Bible reading for Aug 31.
I Samuel 24.
"The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD's anointed." (1 Samuel 24:6)
SPARING SAUL. David has opportunity to take Saul's life, but refrains. He is trusting the Lord to rule in the affairs of Israel: "May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you" (v 12). David knew that the Lord, "...changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings..." (Dan 2:21; 4:17). David did not seek to be king, nor would he bring about the fall of the current king in order usher in his own reign. Saul recognizes that by sparing him David showed great mercy. David promises to not destroy the house of Saul when he ascends to the throne. Saul seems moved by all of this, but this penitent attitude will soon disappear.
REFLECT. Men and women of faith down through history have recognized that God ordains ruling authorities, both the good and the bad (Rom 13:1-8; 1 Pet 2:13-17). This does not mean that in our age of democracies we shouldn't vote -- for it is part of being a good citizen and having a say in finding righteous leaders. But God rules and over-rules in the affairs of men, today as well as in the ancient world. To show respect to rulers does not mean we approve of their character or actions, but it does mean that we recognize that God is behind world history, working to fulfill his own purposes. Hear what Jesus said to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate: "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11). Do you trust God's sovereign hand over world history? Do you speak respectfully of leaders and authorities, whether in the nation, state, or church?
1 Corinthians 5.
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
SIN IN THE CHURCH. The Corinthian believers, misunderstanding God's grace, apparently felt themselves beyond the need to address immorality in their church. Somehow they felt they were above such matters and wanted to display their enlightened attitude. Paul says, no, you need to remove this man from the fellowship, to "deliver him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh" (v 5; 1 Tim 1:20). The purpose: to preserve the church from the "leaven" of sin and that this man's spirit might finally be saved. This striking language described what today we might call excommunication. Christ's church is to reflect God's kingdom, and to be removed from the church is in a sense to be sent back to darkness of the world (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13-14; 2 Thess 3:14-15). Our Lord Jesus is the Passover Lamb prefigured in the OT (v 7) and the feast that followed Passover included removing leaven, which Paul associates with sin. Jesus himself gave his disciples a process by which to confront sin in the church (Matt 18:15-17).
CHURCH DISCIPLINE. The church needs to be different from the world. We cannot live for the devil and pretend to be a good church member at the same time. The local church should shine as an example of what God's children believe and how they behave in his kingdom. Unrepentant sin infects the health and witness of the church. The goal of church discipline should not only be the moral and spiritual health of the fellowship but also the restoration of the sinner. Pastor Mark Dever gives this definition: "Church discipline is the church’s act of confronting someone’s sin and calling them to repent, which, if the person doesn’t repent, will culminate in excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin." Read more about church discipline here. Happily, in Paul's next letter we will read about the restoration of this erring brother (2 Cor 2:5-8).
REFLECT. The Belgic Confession of 1559 says, "The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church-- and no one ought to be separated from it." (Belgic Confession, Article 29) We should ask ourselves... how important is the purity of the local church, both in doctrine and in behavior? How can church members be mutually accountable to one another, and accountable to the leaders of the church, in a good and healthy way?
Image credit. Photo of church meeting in South Africa, by Sincerely Media on Unsplash.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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