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On Church Membership and Fencing the Lord's Table

The following is the concluding paragraph of a position paper--from the 18th General Assembly of the PCA--on the issue of how ministers ought to fence the Lord's Table. You can read the entire paper here:

"...the clear evidence of Scripture is that the church should keep a roll of members. The supreme model for our membership roll is the membership roll of heaven (Exodus 32:32,33; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8; 20:12,15). The Biblical pattern is for new believers to be "numbered" or "added to" the rolls of the local church (Acts 2:41,47; 6:7; 1 Timothy 5:9). Members could be taken away from the roll (1 Corinthians 5:2)- this indicates more than being physically barred, since even unbelievers could attend Christian worship (1 Corinthians 14:23) -- or reinstated (2 Corinthians 2:6-7); it is impossible to have coherent discipline without such a roll. There was a widow's roll for diaconal purposes (1 Timothy 5:9). Elders are to know their sheep, and are accountable for the care of the flock entrusted to them -- this demands knowing who they are; that is, it demands a list or roll (Hebrews 13:7,17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:11- 14; I Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). The apostolic church utilized letters of transfer or commendation (Acts 18:27; Romans 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 8:23-24); examples of these letters include Philemon and 3 John. Interchurch business was conducted by people with reference letters (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24). We conclude therefore that requiring professed believers to be enrolled as members of an evangelical church as a condition for taking the Lord's Supper is consistent with sound Biblical practice."1

1. Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Fencing the Lord's Table (18th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, 1990) p. 170.

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