|Vol. 13 No. 9 September 2011||
J. Randal Matheny
One bad apple spoils the others. That is why we soon separate it from the others to avoid more spoilage. The same principle applies in the church. “After a first and second warning, have nothing more to do with a person who causes conflict, because you know that someone like this is twisted and sinful — so they condemn themselves” (Titus 3:10-11).
Some like to discuss the nature of division, if a person is factious or not, if his attitudes cause division. Paul knew that it is not hard to identify division or a factious person. One does not have to be a genius to know.
Our tendency is to want to give the person more chances, to be patient, to work more with the person, to give him time to mature, but Scripture is clear: After a couple of warnings, he’s out. The divisive person should be treated as someone who does not belong to the body of Christ.
The character (“twisted”) and the conduct (“sinful”) of such a person demonstrates the need to take measures that at first glance appear to be severe, but become obligatory because of the dangers that his actions in the church present. This is because division in the church is one of the most serious transgressions in the eyes of God (Proverbs 6:16-19).
In the Bible, we read of a man who was changed by Jesus (Acts 8:26-39). In conversion to Christianity, the sinner turned from unbelief to faith and from impenitence to repentance. In conversion the sinner’s sins were washed away (Acts 22:16). In conversion, the sinner was delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). He was provoked to obey when Jesus was preached to him (Acts 8:35). He was changed by the power of the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).
In Acts 8:26-39, while evangelist Philip was preaching in Samaria, an angel of the Lord directed him to go south to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He obeyed and came near to a man from Ethiopia riding along in his chariot. The Ethiopian had been to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home. This man was over the treasury of Queen Candace. He was, therefore, a prominent figure and had great authority in his homeland. Interestingly, the Ethiopian treasurer was reading from the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah when the Spirit told Philip to “go near and join thyself to this chariot” (8:29).
Upon being asked by Philip if he understood the Scripture, the eunuch of Ethiopia invited Philip into the chariot to teach him the meaning of the Scripture he was reading. Philip capitalized on the opportunity and began to preach to him about Jesus, beginning from Isaiah 53. The Bible does not reveal all that Philip taught, but evidently his teaching included instruction regarding the way of salvation. We know this because the next thing that is recorded is they came to a place where there was water, and the eunuch asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (8:36).
Philip told the eunuch that if he believed he could be baptized. So, the Ethiopian stopped the chariot, and they both went down into the water, and Philip immersed him according to the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). When they came from the water, “the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip…” and the Ethiopian went on his way, rejoicing in his salvation.
Let us look at some things that happened on this momentous occasion. First, Philip preached Jesus, not the doctrines of men. The preaching produced faith in Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian certainly understood the necessity of baptism because he requested baptism and was promptly baptized into Christ. Evidently, he understood that his sins were forgiven because he left the scene rejoicing.
When the eunuch asked what would prevent him from being baptized, he was not told to claim Jesus as his personal savior and pray, admitting he was a sinner. He was not told to wait for an experience of grace. He was not told to wait until the church could vote whether or not he was an acceptable candidate for immersion. Nor was he told he was already saved by faith alone. He was told to confess his faith, and upon his confession he was baptized forthwith!
How simple it is to have our lives changed by Jesus!