so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:5 English Standard Version (ESV)



As we think of the meaning of church membership, we should look closely at what the Scriptures say about it.  They say plenty, and – as is so often the case – they say things that might be counter to what we thought before.  CS Lewis, in his address to the Society of Saint Alban and St. Sergius, entitled “Membership,” informs us that the Greek word that is translated to “members” in our English bibles is actually a word “of Christian origin.”  And – as is also often the case – the word, as its usage has evolved over these two millenia – has come to be understood to mean something quite different from what it originally meant.

Nowadays we say “members of a class” to indicate how individuals are alike.  That is, a “class” is defined by a particular shared characteristic.  We have a class of men who are over six-feet tall.  These men, in our modern usage, are “members” precisely because of the characteristic that they share.  In the ancient, Biblical usage, individuals are “members one of another” for exactly the opposite reason.  They are members because they differ, they vary.  They are parts – differing and complimentary parts – of a body.


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