We are an Independent, Fundamental, Bible-believing and Bible-teaching Baptist Church. Although that isn't our name it does convey our position on the Scriptures and the autonomy of the local church. However, we do have three other written documents that mean a great deal to this church and each member. They help organize and define what we do and why we do it. They do not supercede the Bible, nor are they in conflict with the Bible. They naturally fall under the authority of God's Word and give the church guidelines and structures in which to operate.
These three written documents are the Articles of Faith, the Constitution & By-laws, and the Church Covenant. The first spells out exactly what we believe and why we believe it. The second gives us guidelines on how we are to govern the local church and its membership. The third is the promise that each member makes to the rest of the membership of the local body.
Tonight, I want us to consider the Church Covenant. Perhaps there are some who are unaware of its existence, and others who are unaware of its importance.
I. Our Mutual Compact. (1st Paragraph)
A. The prerequisites for church membership.
1. One must be convicted by the Spirit of God.
2. One must be converted. (however we realize that salvation is of the Lord, and that we cannot tell whether a person's profession of faith is real or not!)
3. One must confess Christ. cf. Ro. 10:9-10
4. One must conform to water baptism. cf. Mt. 28:19
a. water baptism publically identifies the believer with Christ
b. and it also identifies the believer with the local body of believers
B. The presence of witnesses.
1. The presence of God.
2. The presence of angels.
3. The presence of this assembly (or local church).
C. The promise (covenant) we make.
1. It is joyfully entered into.
2. It is with one another as members of the body. cf 1 Co. 12:12 & 27
II. Our Mutual Commitment. (2nd Par.)
A. To walk together in Christian love. cf. Ephesians 5:1-2
1. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
2. We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to walk worthy.
3. We can walk in love for one another. cf. Jn. 13:34-35
B. To strive for the advancment of this church. (strive = to engage in strenuous effort, hard, earnest labor)
1. In knowledge, that is what we know. (spiritual growth)
2. In holiness, that is what we are. (spiritual walk)
3. In comfort, that is what we do. (spiritual ministry)
C. To promote its prosperity and spirituality. (how?)
1. By sustaining its worship.
2. By observing its ordinances. (baptism and the Lord's Supper)
3. By sustaining its discipline and doctrines.
4. By giving the church pre- eminence over all other organizations or institutions.
5. By contributing to meet the expenses of the church.
c. general fund & missions
III. Our Mutual Conduct and Care. (3rd paragraph)
A. Concerning our family.
1. Maintain family and private devotions.
2. Religiously educate our children.
3. Seeking to evangelize our family and friends.
B. Concerning our community.
1. Walk circumspectly in this world. cf. Ep. 5:15-16
2. Maintain high standard of behavior in business dealings.
3. Maintain high standard of personal behavior.
a. avoiding all tattling and backbiting.
b. holding our tempers. "Be angry and sin not" cf. Ep. 4:26
c. abstaining from the sale and use of liquor.
4. Be zealous to advance the kingdom of our Savior. (that means maintaining a good testimony in our community!)
IV. Our Mutual Challenge. (4th paragraph)
A. We are challenged to demonstrate Christian goodness.
1. In looking out for one another.
2. In praying for one another.
3. In ministering to one another during times of sickness and distress. cf. 2 Co. 1:3-4
B. We are challenged to develop Christian graces.
1. To cultivate Christian sympathy. cf. Ro. 12:15
2. To develop Christian courtesy in feeling and in speech. cf. Ephesians 4:29
C. We are challenged to display Christian growth.
1. In personal discipline; slow to take offense.
2. Always ready for reconcili- ation in accordance with Christ's command.(Mt. 5:23-24)
Conclusion: The final paragraph of the church covenant points out that our promise is perpetual. And that if we move away from this place we will unite with another local body where we can fulfill the same promise in accordance with the principles of God's Word.
This is our covenant with each other made in the presence of God. It is not a light thing to be a member of Grace Baptist Temple. Too often people view the church as a place where they can come to take spiritual nourishment without putting anything back into it.
This evening we are reminded of our mutual covenant, our mutual committment, our mutual conduct and care for one another, and our mutual challenge to live out what we say we believe.
Two different people asked me the same question this week. "What is wrong with our church?" The answer is that we need a revival! The revival must start within each of us, and it must address our commitment to God and to one another.