Drinking Deeply

Thursday, November 03, 2005 at 2:13 PM

Judge lest ye be judged (5)

So I'm going to try to give an idea of the answer to the question, "what's God's purpose in church discipline?" Many of these ideas come from John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel. It's a good book, I strongly suggest you check it out.

Acts 5(ESV)

Ananias and Sapphira
1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." 9But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In Acts chapter 5, church discipline is exacted immediately by God. A simple sin, a simple (and immediate) punishment. Why such a harsh punishment for something that seems so small? All they did was lie about how much they donated. They wanted to appear better to the people around them so they said it was all the money when it wasn't. But why is this such a big deal? Why did God respond so harshly to something seemingly so trivial?

Their sin was that they lied. The lied to the congregation, they lied to God. Instantly Peter rebukes them. He doesn't figure that though their heart was in the wrong place, it was still a large sum of money, but he calls them out on their hypocrisy and lie. Why? Because God hates sin. He hates hypocrisy. When we lie to one another, we are sinning against God, and it is perfectly within God's justice to call down judgment upon us in the exact same manner as with Ananias.

Thus through this story, we see a powerful truth. Church discipline exists because God is Holy. God isn't about how good we look to other people. God is about God. What is the result of church discipline? "11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things." This isn't some casual thing to trifle with. Church discipline is also about showing to the world that we are called to be different. It's about the purity of the church and the holiness of God.

**Note** This isn't the whole picture, there is another reason for judgment in the church that I will address in my next post, but this certainly is the main one.

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