Open your bibles to the book of Acts chapter 20, verses 28 through 32 and stand with me as I read this passage of Scripture.
Acts 20:28-32 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, ESV
· My subject ‘Care for the church of God’, by being alert.
Go back with me to Acts 6, where the Scriptures gives us a standard.
· Acts 6:1-7 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. ESV
Do we see this standard applied today? Most of you would have to agree that in the majority of situations facing the church today, we do not see it handled the way that is prescribed here in Scriptures. As I have pointed out in previous sermons, most writings dealing with the study of the church will point out that there are definite characteristics of the true church and most refer to these characteristics as ‘marks of the true church’. All mention two and they are; 1. the true preaching of the Word of God and 2. the right administration of the sacraments. There are a few writings that mention a third mark and based on my studies, observations and prayer, I agree that this mark is just as important and that mark or characteristic is church discipline. Listen to what John Frame says about this third mark; “Discipline was the third mark, for it seemed that the first two marks were in jeopardy unless there was sufficient discipline to guard the true preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments.”
What do we find in Scripture to support these marks? Nothing, but the Scriptures do talk about love – John 13:35, worship – John 4:24, and the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20. Now listen to how the marks mentioned are included in these. Preaching is included in the Great Commission according to Romans 10:14-17, the sacraments are included in worship, and discipline is a form of love.
So looking at Acts 6
· A look at the leadership – plurality vs. singularity
· A look at how we handle complaints
o By the leadership
o By the fellowship (or follow-ship)
· A look at problems with the body
· In today’s world, local church membership is not taken serious
· The modern local church is more like a hotel instead of a home
o A temporary stay instead of a permanent stay
o Don’t like the service than change hotels
o Because of the above, the church has no authority because if I don’t like your rules, I am sure that I can go to the hotel down the street and they would love to have me stay there
o Because of the above, I have no accountability because there is no personal relationship with the hotel staff
o Leave me alone don’t you see my ‘do not disturb’ sign on my door