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.
Consider first the fact that the church of Jerusalem was for most if not all of it existence under the guidance of inspired men. Sometimes this fact seems to slip from our attention. I want to note to you that this cannot be the case in our own day: that we have inspired men to lead. These inspired men have all long ago passed on to their rewards and are before the throne of God in heaven. There are no men and women with this direct indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God today, not this miraculously granted and maintained indwelling, and not any other kind of personal spiritual indwelling. There is neither any visitation by Christ or the Holy Spirit, nor any personalized physical or spiritual indwelling of the Holy Spirit or of the Christ that was ever promised or exampled to those outside of the apostles and the first disciples to whom such things were evidenced for the work of completing the gospel plan of salvation.
You likely know that virtually all denominations and religious bodies in this day think and teach otherwise. But, that is of little concern to me as neither they nor you could ever prove such things either through handling aright of the word of God or by simple examination of empirical evidence. There is just nothing but wishful thinking behind this fallow theory and it is the work of the devil; and neither we nor our families and neighbors should be led away by fairy tales. These things have been discussed and examined in considerable detail both on this site and on the Haverhill Road church’s site in several of Brent Kercheville’s lessons (www.westpalmbeachchurchofchrist.com). We bid you to study the truth of these things for yourself.
It is therefore by design that there are no longer inspired men and women in the churches. God’s intent was to turn the working of the gospel plan of salvation over to “earthen vessels” and so it has been done, exactly as it was proposed. The organization, the ministry, the discipline, and the work of the church must be performed through individuals, acting upon their own recognition of the will of God, in strict adherence to the instructions found in the word of God. That is a hinge part of the plan. God does not continuously correct us here, we have been left perfect instruction and set examples, and we have been challenged to adhere to what has been given, for only one accounting remains.
You should then know that the church in Jerusalem was not built upon wild tales; it was built upon the foundation of Christ and was established directly through the efforts of his own apostles. These apostles were the top layer of its establishment. Below this upper crust of inspiration and instruction was a second layer and body of disciples who had also been seasoned with the direct teachings of Christ, a body composed of both men and women, the number of which we are told was about 120 before the establishment of the church. Add further upon these others who had been added in the last days of the Lord’s life, those who perhaps could be said to have followed from a distance. Then add once again the converted religious Jews and proselytes that became Christians in the days and weeks beyond the first Pentecost following Christ’s death, and you would then have the fundamental makeup of the first church at Jerusalem.
Of these disciples, proselytes and Jews, we know only that they were devout in their worship and high minded and distinct of character. Of these that were added on and after Pentecost, many had heard only a single sermon and based upon that and the events surrounding them they responded immediately to the gospel of Christ. There was no hesitation of the sort that we see today, but before the sun had daily set several thousand had been baptized into Christ, and countless others followed every day. These were the unsung devout of their generation. Nameless and faceless common men and women who responded immediately to Heaven’s call and set out upon the path that Christ had surveyed and marked as their path to walk in this life and leading to the next. Many have wondered why the instruction of the truth has no audience now like to these. And I suspect (just as many of you do) that it is not the fault of the message but rather the lack of influence and performance on the part of the teachers.
Considering then the makeup and caliber of those early church members in Jerusalem, along with the capable and sure core of teachers and minds found there to mold them, why would anyone be surprised that the record states “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and in fellowship and in the breaking of bread and in prayers?” (Acts 2:42)