'Natural Born Citizen' is a hot topic in the media lately. But we are talking about a different kingdom than modern-day politics. In the church, there is no such thing as a 'natural born citizen' - meaning someone who is automatically a citizen without requirements to become one. So, how then, does one become a member of the church or a citizen of God's kingdom? As always, let's use the Bible to answer that question.
To begin with, we will go back to the beginning. What was it that the first citizens did to become members in this kingdom? If you recall, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to the people gathered at Jerusalem. In Acts 2, he preached to them about Old Testament prophecies we discussed in part 2, then in verse 36 Peter tells them that they had crucified Jesus. The people were distraught and asked what to do. Look how Peter answers them in verse 38:
"And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'" (Acts 2:38-39)
Peter was speaking to people who already believed in God and had, evidently, through Peter's lesson, learned about the Christ and believed Peter's words. So, now they were to repent (or turn from their sins) and be baptized. Later in verse 47 we are told that the Lord added to their number, daily, those that should be saved. No group of men voted them in, but by their obedience to God, he added them to the kingdom.
There are those who say that simply believing is enough. Okay, so what if I tell you that someone was going to your house tonight with a gun and planned to kill you. If you believed me, that belief would cause you to act on the belief. You would not be home or you would have some sort of protection in place. Your belief in God's words should also show some action. It is as James says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17)
Another group of people say that baptism isn't necessary, only repentance. If I told my child to go to the store and get bread and milk and he only brought the bread, he would be in trouble. Folks, why is it that we think God will be happy when we only do half of what he says? If God says it then we must do it! (John 14:15, 21, 15:10, 1 John 5:2-3, 2 John 1:6)
Still not sure if baptism is essential to get into the kingdom? Let's read a few more verses:"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) "No condemnation" means no hell, we would receive the reward of heaven! I don't know about you, but I want that. So, how do we get that? We have to be 'in Christ Jesus'. How do we get there? The Roman writer has already told us, so let's go back to chapter 6:
"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin." (Romans 6:3-7)
In order to get in Christ (or in the body of Christ), we must be baptized into Christ. Once we are there we have so many blessings. Read Ephesians chapter 1 sometime and underline all the blessings we have by being a part of the Kingdom of God.
One other requirement. When studying the Bible, we must take into account every scripture about a topic and see what fits and what doesn't. There's still one more requirement. Take a look at this:
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)Do these verses teach that believing and confession is all you have to do? Let's think about it with this verse: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder!" (James 2:19) Are demons going to be saved? Of course not, so there has to be more than believing - there is the acting on belief which is repentance and baptism.So, the requirements of being a citizen are: to believe, confess, repent (change from doing wrong to doing right) and be baptized. Don't miss out on becoming part of God's Kingdom!
Check back next week for part 6 of this series on the church.