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Message – Discipline in the Church Part 2
Discipline in the Church Part 2
[Pt. 2 – Removing leaven from the church.]
A New Covenant keeping of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
So this is the third week in which we have been on a passage in Acts 20, where Paul was encouraging and warning the pastors of Ephesus regarding their sacred duties before Jesus the Chief Shepherd.
Let’s refresh our minds with what was actually said. It is found in Acts 20:28-31,
“(28) Watch out for yourselves and for all the flockof which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that He obtained with the blood of His Own Son.
(29) I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them.
(31) Therefore be alert”
Now we have been considering the scriptural implications of this encouragement and warning. Last week having spent some time examining their roles as protectors of the sheep in terms of addressing sin in their midst.
It was bad enough that false teachers were going to rise up among them, attempting to lead the flock away following after false doctrines. That however, is not the only threat!
Sin in the midst of the people of God is not only the greatest threat, it is often the very precursor to the acceptance of false doctrines since sin dulls our sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us to lead us into and keep us in the truth.
THIS is the real crux of the matter for us in our study through Acts and that is our relationship, communion and dependency upon the Holy Spirit of God.
HE IS OUR HELPER in the work of forming the kingdom of God within us and spreading it through us.
To allow continued and unrepentant sin in the congregation is to work against the Holy Spirit of God.
So this week we are looking a little further into this concern of all churches
To further our understanding of how sin in the church is to be dealt with we looked to one of the most outstanding examples of sin being dealt with in a church offered in the scriptures – that of Paul with the Corinthians.
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul addresses the issue of the man living in sexual sin, tells them to remove that man from their fellowship and turn him over to satan for ‘unavoidable distress and torment” of the flesh, so that his spirit might be saved in the day of judgment.
After saying these things, which addressed the immediate threat to the spiritual well-being of their church, Paul begins to address the topic in a broader context beginning in verse 6.
“(6) Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? (7) Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
Now this is a reference which these Corinthians had been made familiar, since it was VERY JEWISH.
Traditionally yeast (or leaven) is used throughout scripture metaphorically for sin, false doctrine and evil.
The church is being told they are responsible for cleaning out the yeast. This applies to all the above – sin, false doctrine and evil of every kind and that is the greater take away Paul is teaching here, but it has a very clear reference to sin in their midst since that is precisely what he has been writing about.
He literally JUST told them to remove the man in unrepentant sexual sin from their midst, and turn him over to satan – and then starts talking about removing yeast from dough.
I may not be the most insightful person, being a sort of deliberate type, but even I can easily see that the dough is the local assembly and the yeast is the sin or any Christian sibling in their assembly who is living willingly and unrepentantly in sin.
Now, as I told you, this removal of yeast among them was a metaphor deeply rooted in Judaism, in fact it was the very focus of the very first annual event and feast they learned before they were taken from Egyptian captivity. Meaning this metaphor predates the giving of the law itself!
We can see that this event was what Paul was pointing to as his example in the next verse.
“(8) So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
So Paul references the Festival of Unleavened Bread which was the festival which immediately followed Passover. So we need to understand these words inside of this context if we are to understand it at all.
Notice that Paul uses “vice and evil” as words which represent the yeast or leaven, and “sincerity and truth” with a state of being unleavened.
Truth is not surprising coming from Paul by the Spirit’s inspiration, but sincerity is another issue. God does not like pretense – because it is dishonest.
I got to thinking about it and I remembered several times Paul mentioning the value of sincerity…so I looked it up. It appeared less than I thought it did but he does place a premium on it with statements like…
- 2Cor. 1:12,“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
- 2Cor. 2:17, “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”
- 2Cor. 8:8,“I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.”
- Eph. 6:24,“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”
- Col. 3:22, “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.”
So part of being free from yeast is not just living in the truth, but doing it with the whole heart in genuine sincerity.
Now let’s go read about the first Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread so that we can better understand what Paul is getting at here.
Remember that Egypt was often viewed symbolically as a type of the world, so that when Israel was called out of Egypt it serves as a parallel to us being called out of the world.
“(1) The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
(2) “This month is to be your beginning of months; it will be your first month of the year. (3) Tell the whole community of Israel, ‘In the tenth day of this month they each must take a lamb for themselves according to their families – a lamb for each household.
(4) If any household is too small for a lamb, the man and his next-door neighbor are to take a lamb according to the number of people – you will make your count for the lamb according to how much each one can eat.
(5) Your lamb must be perfect, a male, one year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. (6) You must care for it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then the whole community of Israel will kill it around sundown.
(7) They will take some of the blood and put it on the two side posts and top of the doorframe of the houses where they will eat it.
(8) They will eat the meat the same night; they will eat it roasted over the fire with bread made without yeast and with bitter herbs. (9) Do not eat it raw or boiled in water, but roast it over the fire with its head, its legs, and its entrails. (10) You must leave nothing until morning, but you must burn with fire whatever remains of it until morning.
(11) This is how you are to eat it – dressed to travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.
Though some symbolism might be lost on us, the personal nature of this resonates with us for it is a type of salvation. The lamb, the taking all of Him into ourselves, the blood on the doorposts, the consuming of the sacrifice with haste – ready to leave the world behind. All of this is a picture of the salvation brought to us in Christ our lamb.
“(12) I will pass through the land of Egypt in the same night, and I will attack all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of humans and of animals, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the LORD. (13) The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, so that when I see the blood I will pass over you, and this plague will not fall on you to destroy you when I attack the land of Egypt.”
Because we are in Christ or rather Christ is IN us, and His blood has been applied to the door of our hearts, we have passed from judgment to life.
THIS needs to be something we LIVE in the remembrance of as the next verse says!
“(14) This day will become a memorial for you, and you will celebrate it as a festival to the LORD
– you will celebrate it perpetually as a lasting ordinance.
(15) For seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.
Surely on the first day you must put away yeast from your houses because anyone who eats bread made with yeast from the first day to the seventh day will be cut off from Israel.
(16) On the first day there will be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there will be a holy convocation for you.
You must do no work of any kind on them, only what every person will eat – that alone may be prepared for you.”
These two were considered Sabbath days in addition to the last day of the week. THAT is VERY important to remember!
“(17) So you will keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, BECAUSE on this very day I brought your regiments out from the land of Egypt, and so you must keep this day perpetually as a lasting ordinance.
(18) In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you will eat bread made without yeast until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening.
(19) For seven days yeast must not be found in your houses, for whoever eats what is made with yeast – that person will be cut off from the community of Israel, whether a resident foreigner or one born in the land. (20) You will not eat anything made with yeast; in all the places where you live you must eat bread made without yeast.’”
Seven, of course, is the number of completion or perfection, so eating the bread of sincerity and truth for seven days points to the end or completion of our faith which is a heart of truth and sincerity Or said another way – Christ in us!
Notice how in verse 17 we are to keep ourselves clean of sin and vices BECAUSE God, through the blood of His son, brought us out of our captivity to the world.
The use of the word ‘convocation’ tells us that this was a “dress rehearsal”.
What exactly were they rehearsing?
The days when we would in reality be truly set free from sin and satan’s grip!
God is saying, you are to live mindful of the freedom purchased for you by your Messiah and therefore show continual gratitude by maintaining the freedom from sin He bought for you by the shedding of His Own blood.
Rom. 6:1-23, “(1) What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? (2) Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (3) Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. (5) For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. (6) We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (7) (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) (8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (9) We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. (10) For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. (11) So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, (13) and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. (14) For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! (16) Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, (18) and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (19) (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. (21) So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. (23) For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1Jn. 3:2-10, “(2) Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. (3) And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure). (4) Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness. (5) And you know that Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. (7) Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. (8) The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil. (9) Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. (10) By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness – the one who does not love his fellow Christian – is not of God.”
So we can see that sin is a major issue to God – He HATES it and therefore He expects those who are His to hate it too – and not tolerate it among His people – but clean it out!
“(9) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. (10) In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world.
(11) But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christianwho is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler.”
“Who is” – being with an adverb as a predicate carries the meaning of quality or character.
This isn’t just a weakness to this person, but it is how they are defined.
Do not even eat with such a person! (12) For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? (13) But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.”
I’m telling you, I understand the undesirable nature of this.
I HATE confrontation and I do not like dealing with sin in the lives of others.
I can tell you however, that I am 100% certain that the ONLY cure for the desire to shrink back from and make excuses for this command is deep, abiding respect for God and the true Shepherd of the sheep – Jesus our Lord.
Proverbs 29:25 is a great verse for this… “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
I for one want to be safe and in the end, I do want to honor God and fear Him above man.
These passages conspire together to paint a picture of the local assembly as a place for SAINTS and a place of purity which is diligently maintained!
Now, the criteria for who judges was “those who are wise among you”.
Who are these saints who are wise among them?
Well I would argue that they are the same ones who Paul called “spiritual” in Galatians 6:1. Let’s read THAT verse…
“(1) Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too.”
So these must be spiritually mature, dispassionate individuals who have a high and deep respect for God and the purity of His body.
As I told you last week, I am NOT suggesting for a moment that only Pastors can fill this position, but it does require someone wise who is also of good standing in the church which any true pastor fits the qualifications of eminently.
Furthermore, in order to settle a dispute, they have to be familiar with those involved.
This is NOT a secular, civil court where evidence is presented with legal representation before a presiding jury and a judge who slams the gavel when decisions are reached.
This is a family court, in which the wise and mature saints hear and decide among their brethren.
People in this court are not represented by lawyers, they represent themselves before those who know them.
Do you really believe for one moment that such is possible in large churches where to even get an appointment with the Pastor requires going through their secretarial screening process and assuming your place in line behind whoever got in line before you?
- When you got there, how comfortable would you be with this pastor?
- Would you feel any sense of safety and being known?
- Would it be like visiting with your father or grandfather or like appearing before a highschool principal or college dean?
- Might this be the first time you really met him one on one?
- How much does he actually know you, your family, your life situation, your past, your struggles (without his secretary giving him a cheat sheet prior to your arrival)?
The elders/pastors of Ephesus whom Paul was addressing were men who knew the sheep and were giving their lives for them, ministering to them, loving them, caring for them, warning them and even correcting them when necessary.
They functioned more like a father and village chief all wrapped up in one than what often passes for a pastor in today’s world.
After telling them to shepherd and provide oversight Paul warned these pastors to be watchful for wolves.
This was a sobering image!
Wolves are among sheep’s greatest threats. In one evening a single wolf can kill 50 sheep. They are a real threat! So Paul was deliberately drawing upon violent and vivid imagery to describe the threat.
What were the threats?
- False doctrine
- Attracting a following
The phrase Paul used was, “…teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them.”
This requires diligence on the part of the pastors and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit on the part of the sheep. That kind of environment is not the kind of church you could go and just get lost in. You HAVE to be seen. You HAVE to be known. You HAVE to be dedicated to Christ being formed in you AND in your siblings in Christ.
Yet remember last week I told you that 56% of modern Christians live under the delusion that their spiritual walk is entirely their own personal business and NO ONE ELSES!
As I was searching for reliable information regarding churches – what people are looking for in them and what churches are offering in order to induce them to come. This search is really sickening to be honest. In my search thought I found a very good article that touched on much of this.
It was on a website called “Got Questions” and I have used them once before in here.
This article was called, “What is an Attractional church”. Here are a few quotes I lifted from the article… (I am linking the article on our site so you can read the whole thing in context.)
“Most modern megachurches grew to their current size by being attractional.
Leaders in attractional churches are driven by the desire to fill the building with the lost, unchurched, and de-churched.
They…utilize programs and events to draw the crowds.
A key phrase in an attractional church is cultural relevance.
Rather than design worship services for believers who gather to worship God, most attractional churches focus on making unbelievers feel welcome and comfortable, claiming that this helps more people meet Jesus.
We can tell whether a church’s model is working by considering the membership: are they walking in holiness, concerned about the lost, and growing in “grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
Something this article mentioned was completely in step with something I’ve said many times. It was a quote from late author and theologian James Montgomery Boice that says “what you win them with is what you win them to.”
We must be winning people with (and to) the gospel. If people are only attending church to hear a celebrity, win a car, or ride a pony, are they being attracted to the right things?
In a consumeristic society where Jesus is presented as another way to better one’s life, thousands assume they are saved because they like their church. They love the programs, the nice people, the community projects, and the social justice campaigns. Volunteering and taking leadership roles may make them feel like good people, and they assume that because the church is pleased with them that God is pleased as well.
When the gospel is compromised, as it is in some attractional churches, the result is a lack of any real preaching on sin and the attendance of many who have never experienced true repentance (Acts 3:19, 28).
In a compromised church, there is no sorrow over sin (Psalm 51:3–4), no pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14), no denial of self or taking up a cross (Luke 9:23), and no church discipline.
Replacing true spirituality are the dynamic personalities of the leaders and the magnetic appeal of the church’s reputation. If the “attraction” should leave, so will the people.
The article concludes with this statement…
We see no New Testament precedent for trying to attract unbelievers to a local church. The New Testament epistles were written to believers, teaching them how to endure persecution (2 Timothy 2:3), pursue godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and live as salt and light in a pagan culture. Speaking long before the dawn of the attractional church movement, Charles Spurgeon saw the dangers inherent in doing things the world’s way: “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”
This has GOT to change! Sin in God’s church is NOT acceptable and MUST be taken seriously in the individual as well as in the assembly!
Finishing up our chapter this morning in Acts 20…
“(36) When he had said these things, he knelt down with them all and prayed. (37) They all began to weep loudly, and hugged Paul and kissed him, (38) especially saddened by what he had said, that they were not going to see him again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”