Summary: Church "Membership" and Kingdom of God citizenship has extraordinary and unusual privileges.
“Membership Has Its Privileges” Acts 20:20-28
You might remember “back in the 1990s, American Express had an ad campaign for its credit card. Their slogan was: “Membership has its privileges.” The ad implied that those who were fortunate enough to qualify for this status symbol card also qualified for exclusive rewards.” (Nancy Kennedy)
It’s easy enough to apply for an American Express card, but qualifying for GOD’S KINGDOM PRIVILEGES is quite a different thing. Look at Acts 20:20: ”I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, (no stone left unturned: the boldness which accompanies the Gospel) 21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (no one is exempt) 22 "And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, (the leading and empowerment of the Gospel by the Spirit of God) I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. (Everything is NOT rosy because you have been saved.)
24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, (it’s not about ME!) so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.(There’s the REASON we are saved: the GREATEST NEWS ON EARTH! You are saved by Grace through Christ.) 25 "And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26 "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God (Ekklesia: means “the called out ones”, called out of unbelief by the Spirit) which He purchased with His own blood.” (remarkable statement, that the blood of Christ is the blood of God!)
I realize that these verses were written by Paul to the elders in Ephesus as a farewell address, but the Gospel of Salvation by Grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone has astronomical and monumental privileges which do not require you to fill out an application in order to qualify for the Privileges of Membership in the Kingdom of God. God’s Grace in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and escape from hell is NOT ABOUT what YOU do, but what HE HAS DONE. Jesus came to save us, not to help us save ourselves. He gives us all that we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and follow Him.
When the Spirit of God regenerates your heart and causes you to repent from your unbelief and to trust TOTALLY in JESUS ALONE, you are born into His Eternal Kingdom by His Spirit and you become a PERSON of HEAVENLY PRIVILEGE! I want to look at a few of Paul’s membership privileges in becoming a member of God’s Church and a messenger of the Gospel. One of the privileges of membership is…
1. Holy Spirit empowerment. Verse 21 says Paul was “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Work of the Living Spirit of the Living God initiates conversion, convicts of sin, constructs a new heart, continues to lead, guide, strengthen, giving us the message of the Gospel, the means of the Gospel, and makes us mouthpieces of the Gospel. (vs. 25 refers to it as “preaching the kingdom”-what a privilege!)
Paul says in verse 22: “I am BOUND by the Spirit.” Everyone who is NOT bound by the Spirit is still bound by the flesh and bound by sin and unbelief. To believers, Romans 8:9-11 says: “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (SAVED but Simultaneously a sinner) 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” We are no longer bound to lawlessness but recognize that the only life we have is on account of the Spirit of God.