Australian Bible Church - March 6, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
THE CHURCH IN ACTION
The Disease into the Dynamic and Direct, Divine Cure
It was not a difficult case, but it was a trying one. Things are often like that. It is not that they are especially complex, but they are potentially harmful and harassing. In the case here noted in Acts 8, Peter and John came down to Samaria, and proceeded to cover the case of the large number of converts to Christ found in Samaria. The people in a divinely led work, had countered culture to the point that that they had believed Philip: the case was overwhelming, and Jew or no Jew, he had told the truth.
When the apostles arrived, the thrust became direct: they were to believe IN CHRIST. They laid hands on them, and Peter used the keys in that distinctive way Christ had noted for this particular apostle, that is, he made a new opportunity for the Gospel to become complete. The Gospel remained the same, and Peter did not grow (I Peter 5:1-2). It was just that the full application of the Gospel in this case meant that seeing Christ, and not the messenger, they were now infilled with the Spirit of God.
There was nothing to do with tongues and the like. There is no mention of that here. It DID concern the undivorceable reality that if you truly believed in Christ, the Holy Spirit would come on you, and Peter was used (as he would be again in the somewhat similar case of Cornelius in Caesarea - Acts 10), as no less in the recognition of Paul's epistles as scripture (II Peter 3:15-16) These things showed that there is no limit to man or nation, woman or child coming to know the Lord, nor any to the wisdom of God who knows His own apostles, and whom He has chosen to write the word of God.
The anointing with the Holy Spirit APPLIES to each and to all who believe (literally 'into') Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour according to the scripture. You see this in Romans 8:9, and I John 2:19 as follows.
"But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
More is seen in this next verse from I John. The fact is that the Lord looks after His own, and although different gifts enable the whole body of Christ to be strengthened and to grow (Ephesians 4), it is CHRIST ONLY who is the Head: it is no Medusa!
"But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
This coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in and teach their hearts, then, with the coming of the apostles was attested as the focus on Jesus Christ only, altogether, and of course on His word (since His mouth is part of Him!), stoutly affirmed and confirmed by the apostles, made apparent and formalised (Galatians 1, 3, 6:14).
Simon, a famous man, a former sorcerer, a man of duplicity and intrigue in spiritual things, was impressed by this power which God thrust through the apostles. He thought that this was simply too good to miss. He sought to become a sort of trader in the Holy Spirit, seeking from the apostles what he could pay to have this conferring power. One rendering puts Peter's response, something like this: "To hell with you and your money!" but more temperately it could be rendered,
"May your money perish with you,
What a contretemps, from a worldly point of view. What a blasphemy from the divine perspective. To buy love is frightful and smooth-talking pretence; but to buy this function of the Holy Spirit who confers it (Romans 5:5), this is a very statue of the grotesque and an infernal fire leaping as if to achieve dominating prominence. What then was to be done ? congregational meeting ? a sharing of views ? an examination of objectives, the seeking of dialogue ? The only dialogue to which Peter sent this blaspheming blight was that with the devil!
YOU ARE OUT, nothing to do with the Church! that was the response also. Why ? It is because "your heart is not right with God." What then is to be done ? Perhaps a little address by Simon to explain his ... position ? Not at all: REPENTT, said Peter, and pray if PERHAPS God may forgive this sin. How did he describe this magician ? “POISONED by BITTERNESS and BOUND by iniquity”!
If only the Churches of 80 years ago had dealt in this sort of decisiveness as the forces of corruption, spiritual pollution and false teaching began to stir in this land, seeking a new boldness and directness in several churches! Then the enormous loss of most of the Presbyterian Church to the Uniting Church (never even claiming to follow the word of God, the Bible, as infallible), and that in the Anglican Church (where crass immorality is becoming more and more 'normal' just as false teaching is most brazenly allowed, where only Sydney diocese is even making credible noises about possible alternative action): these might have been countermanded in time.
If it happens in churches, then it happens in hearts, and each Christian must guard against such corruption as this unspeakable folly of Simon the sorcerer exhibited. The time to act is AT ONCE, as Paul put it in another connection. He did not 'give place' to the false teaching there in question 'for an hour', he tells us but went to Jerusalem and had the matter out (Galatians 2:4ff. - it. added)!
"And this occurred
because of false brethren secretly brought in
(who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,
that they might bring us into bondage),
to whom we did not yield submission
even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you."
It was thus similar with circumcision (which involving an accompanying sacrifice, now impossible since the ONLY sacrifice was that of Christ - Hebrews 9, Luke 2:22-24). This could no longer therefore continue as a part of the faith. In our day it is something rather similar when tongues are either feted as a strong indication of great faith, or a necessary one for conversion, since NOTHING in the Bible allows the former, but rather it is greatly downgraded compared with other gifts (I Corinthians 12, 14); while adding this to the Gospel is a new gospel which as Paul puts it, is not another (cf. Galatians 1, 3), having no such place.
That becomes merely one more load and incubus, addition to the Gospel and pollution of it. It rather reminds one of Simon, since he thought he could control the work of God for a gift, and some Pentecostalism seems to think that the tongues thing, as a gift, has great testimony of what God does in salvation for someone. Not so! The Gospel has no such place vacant, or dimension. That would be rather like making the movement of an eyelid a testimony to sight!
Such things ought to be denounced and exposed at once (as is done in the booklet, A Question of Gifts, on the Web at http://webwitness.org.au/tongues0.html). In that way, whole denominations might be delivered before the rot set in, and combinations with Romanism via tongues might be prevented, as propaganda seeks to subvert the saints, were it possible.
The WHOLE CONCEPT of DISCIPLINE
Discipline! that was the response of Peter. It was not hot-tempered fracas, nor was it cruel and unfeeling lambasting. It was rather a total denunciation of the IDEA or teaching or principle of Simon, TOGETHER WITH concern for his personal salvation, and instructions on what to do to seek the Lord, after such an horrific fall as that. Indeed, the whole idea of paying money for church benefits is shown up very well indeed in a Lutheran film of some 45 years ago, where you see one of the church officials wanting to become an Archbishop (which would provide a large income in those days, in the Romanist system).
How much would the Pope require in order to award such a benefice ? Let us say, says the nobleman, seeking this honour, 7000 ducats for the 7 deadly sins. No, says the other, let it rather be 10,000 ducats, one for each of the 10 commandments. At last it moves to 12,000 ducats, one for each of the apostles. Thus did 'simony' come to roost, and the Church so-called, respond to money for various 'favours' - such as liberating the soul of your mother from purgatory when the clink of the money given to Rome could be heard, coming first from your hand, then to them, a former practice. Such abuses fitted the cost-service programmatics.
The time to act on such matters is at once. Indeed, when we found that the PC in America Assembly was daring to overturn the decision of a Presbytery refusing to licence a young man to preach, because he declared Genesis to be of the nature of poetry, thus accepting such a poetical position: then we acted. Being distant, and little heeded for some time, we realised that we had to leave it. The eventual large Assembly statement on this subject was such an intrusion into the word of God, such a romancing, so impossible to find from the Bible, that we were glad to have left. What credence could be given where the word of God suffered such horrendous addition!
What then ? Disciple is necessary, and Peter applied it. It can be loving; it must be adequate; the issue must be settled. The PC in America settled it, but we could not settle with those who settled that in so vastly audacious a manner in the very presence of God.
Discipline is also necessary in educating children, Of course you do not RELY on it to induce faith; that is rubbish. But you do USE it to make a short, simple, occasional if necessary, rebuke to foolishness, which is often not far from the heart of children. Talk of child abuse here is similar to talk of mingling with the stars when you fly to Los Angeles. It is a wholly different concept. In the field of discipline, to 'abuse' a child is to inflict substantial pain for a minor offence, health-endangering pain for a major one, or to have disproportionate results for actions without the positive and necessary inspiration and guidance to what counts and why.
To FAIL to use minimal but necessary discipline is merely the beginning of the rot which ruins the tissue of the child's heart, helping the young one to imagine that right and wrong are a mere song, that all is negotiable, that virtue has its price, that talk can drown fact and destructive behaviour need yield neither pain nor parallel response. That is irresponsible and it is one of the major ingredients of the social decline of today. Rightly do we read the word given to Solomon, in Proverbs 13:24:
"Those who spare the rod hate their children,
but those who love them are diligent to discipline them."
The categories ? love and hatred!
Proverbs 20:30 also gives metaphorical instruction: "The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly." Thus the 'blueness' surrounding a WOUND is expressive of a result from the same. So with discipline, it can cleanse; provided the inspiration and guidance is there in the first place, and the love and the mercy, by which the 'wound', that is the correction expressed as in a war, is given. “WHOM I LOVE, says Christ, I rebuke and chasten!” (Revelation 3:19).
The GROSSNESS that REQUIRES IT
By no means does this mean that small errors are to be pounced on, as a cat does on a little mouse that creeps too close! That can be both unmerciful and counter-productive. A sense of the value of life and liberty should be inculcated, for both are precious; but when there is deliberate and unruly rebellion, based on will, or when there is sustained and open departure from wise commandments of Christ, based neither on thought nor thoughtfulness, but again on will, then a failure to discipline is merely to participate in the making and moulding of a wilful person; and what good is that to him or her or to anyone else! This world is full of them and they war incessantly, inveterately and with a doublet of pride and pomposity to the point of all but obliterating this earth.
Simon's case is summed up by Peter as involving BITTERNESS. That is a luxury that the wise avoid. Why be bitter ? Judgment will correct the incorrigible and hell will give interest to capital investments in evil. If you have suffered, as a Christian as I Peter 4 tells you, the way you take it is a testimony and the spirit of God and of glory rests on you. If you please God, why worry about suffering! It is only when you suffer for sin that the case is inglorious; but then, discipline, that can cleanse and if we seek holiness and godliness at all costs, suffering must be discounted and saintliness counted!
The SPIRIT-FILLED WORD-ABIDING LIFE that PROFITS FROM IT
Simon in the case in point shows the good result. PRAY FOR ME, he cries (Acts 8:24), to the Lord, that "none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me." Foolishness has given way to enlightenment, and fear of God has occasioned wisdom. Better into heaven with a clipped ear on the way to it, then in hell with a clipped name in it, and a contempt that never leaves it. "IF you abide in Me and My words abide in you, said Jesus Christ, you will ask what you will and it will be done for you."
Christ ALWAYS did what His Father desired (cf. John 8:29) AND one of those things was to die for sin. THIS, Christ dramatically tested at Gethsemane, but not with rebellion: rather the probe was reliant and realistic, and the way being carved in infinite mercy and truth, HE TROD IT. It was WHAT HE DESIRED (as you see in Psalm 40's prophecy, recorded in Hebrews 1). If a Christian be only WILLING to do the will of God (which is not the same as one's own will, but presupposes that you so love God that HIS will is better to your will that your own will could ever have been), then the means to do His will CANNOT be lacking. YOU WILL GET THEM!
Discipline ? Self-discipline then, and the discipline of the Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 35) which has such rules as those to be found in the Sermon on the Mount: this is where it leads, to the very discipline of truth, the constraints of love, the call of kindness, the life at liberty in the beauty of holiness, waiting on the Lord, the God who acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).