Acts 9:26 says, “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” Today we often hear the phrase “join the church.” Did Saul “join a church” as we hear it spoken of today?
In Acts 2 we read of the beginning of the Lord’s church. There we find two things: (1) people being saved in obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:38), and (2) these same people being “added” by the Lord to His church. Acts 2:47 says, “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” According to the New Testament, what a person does to be saved, he does to obtain membership in the Lord’s church. Becoming a member of the church of Christ is not a matter of comparing several religious groups, deciding which suits one best, and then applying for membership or “joining up.” Rather, it is a matter of obeying the Gospel, at which time the Lord Himself immediately adds you to His body, the church. This is the only means of entering the church of Christ.
Since that is the case, and since Saul had already been added by the Lord to the church, what was he attempting to do here? The word church is also used in a local sense to refer to Christians who assemble and work together in a given community. A Christian is a member of Christ’s body,…he is baptized in one body, but he is not a member of every local congregation around the world. When Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples at Jerusalem, he was simply seeking to become identified for the time being with them. He had already been added by the Lord to His church, but he was seeking to work and worship with that local church.
Likewise, when we obey the Gospel and are added by the Lord to His church, we then need to assemble and work with a local, faithful, congregation of God’s people. We need to submit ourselves to a local eldership (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2). There is no doubt that for our good, for the good of others, and for the good of the kingdom, God desires that we make known our intentions to be a part of a faithful local congregation of His people. This can be made known by letter or by announcement.