The importance of being enrolled in Israel                                          by Jack Kettler


“And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore, were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.” (Ezra 2:61-62)


Genealogical records were essential to Israel during the Old Testament because the records proved a person’s identity as a Jew and member of the covenant community. If an individual was not a Jew, that person could not participate in all aspects of Jewish life and culture. The same holds true for the non-member of the Church today. They cannot participate in all aspects of Church life, such as voting.


Moreover, the genealogical records helped understand the priestly and royal lines in Israel's history. At the time of Christ’s birth, there were genealogical records that helped determine Christ’s genealogical lineage and thereby establish his family tree.


In addition, keeping genealogical records was used for registering citizens and used for numerous purposes see (Jeremiah 22:30 documenting childless); (Ezekiel 13:9 documenting the forbidden work of divination), and (Luke 2:1 for taxation). Subsequently, God is represented as having records of men, their works, and God’s dealings with them. This record is called “the book of life or living.”


In the New Testament, genealogies are downplayed and even warned against if misused:


For example:


“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so, do.” (1 Timothy 1:4)


Instead, passages regarding the book of living or life are emphasized in the New Covenant. The book of living or life has its roots in the Old Testament:


“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:28)


“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.” (Daniel 12:1)


Going into the New Testament:


“… but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).


“I will not erase his name from the book of life.” (Revelation 3:5)


“And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)


The Israelites kept a census, equivalent to a membership roll. The purpose of the census, according to Numbers 1:3, was in regard to planning for war. In the New Covenant, a membership roll makes it possible to vote to approve a church budget, the call and election of ruling elders, and teaching elders. Only members are allowed to present their children for covenant baptism and, in some cases, admittance to the Lord’s Supper.


The Belgic Confession on the necessity of covenant membership:


“ARTICLE 28. Every One Is Bound to Join Himself to The True Church”


“We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and outside of it there is no salvation, that no person of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it; maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them.”

“And that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the Church, and to join themselves to this congregation, wheresoever God has established it, even though the magistrates and edicts of princes were against it, yea, though they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment. Therefore, all those who separate themselves from the same or do not join themselves to it act contrary to the ordinance of God.”


In closing:


In Ezra, the importance and necessity of being enrolled are seen. Likewise, this principle of enrollment carries on into the New Covenant by taking the form of Church membership. Moreover, the Church’s membership rolls mirror the “book of the living or book of life” Given the fact of wheat and tares; the mirror is not perfectly identical. 


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: Amazon