I have an article on church membership up at Ref21. Here’s a portion,
Yet, Paul grounds the two metaphors in the same reality: Because of the gospel, Jews and Gentiles alike are sus-soma, of the same body (Ephesians 3:6). The gospel that God reveals shows that scattered individuals are united together by the Spirit under Christ, either with the metaphor of Jesus as the head of his body (Ephesians 1:22-23) or the household cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). By the Holy Spirit, Christians are made members of the household of God, because we share in the same body, that is, we are all united to Christ. This mele, union in Christ, is central to the mystery of the gospel relationship of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:29-32). Salvation is Jesus joining with his people and his people being joined to him. By being his members, the Christian is a participant in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) because Jesus abides in us and we in him (John 14). That is what church membership is, ontologically.
If, as I have argued, there is distinction between desire to sin and orientation to sin in Reformed confessionalism (in general here, on the Nashville statement and Side B here and here), and if people who are oriented to same-sex attraction are committed to orthodox chastity, then why would anyone care if such a person called themselves a gay Christian? This subject has seen a firestorm of controversy as a result of actions and statements taken in the Anglican Church/REC and PCA. The arguments against using “gay Christian” or “same-sex attracted” Christian boil down to a) confusing language to outsiders, b) the implication that communities are being formed based upon a shared proclivity to sin, c) and the unwise addition of excessive, sin-oriented adjectives to describe the identity of the Christian. The PCA’s move is more stark than the Anglican’s, in that it pursues forbidding the ordination of men who would profess such an identity.
The issue at hand is the nature of the identity being avowed. For example, Amber Noel makes a strong case that “gay Christian” is a helpful pastoral category, not for identifying an embracing of sin, but of a real besetting condition upon the sinner. Others in the PCA have argued that identifying oneself as same-sex attracted is only identifying their sin struggle, and that a double-standard is being imposed on same-sex tempted Christians…
People who are part of a particular congregation are often called church “members.” This language is profoundly biblical, and is a visible, covenantal manifestation of the believer’s union with Christ.
μέλος (melos) is the Greek word used to describe the individual parts of a body (literally “body member”). For example, the tongue is an individual member of the body (James 3:5-6). μέλος is used metaphorically to describe the relationship between believers and Christ. Individual believers are all μέλη (members) of Christ (Romans 12:4-5), because we are in Christ. This union with Christ is total: even our bodies, as part of ourselves, are μέλη of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15, Ephesians 5:29-30). We have been united to Christ as his members through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The abiding of John 14 is best described in terms of our union with Christ, our membership in and with him…
…If the word [justification] should signify as much as ‘to make righteous’, as to sanctify does signify ‘to make holy’, still we could grant it, though not in the Popish way; and indeed the Apostle [in] Rom. 5. says, ‘many are made righteous by the second Adam’, which if not meant of inherent holiness, does imply, that the righteousness we have by Christ is not merely declarative, but also constitutive; and indeed one is in order before the other, for a man must be righteous before he can be pronounced or declared so to be…so that there are these two things in justifying, whereof one is the ground of the other, first to make righteous, and then to pronounce or declare so.
-Anthony Burges, The True Doctrine of Justification.
Heidelberg Catechism 20
Q. Are all people then saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?
Only those are saved
who through true faith
are grafted into Christ
and receive all his benefits.
One of the interesting subtleties of the catechism is how it describes salvation. It is not actually faith that saves; faith is the mechanism by which salvation comes, but does not save in itself. Salvation comes from being grafted into Christ. Union with Christ is the essence of salvation and the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Christian.
To be lost in Adam is to be separated from God. To be saved in Jesus is greater than being found my him – it is to be joined to him…