

· A church of saints (1 Cor. 1:2).
· A kingdom of citizens (Eph. 2:11).
· A building of stones (1 Pet. 2:5).
· A vine of branches (John 15:5).
· A fold of sheep {John 10:1-18).
· A house(hold) of children (1 Pet.. 4:17; I John 3:10)
· A body of members (Rom. 12:4, 5).

Note: The ecclesia (church) is no more an institutional container of saints tla the kingdom of God is an institutional container of citizens . The same principle holds true with the building, vine, sheep fold, household and body. God is the absolute king of His kingdom, as also he is the absolute head of the ecclesia (church).

Hybrid expressions and mutations of false doctrines can come from mix-lng and juggling of parts of different figures. Peter spoke of those who would "wrest" the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:161. Paul spoke of those who would "pervert" the gospel (Gal. 1:7). One way unstable souls may be beguiled is by taking away a part of one figure from its setting, and replacing that part with a part from another figure. The result of figures and parts mixing could become a whole new teaching. One could about "prove" anything in his own mind by handling God's Word in that way.

"Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles" (Matt. 6:17)? Are sheep, instead of stones, set into buildings? Does a stone, instead of a branch, bear much fruit? To ask such questions is but to answer them.

Does one have his "citizenship" in a "local church?" Does one place his "branchship," "sheepship," or stoneship into a "local Church of Christ?" By juggling figure parts, one could become any of those relationships in his own mind. Such would be unsound reasoning.

Does one place his "membership" in a "local church?" It is so preached and practiced! Yet, have we ever read of a "church member" in the whole New Testament? Have we read of "church membership?" We should know the answer is, "No!".

Objection: "But, doesn't the Bible say we are members of the body, and the body is the church? Would that not make us, in a sense, members of the church?" Answer: The same Bible also teaches us that we are the household of God, and the household is the church (1 Tim. 3:15). It would be the same degree of nonsense to say one is a "child of the church" as to say one is a "member of the church? The unsound principle of figure mixing would be the same in each instance.

There is no such thing, scripturally, as a "church member." It is almost common practice anymore for some to follow the sects, and say, "I am a member of the church of Christ, and you are a member of the Catholic Church!"

Before one can become a "church member," certain things must transpire, brought about by human reasoning.

*One must change his concept of what the ecclesia really is, which is the totality of saints, into a supposed organizational, institutional, mystical church (society, community, or party), for content of "members."

*One must change or juggle parts of two figures, by removing "saints" from the ecclesia (church), and replacing those "saints" with "members" from out of the body of Christ. A "church member" becomes a hybrid expression.

*One must twist the meaning of one kind of "member" (bodily organ), into an altogether different meaning of "member" (a person of a society, community, or party). A party "member" is a transmuted teaching.

Paul taught against certain Corinthian saints having contended over what they thought was a best spiritual gift, tongue speaking. He compared saints as organs within one body. Each organ, though some were more comely than others, must receive like care, for the good of the whole body. The body is Christ (1 Cor. 12). But, does Paul's lesson to the Corinthians about tenderness of each bodily organ, teach us also that there are "Church of Christ members," as opposed to "Methodist members?" Nay, verily!

Had God willed that His people be called by other names than He has written, He would have written those other names in His will also. We are saints, making up the ecclesia, and not "members," making up an organizational, institutional church (party). Lest we forget!