Throughout history, churches and denominations have perpetuated a small view of the Body of Christ. ♦
It’s no wonder that many skeptics look at Christianity and point to the arguments and divisions within its own entity as a reason for questioning the validity of Christianity itself. From Catholics to Methodists to Baptists to Presbyterians to Congregationalists to variations of the Church of Christ, it all can leave many scratching their heads about the unity of the Church. What is the big Church and how little have we become with our little churches?
It’s Not Your Church
Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5) were a part of the New Way, the New Church. This was an exciting revolutionary brand of Judaism instituted by this Hebrew Rabbi, Jesus, and his disciples who called out a new way to live. Not in dogmatic religion or doctrine but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised his disciples, the early Church, that He would send a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and indeed He did.
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. – John 14:25-26
These early Church members were excited and living in vibrant community. The apostles were preaching with authority and performing amazing miracles and the disciples were all loving one another, sharing their possessions freely. Many sold property and brought the proceeds to the apostles for charitable work and the common good.
Ananias and Sapphira sold a plot of land and donated a portion of the money from the sale to the common fund. First the husband, Ananias, came forth and presented a sum of money to Peter, claiming the entire amount of the sale. He lied.
Peter, with spiritual discernment, recognized the lie and admonished Ananias. Lying to the Holy Spirit was a major offense not to be tolerated. Peter acknowledged that it wasn’t the gift, it was the deceptive spirit in the man’s heart. “You did not lie to us, but to God,” Peter charged (Acts 5:4). With that, Ananias fell over and died. A few hours later his wife, Sapphira, came in and was caught in the same lie. She too was struck dead.
A Bit Harsh, Isn’t It?
As can be imagined, “great fear seized the whole church” (Acts 5:11). The harsh judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira made it clear that this was God’s Church (Big Church), not Man’s (Little Church). We all ultimately answer to God, and we need to answer honestly.
What happened to this couple is really a reflection of God’s seriousness about His Church. It’s about being obedient to Him, not our buildings, our budgets, our fiefdoms, our doctrines, our special programs and our money. At times it seems like we’re teams in the same league for a common cause but we really have our own uniforms, clubhouses and special handshakes.
What Does Jesus Want?
He wants our hearts. He wants us to know Him, abide in Him; that is, deeply walk with Him. Through the teaching of His Word, the Bible and the indwelling of His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Like a Disciple. All the time, not just on Sundays. And He wants us to make our community of believers (our little Churches) into a community of disciples following His leading and direction, commissioned to preach, teach, and make other disciples.
So a healthy church teaches the Word of God and develops mature disciples. The evidence of health is the blossoming of Fruit (John 15) from this community of disciples connected to the Vine spawning spiritual gifts that perpetuate discipleship nourishment and spiritual growth.
And He wants a unified Big Church or collection of little Churches in neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions, states, nations and the world all unified under Him and the authority of the Word of God through His Spirit. Where He and His Bride (Big Church, Revelation 21:1-3) under the authority of her husband (Christ) are unified and connected. This like a Body (Romans 12:5) connected, unified under the head of the Church, Jesus. Two clear metaphors: husband/wife and a body. And yet it is simply man’s sin, selfishness, pettiness, pride, ego that separates and allows us to grow in power and money to perpetuate our own agendas, not out of love of God, but out of love of our own distinctions and self-interests.
Woe to the Church
So here we are again. Big Church, little church. Let the walls come down in unity so that we not be at war with one another but rather may we come together as a Body. Now look at your church. Is your church a thriving, Bible-teaching, Spirit-led little Church acting in unity with the greater Body that is, yes, fundamental in its upholding of the Word of God and the Truth that is in Scripture? Woe to any church that injects teachings and practices that differ from the Word of God. They will be broken off from the Body as they do not know Jesus who is its head. May your church of believers, as part of the greater Church, be unified as the Church of the Bible, of Scripture, that teaches its tenants and follows its ways.
Are you functioning in the Big Church or the Little Church?
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. – Romans 12:4-5