Church Discipline The makeup of this church was also demonstrated in the incident just previous to the one discussed in the last essay, where Ananias came in and laid a bag of silver at the feet of Peter for distribution. Now if the disciples of that day had the same bearing as some and were as irreverent as people in assemblies called churches today, there would have been catcalls, hand clapping and shouts like, â€œYou go Ananias, youâ€™re the manâ€ and such like. But that is not what happened.
In time the parents of all men fell from where they had been placed, and ever since it has been the aim and purpose of reasonable and interested people to struggle back to that innocence and purity found in Eden. But you also know that we cannot do that on our own, for since we rejected God, we must first humble ourselves and look to the God in heaven for guidance so that we might once again come under his favor.
In a similar way, also in the fullness of time, God established a perfect church, or as near a perfect church when given to humankind as could be made while our sins still separated us from God and we so desperately required his favor. This church like the first family on earth also fell in time. But not necessarily because of any sin on its part — but it fell due more to the events of the day and the will of God in moving a different direction. Since then it has also been the aim and purpose of those truly seeking to please God and of those who rightly divide the word of God to go back to the principles upon which the church of Christ was established and to emulate the principle characteristics of that first church — the church established in Jerusalem.
Today there is little talk of following patterns in order to be pleasing to God. We seem to be moving backwards into error and into the notion that patterns just do not much matter; and many believe that we have some independence and latitude and right to dispose of or to amend where none has ever been granted. Some say the examples and teachings in the New Testament simply cannot or do not apply today. We have some that say that the teachings of Christ are themselves just general guidelines and that they cannot apply to the specifics of this age. In some cases we find new twists and think that we have found an interpretation of scripture never before seen by the eyes of men and that allows us to change the very things that were ordained in the clear and concise word of God. Patterns are not necessary and certainly not applicable now, or there are new patterns that we just stumbled upon one day — so thank you, we will worship God as we see fit.
I will grant that it is true that the church in Jerusalem did not pass through every trial and test that some of the churches since have come under. Yet it is still a model to the extent of the experiences through which it was called to pass, and these things are collected in scripture by way of example and for our learning.
You know that the notion that patterns do not matter found accepting ears long ago. There have always been the dissuaders and dissenters to tell us that we do not need to bother with any detail or the particulars when worshipping God. Some are so bold as to say there are no patterns and in their words and deeds you might conclude that they have some godliness, scriptural reason, or even just logic behind such ideas and practices or the lack of them — but then you would be wrong.
To explode these ideas we only need to ponder the answer to one question: did Israel require new interpretations of God’s word? Did they rise in unison to say that we see it another way? Well we know that when some of them did just that the retribution was swift and complete. What was the outcome when Israel did not follow the clear commands, the examples and patterns they had been given, or what came about when they rebelliously offered up alternatives to God in place of his command and requirement, or if they failed to adhere to any of the patterns that they had been given?
I have no need to even comment on this because those of you with just a reasonable knowledge of the Old Testament already know the answers. You know what became both of the Hebrews and of Israel when they became stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears and refused to heed the word of God. Once we know the answer and the outcomes all that we need to do is to repair what we are doing and to make the necessary changes so that we too do not fall under the same condemnation.
Some doubter might say, “Where is the retribution of God for these things now?” And we will just suggest that it has not been forgotten and that God is not off slumbering somewhere, but that once again, in the fullness of time things will once again be set aright.
(This series is based closely upon a lesson by J. W. McGarvey)