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What it Means to BELONG...

August 4, 2021 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments


Our church is united on the basis of a covenant. Many of you will recall that we read a reduced form of this covenant when we welcome new members in public. From time to time we elect to review, understand afresh, and recommit ourselves to our church covenant. This normally takes place during a member’s meeting.

After all the disorientation, separation and isolation brought about by Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions, the elders believe the timing is right to renew our commitment to our covenant at this year’s mid-year member’s meeting to be held on Sunday, August 29.

Calling each other to commit to live together in a serious covenantal community is counter-cultural and has never been more important. We live in a culture of hyper-individualism that is increasingly anti-authoritarian, anti-commitment and averse to accountability and institutions. It is truly a time when “everybody does what’s right in his own eyes” (Judges).

This attitude has infected even many in the church. We believe it is important in this environment to strengthen biblical community. It is a powerful testimony to a world so divided with hostility. With this in mind, I offer you a biblical basis for a church covenant in very brief compass.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10, ESV)

Biblical covenants are the backbone of the bible’s story of redemption. A covenant, simply put, is a sacred bond sealed with a solemn vow or oath. Marriage vows are a good example of a modern covenant. While there are many covenants in the bible, the new covenant is considered the climax of all the covenants. Describing the New Covenant, theologian Thomas Schreiner states,

The new covenant represents the culmination of God’s saving work among his people. God regenerates his people by his Spirit and renews their hearts so that they obey him. The basis for such renewal is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for by his atoning death and resurrection complete forgiveness of sins is achieved. Hence, a new and bold access to God that wasn’t available in the old covenant is obtained. [1]

Tony-NewThe new covenant, promised by God the Father (Jer. 31:31), secured and sealed by the blood of Jesus the Son (1 Cor. 11:25), applied by God the Holy Spirit in the new birth (Jn. 3), brings into existence the universal people of God. This is the ground of our unity and hope! From Peter and Paul to you and me, “there is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4-6). All this is due to God’s fulfillment of the new covenant promises which includes: (1) renewal of the heart; (2) regeneration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit; (3) complete forgiveness of sin; and (4) reunification of the people of God.

Because the new covenant brings into existence the universal church, it follows that each genuine local church is an expression of that universal body of Christ. Hence, each local church exists because of the new covenant and is therefore shaped and governed by the new covenant. Just as we are graciously bound to God by the new covenant, we are bound to each other as well.

For many believers this covenant relationship with others remains vague and largely undefined in their minds. We find it easier to consider our relationship to God as being established by his promises and saving power in the new covenant but how does this impact us horizontally? How is it that the new covenant governs the inter-relations of the local church?

The answer lies in the covenant promise that God’s law is written upon our hearts (Jer. 32:39-42; Eze. 36:26-27). This is the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who enables Christians to obey God. The new covenant produces the fruit of the obedience of faith (Rom. 7:1-8:4). Furthermore, the law is summed up in the two commandments that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength AND love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:40). Both love for God and love of neighbor are implications and capacities belonging to those in the new covenant.

Hence, just as we have responsibilities to our Lord and Savior, we have responsibilities to each other. HOW to love each other as members of the new covenant is enumerated throughout the New Testament. Church covenants, such as ours, are simply a distillation of the New Testament “one another” commands.

The single Greek term aleilon (one another) is used 100 times in 94 verses in the New Testament. Forty-seven of these verses are speaking to Christians. Approximately one third of these are commands addressing unity, another third address mutual love and the need for humility, and the remainder speak to various other attitudes and actions. I provide them for you to see below. Please take the time to read them and even read them in their original contexts.


Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)
Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:16, 15:5)
Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
Wait for one another before beginning the Lord’s Supper (1 Co 11:33)
Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Ga 5:15)
Don’t boastfully challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26).
Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)
Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)
Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)
Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)
Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:11, 5:9)
Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)


Love (Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 3:12, 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 4:7, 11; 2 Jn 5)
Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)
Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)
Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pe 5:14)
Be devoted to one another in love (Ro 12:10)


Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)
Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)
Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)
Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind (Ro 12:16)
Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)
Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)


Do not judge one another, and don’t put a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Ro 14:13)
Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:16; 1 Co 16:20; 2 Co 13:12)
Husbands and wives: don’t deprive one another of physical intimacy (1 Co 7:5)
Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)
Speak truth to one another (Ep 4:25)
Don’t lie to one another (Co 3:9)
Comfort one another concerning the resurrection (1 Th 4:18)
Encourage and build up one another (1 Th 5:11)
Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (He 10:24)
Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
Be hospitable to one another (1 Pe 4:9)

To our members: In an increasingly separatist, individualistic, and anti-authoritarian culture—where people are averse to commitment and accountability– we are asking the members of GBC to joyfully renew your commitment to one another as new covenant believers of this local church. You are already spiritually members of one another via the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You have already chosen to make GBC your church home so recall and reaffirm this decision in your heart before the Lord.

To our new attenders: Take a few minutes to read through the above and consider what it means to “belong” to a local church. Congregational life is more than watching others “do ministry” for you. It is life together. Christians don’t simply “attend” church; they are the church to one another within the context of a local congregation, empowered by the Holy Spirit and directed by the New Testament one another commands.

“Communion is strength; solitude is weakness. Alone, the fine old beech yields to the blast and lies prone on the meadow. In the forest, supporting each other, the trees laugh at the hurricane. The sheep of Jesus flock together. The social element is the genius of Christianity.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

Tony Sanelli is a Pastor/Teacher at Grace Bible Church

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 118.