Membership Vows & the Third Commandment

Membership Vows & the Third Commandment

Although the church member is not required to affirm the entire Westminster Confession and Catechisms, his vows are no less serious than those of the minister. In fact, the very reason vows are required is because church membership is a serious thing. In taking membership vows, a person makes “declarations and promises” by which he or she “enter[s] into a solemn covenant with God and His Church” (BCO 57-5). The member takes such vows before the elders, and usually also before the entire congregation. But they are also vows before God Himself, as God is witness to such promises.

  • Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
  • Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  • Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
  • Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
  • Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace? (BCO 57-5)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. (Hebrew 13:17)

In this case, he has not endeavored to live as a follower of Christ (vow 3), since a Christian attends corporate worship (Heb. 10:25). He has not supported the church in its worship and work (vow 4). He has not submitted himself to the government and discipline of the church or studied its purity and peace (vow 5). Because he “has made it known that he has no intention of fulfilling the church vows,” the Session is to “erase” his name from the membership rolls as a form of “pastoral discipline without process” (BCO 38-4). Yet the Session has a duty to remind the member of the “declarations and promises by which he entered into a solemn covenant with God and His Church… and warn him that, if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll.”

Such violation of vows and erasure from membership rolls is not to be taken lightly. It is “discipline without process,” meaning there is no formal discipline process of excommunication. Yet the person erased from membership is no longer a member of Christ’s visible church, and thus he is no longer welcome to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a PCA church (until there is reconciliation and restoration to church membership).

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