Summary: Acts 5 gives us two cases where the church faced hardship. One was internal and the other was external. Both were used by God for the good of the church. How can that happen for us today?
(Read Acts 5 with slides)
What does it take to ruin a church? What does it take to stop God?
Acts 5 gives us two stories about threats to the church, one from the inside and the other from the outside.
First. The threat from the inside produced two deaths and great fear upon the whole church. Now, wouldn’t you think that two sudden deaths and great fear might have at least caused a down time on the churches growth? O contraire! Look at verse 14 again: And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number. Just imagine their parking problem! It looks like they didn’t sit down when they met in the temple courts. They didn't have folding chairs back then. And where did the Bible classes meet? How did they pass the Lord's Supper and collection plate? It appears that a lot of their worship and fellowship took place in the house to house meetings. The temple court meetings appear from the examples we have, to be evangelistic in nature (Acts 3 – Peter and John speak to the crowds, here in Acts 5:19-21, 25) . Whatever. The story of Ananias and Sapphira show us that in the difficult experiences where they obeyed God, these only served to strengthen and grow the church, not harm her. We need to think about this.
What does it take to ruin a church? Believe it or not, some of the very things we might think would be bad for the church, God works though for her good. Rebuking those in error, calling those who fall into sexual immorality or worldliness or other spiritual darkness to repent and disciplining those that reject God's instructions with biblical discipline, these are difficult things for us to follow today. But they are what God tells us to do. What might have happened if Ananias and Sapphira had been allowed to go forward with their deception and nothing was ever said or done about it? What effect might that have had on the future of the church there? Babies need more special care early on than when they grow up. God's sudden and fatal action demonstrates His deep care for the infant church at Jerusalem. As the church grows and spreads and matures God's instructions to the church are to handle discipline themselves, so that they do not fall under God's sever judgment. See 1 Corinthians 11:27-31.
What does it take to ruin a church? (Not the Body of Christ, mind you, which is undefeatable, but the local congregation, which IS vulnerable to apostasy). The Bible shows us how a local church can be ruined. All we need to do is stop following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is decide we know better than God does about how to run His church and begin to do things our own way instead of according to His word. All we need do is take out discipline and discipleship will be weakened and watered down and the church will be spoiled and ruined. The book of Revelation records where Jesus Christ Himself sent letters to seven local churches in Asia. It is there that we see that a local church can indeed be ruined. But we also learn that a church headed for ruin can repent and return. What would Jesus write to us here at Signal Mountain? In Revelation, Jesus gives clear, undeniable warnings to some churches that they are in trouble because they have not been following Him and keeping the faith. He tells the worst one of them, that they are like sickening water and that He is about to spew them out of His mouth. Yet, Jesus immediately follows that with these words. “Those I love I reprove and chasten, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19) On the other hand, He also encourages at least two of the seven churches with assurance and hope because they are faithful and obedient.
When we look around us today, we can see that the church is still struggling with the issues of faithful obedience and the pull of the world and culture away from God’s clear instructions and guidance. The simple, yet profoundly wonderful greatest commandment of scripture continues to challenge us. Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Love our neighbors as ourselves. Many things about us reveal our relationship with God and our hearts: The way we dress, talk, places we hang out, ways we entertain ourselves, how we spend our money and use our resources, how we worship, who we share fellowship with, what we look at, listen to, live for and love. What we fear. Believe it or not, for us to be Christian means that we must let Jesus be Lord and guide us in all of these areas of life.