Does it matter how Christians act? We are saved by grace, but God makes it very clear that there is a responsibility and an accountability on the part of individual believers and the church.  There is a particular responsibility for leaders in a church; I’ve previously discussed Jude’s harsh words for the “shameless shepherds.”  Five hundred years earlier, Malachi had even harsher words for priests in the temple who felt like they could act with impunity.

“Listen, you priests—this command is for you! 2 Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart. 3 I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile.4 Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. – Malachi 2:1-4

Before you are tempted to say, “Well that’s Old Testament,” check the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.  Check out the letter to the churches.  The Levites thought they could do what they wanted because they served in the Temple of the Most High God.  They didn’t think he would take action against them.

Not so.

If you think that God wouldn’t take action against his churches, go back and read chapters one through three in Revelation very carefully.

Skipping Laodicea, the vomit inducing church (Revelation 3:16 NLT,) there were four churches that received a very strong rebuke and a warning.  Two of them, Pergamum and Thyatira, were warned that God himself would come against them if they didn’t repent.

Pergamum was tolerating false teachers within the church (Revelation 2:14-15.)  Sometimes deception “seems” minor and it is easier to just overlook it.  But God told them that if the church did not remove them God would fight against the church itself (Revelation 2:16.)

What is interesting about this is that I think it shows how judgment can come corporately against a church.  Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians  to rebuke them for tolerating a man living in flagrant sexual sin.  He told them to remove him from the fellowship of the church and to “turn him over to Satan” so that he could be brought to repentance (1 Corinthians 5:5.)

It doesn’t appear that this man was in leadership in the church, it seems he was just a member.  There is a very significant difference between Paul’s instruction on how to deal with this man and the warning in the letter to Pergamum.

Chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians seems to indicate very clearly that the disfellowship was removing a spiritual protection over the man, allowing Satan to touch him.  Satan complained about Job’s hedge of protection around him (Job 1:10.)  The church was this man’s hedge . . . one that he didn’t merit on his own.

I know the concept of authority and spiritual covering are controversial for some people, especially with the exposure and fall of Bill Gothard who very strongly espoused it.[1]  Regardless of the controversy and an individual’s failings, there is truth to it.

Not only do I believe it is supported by scripture, but I have witnessed first hand what I believe were judgments against people involved in a group that claim to be followers of Christ, but there were some things that were very wrong in leadership.

7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:7-11

The lesson from John’s warning to those two churches is that both right doctrine and right actions are important. We must think right and do right.

33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.

34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” Luke 11:33-36 NLT


[1] Nicola Menzie. Bill Gothard Cleared of ‘Criminal Activity’ But Chastised for Lack of Discretion After Sexual Harassment Claims.  Christian Post. 6-19-2014.  Accessed 22-8-2015.