12 Commitments of a Godly Church – Part 3
In the last 2 posts [POST #1, POST #2], we saw the first 8 of the 12 commitments of a godly church, namely: (1) Saved Membership (2) Growing in Bible Knowledge (3) Practicing Ordinances (4) Fellowship (5) Loving One Another (6) Prayer (7) Praising God and (8) Evangelism.
In this final post, we will see the last 4 commitments.
Commitment #9. Purity
A holy Christ seeks a holy Church. Revelations 2 and 3 give us the picture of a holy Christ walking through the churches to ensure purity is maintained. And this was something that God initiated in the early church itself.
In Acts 5, we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to Peter and, by extension, to the Holy Spirit about their giving. And how did God deal with the sin of lying and hypocrisy? Acts 5:3-11 describes it. In other words, death. That’s right, death! We may tend to think, wasn’t God too harsh? After all, it was just a lie about a little money. But this is where we need to remind ourselves that the kind of God we are dealing with is a very holy God who cannot look with favor on sin—especially within the church that he bought with the precious blood of his Son [Acts 20:28].
In a day and age where churches tend to turn the other way when it comes to sin, a godly cannot and must not and cannot take the issue of purity lightly. It must follow the process that Jesus himself outlines in Matthew 18:15-20 in terms of how to deal with sin within the local church [also see 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-15. There may come times when a godly church will face the painful experience of putting unrepentant people out of the church. I say “painful” because there is no pleasure when dealing with unrepentant sin. However, we can never regret doing what the Lord of the church commands us to do to maintain purity because he knows what is best for his church. Our part is not to question Christ but wholeheartedly submit to his commands.
Commitment #10. Godly Leadership
The early church had apostles who gave leadership—11 of them chosen directly by Jesus himself and the 12th one, Matthias, chosen by the Lord through prayer [Acts 1:23-26]. So, these were qualified men. And as the church grew, the commitment to leadership grew. As Paul was setting up churches, he was committed to raising leaders, as evidenced in Acts 14:23, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”
Even when it came to people serving in various ministries, such as distributing food to the needy and widows, the 12 stressed that they should be qualified. Acts 6:3 tells us, “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” Not just anybody, but men “full of the Spirit” were given the responsibility. Here are the beginning stages of what would later be known as the office of deacons. A church can never rise above its leadership. So, the local church needs to be led by godly men.
Qualifications for elders are detailed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-3. Qualifications for deacons are described in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. A godly church should desire for the Lord to raise godly elders (also called pastors) who are not only qualified per the Scriptures but also feel called and are willing to be committed to their church wholeheartedly. They must be willing to give themselves to the task of leading, feeding, and caring for the flock. A godly church should also seek to raise godly deacons to support the pastors in their duties. As the Lord pleases, he will raise people appropriate for these positions in his time.
Commitment #11. Missions
Acts 1:8 records Jesus’s commanding his followers to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all ends of the earth: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And that’s precisely what happened! The early church was not only focused on evangelism in their town but also on taking it to other places. Acts 8 gives the record of the gospel being brought to Samaria. Admittedly, it was due to persecution, but the people who were scattered still shared the gospel as they went [Acts 8:4].
Later in Acts 10, Peter goes to evangelize Cornelius, a gentile; thus, the gentile church was born. Acts 13 records the official launching of worldwide missions. Acts 13:1-3 reads, “1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” The book of Acts ends with the gospel reaching as far as Rome [Acts 28]. It did not happen by accident. It happened because God, in his grace, worked through the efforts of the early believers who took the command of taking the gospel to all ends of the earth very seriously [Acts 1:8].
A godly church must be deliberate in setting aside funds for supporting missions—a generous amount where possible! Supporting missionaries focused on church planting, Bible translation work, and Christian orphanages through which the gospel can spread to young children are all ways to show commitment to missions. A godly church should also focus on raising missionaries who are willing and called to take the gospel to other places. Much prayer with preaching that teaches people how high a priority God gives to missions are a few examples of deliberate actions through which the leadership can move the church to pursue the heart of God in this matter.
Commitment #12. Fearing God
The last of the 12, but by no means the least, is the commitment we see in the early church in displaying a fear of God. Fear of God is the foundation of everything. And why would it be any different when it comes to the local church?
Following the conversion of Paul, one of the greatest persecutors of the early church, this is what we read in Acts 9:31: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” Even in Acts 5, which tells us how God dealt with Ananias and Sapphira for their sin, we read in verse 11 that “great fear seized the whole church.”
If the church does not fear God, tremble before him in reverence and awe, how can we ever communicate to the world we are trying to reach that God is to be feared and that people should turn to him? In a day and age where the subject of fearing God is seen as an unpopular, uneasy, and outdated subject, the church must walk in fear of God. He is holy. His wrath is to be feared. Sin—especially within the church is very detestable in God’s sight. God takes sin seriously. He has not changed his mind about it 2000 years later.
Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Remember the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11, where believers participating in the Lord’s Supper with unrepentant sin were put to death [11:30]? These acts should help us walk in fear of God. And it should not be just once in a while, but fear of God should be the ongoing attitude of the church. And it will be evidenced by what the members say, what they watch, what they pursue, and what they think in their hearts—that part which only God knows apart from the individual themselves. Proverbs 28:14 says, “Blessed is the one who always trembles before God.” May that be the attitude of every member of a godly church at all times—starting with its leadership.
So, there we go. 12 Commitments of a Godly Church:
(1) Saved Membership
(2) Growing in Bible Knowledge
(3) Practicing Ordinances
(5) Loving One Another
(7) Praising God
(10) Godly Leadership
(11) Missions and
(12) Fearing God.
There is an old and beautiful hymn—a personal favorite of mine titled, “My Jesus, I love Thee.” When we say we love Jesus, we must also love the church he bought with his precious blood. Jesus has promised to build his church [Matt 16:18]. The gates of Hades can never prevail. Will you, dear reader, take your commitment to your local Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church more seriously in the future? If you are in leadership, will you cry out to God to help you lead so that God, through Jesus Christ, will be glorified in the church he has placed you in [Eph 3:20-21]? Don’t give up on your efforts. He is worthy!