A visitation I’ll never forget
During a visitation with the Lord years ago I asked Him about Ananias and Sapphira, telling Him it seemed harsh to judge them so. He replied: “Remember, my whole body was there in Jerusalem at that time. What they sought to introduce to the body could not be allowed.”
(You’ll recall they had sold some property and kept back some of the profit for themselves, but presented it as if they were giving all. Peter told them it was totally up to them whether they kept all or part of the proceeds from the sale, it was their lie wrapped in hypocrisy that got them judged. Acts 5:4)
The Lord continued: “There are many who cry out for revival in this land. But I tell you the truth, that if the Father sent revival (as they define it) there would be many, many Ananias and Sapphira’s across this land.”
What they were introducing into the purity the body of Christ had at the time was hypocrisy – the love of appearance - appearing to be something, but inwardly being something else.
They did not value the amazing purity and white hot love saturating the body of Christ at that time. Surrounded by miracles, people coming to the Lord at an amazing rate, and apparently even Peter’s shadow healing people – Ananias and Sapphira didn’t value any of it. They were thinking only of themselves.
Self-centered people cannot hold the body of Christ sacred in their hearts because they are who they hold sacred in their hearts. Because of this a self-centered person is all about what THEY believe – pet doctrine, long held tradition, strong opinion about how they think things should be done, etc.
A new pastor moved a small table next to the pulpit on the platform that held a chalice and bread plate, off the platform, placing it directly in front of the pulpit on the main floor. That offended several because that table had ALWAYS been next to the pulpit. An elder took advantage of the offense, stirred up people to see his side of things, and split the church.
If the offended people valued those around them they fellowshipped with, those who Christ had died for and included in HIS body, they would have taken their eyes off themselves and realized the childishness of being offended. They sacrificed the God-given mission of that church for their own plans.
If you think of it in terms of respecting the Person of Christ, and His body on earth, how many issues could be resolved if people just respected the body of Christ.
A congregation voted on the color of the new carpet for the church sanctuary and blue won by a small majority. About half the church was so offended they didn’t get the color they wanted (dark red), and again an elder split the church.
We may ask ‘Where is the fear of God?’, but perhaps we should ask: Where is the valuing of the body of Christ as sacred? For if you truly value Christ, then you must value His body. Yet if you asked the elders in each of these churches they split if they loved God, they’d say ‘YES!’ But in truth, they proved their hearts were closer to Ananias & Sapphira than Jesus’, for they manipulated people to their own agendas.
Respecting the body isn’t talking about the needed correction that comes when someone teaches false doctrine, or gets way off balance, or is in sin - we need balanced and grounded voices to speak up in these cases as Jesus, Paul and Peter did - No, these were simply childish offenses that revealed elders (in these cases) who were just looking for an opportunity to advance themselves and their agendas.
Drawing away others
In Acts 20:30 Paul said to the leaders of the Ephesian (home based) churches: “Also among (your own) people shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves…watch therefore and remember how I was with you 3 years…”
The act of drawing away others after themselves is again an example of not valuing and respecting the body of Christ. The word ‘perverse’ is the Greek word ‘diastrepho’, which means “to distort, to twist.” Paul says they will distort and twist words – primarily the Word of God, and what sound and balanced teachers have taught.
That is why he tells them to ‘watch and remember’ his service to them the previous 3 years. He knew that human nature tends to not value the richness of what is all around us at any given moment, in favor of going of the trail to search out some new teaching or preacher because what’s new is more exciting than the life in the body of Christ we have now.
He wanted them to purposely remember the previous 3 years in their minds - their times together, the richness of the fellowship and friendships – and weigh those 3 years against what someone may be distorting and twisting in their efforts to violate the sacredness of the spiritual bond of the local body of Christ.
He wanted them to place in their hearts the value of their relationships and the sacredness of it, above some new doctrine or any issue (like the color of the carpet).
How do you know?
The key phrase is “to draw away disciples after themselves.” A true believer who holds the body of Christ as holy and sacred, one who fears God and knows he/she is accountable for his/her actions, is one who directs people away from themselves and back to the Lord in all their doings, and they do all they can to keep unity of the local body in love.
Those who draw away people after themselves prey on the weak, the new to church, the babes in Christ, the vulnerable. The Greek phrase ‘to draw away’ uses the verb ‘airo’, which means “to seize, to take away”.
If you are in any situation where someone is making disciples after themselves instead of directing people to the Lord and doing all they can to keep the unity of the body in love – run, don’t walk to the nearest exit.
Paul described them in the previous verses as ‘hungry (savage) wolves’ who won’t spare the flock – they don’t hold the body of Christ as sacred and to be protected and honored and cherished.
By contrast Paul wrote to those same people in Ephesus the following words: “By therefore followers of God, as dear children. And walk in love as Christ has also loved us, and has given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God, which is a sweet smelling aroma…” (Eph 5:1-2)
New topic next week,