The good, the bad, the beautiful

The good, the bad, the…………….beautiful?  Not exactly a raucous sounding Clint Eastwood movie is it?  But it is a picture of the church found in Acts 4:32 through 5:14, the recounting of Ananias and Sapphira.  The good in that all who had need in the church were finding that need met through other members of this body.  Especially well pictured for us in the person of Barnabas.  The bad in the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.  Not the sin of greed, as supposed by many, but the sin of spiritual deception as posed by these two believers to the church and ultimately to God.

So where is the beautiful?  Doesn’t this story end with the immediate deaths of this husband and wife team?  ‘Falling down and breathing their last’ seems more like a violent ending to a Clint Eastwood movie of the old west than a conclusion to a church service in the first century.   But the story really doesn’t end there, for Luke continues in verse 14 with the fact that ‘more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women’.  Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit recorded for us that the fastest growth spurt of all time for the church followed on the heals of such a traumatic event?

I realize that the scriptures place this verse in the midst of a passage that records ‘many signs and wonders being performed by the apostles’, and this could explain the great growth of the church.  But the scriptures also places it immediately after God’s judgment upon sin in His church.  Verse 13 says that ‘none of the rest dared join them’ but that the people held them in high esteem.  Why did the unbelievers not dare join them?  It was because they saw that this body of believers not only demonstrated the love of Christ toward each other in meeting physical needs but also took sin in their midst very seriously.  Here is the beautiful in this story.

God takes sin seriously in His bride, the church.  It is His purpose to present us holy and blameless before the Father and will go to great lengths to ensure her holiness.  It is a beautiful thing when the church functions properly in holiness and unity as the Psalmist says, ‘how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’

It is apparent that God doesn’t always discipline His children’s spiritual deception as severely as He did Ananias and Sapphira, or as Donald Barnhouse said, ‘each church would need a morgue in it’s basement and a mortician on Pastoral staff’.  But the lesson for today’s church and it’s members is that we need to judge ourselves of personal spiritual deception.

Do we pretend a righteousness we don’t possess?  Do we try and persuade others that we are great prayer warriors when we know that prayer is simply used at meals and bedtime.  Do we lead others to believe that we have it all together spiritually when we know that we are spiritual wrecks?  Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was not a casual misrepresentation but a willful falsity seeking to lead the church to believe they possessed a deeper spirituality than truly existed in their lives.  Today’s church must rid itself of deception among it’s members and live transparent before God and each other.  As Paul says in Ephesians ‘having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.’

Let this year be one in which we as the church speak the truth in love to each other.  For judgment should begin at the household of God.  It is time for the evangelical church to become so distinctly different than the rest of the world that we give people something to convert to.  Let that distinction begin with our truthfulness to one another.

soli deo gloria


2 thoughts on “The good, the bad, the beautiful

  1. Sorry I missed this Sermon !! Will listen to it later. Sounds as if we all should be a little afraid of God’s judgement. (OR maybe a lot afraid). Should serve as an eye opener for many of us. Thanks for always preaching the truth.

  2. Very good message. Really makes you stop and think how disciplined the early church was and how little we regard discipline today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.