Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HOW GOD PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE”   Part 3 

This will be the third time we have dealt with the topic of God protecting His people. You will recall that the first time we addressed this topic, I surveyed the entirety of Scripture, from God’s dealings with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, through human history and the different phases of the past, the present, and into the future to the eternal state. Last time we began to focus our attention on the present phase of human history, which I have chosen to identify as the Age of the Churches. I selected this description because of God’s plan for every individual with whom He has a relationship to be committed to a New Testament type of Church congregation.

Such a Church membership relationship comes about after a sinner is exposed to the Gospel message somehow. Most typically, when someone reads the Bible, a Gospel tract, or another kind of written Christian witness, or hears the verbal witness of a Christian, or hears the Gospel declared by a preacher or teacher in various venues. It is beautiful when such exposures to the Gospel begin during childhood as one grows up in a Christian home.

My experience was not to grow up in a Christian home. That said, I did hear a Bible lesson in a Vacation Bible School conducted by Miss Peabody and Miss Rupp on the Fort Totten Indian Reservation in North Dakota. That initial exposure to the Gospel occurred in 1956, yet I was not converted to Christ until March 1974.

After the fashion called for in the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s plan for every convert to Christ includes subsequent believer baptism. The authority to so baptize a convert to Christ is granted to rightly constituted Church congregations by the Savior in His Great Commission. The Scriptural administration of baptism is the immersion of a candidate who professes faith in Jesus Christ by a duly constituted Church. Thus, the right mode (immersion) is performed by the right authority (a duly constituted Church of Jesus Christ) on the right candidate (someone who professes Jesus Christ).

That begins the process of a lifetime, being taught all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, according to Matthew 28.18-20: 

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. 

It is the final phase of the Great Commission that we are engaged in at present. If you have trusted Christ, and have then followed His directive in believer baptism, the pastor’s teaching and preaching ministry is then seen to be part of what is the lifelong endeavor described by the Savior, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

The Apostle Paul expanded on this mandate in Ephesians 4.11-12, where he wrote, 

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. 

Four types of gifted men are given to congregations, apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. These men are charged with equipping members to conduct Church ministry, with the resultant fruitfulness being growth in the body, both spiritually and numerically.

It is important to note that throughout the New Testament, the practice of those for whom an inspired record exists shows that Churches were established where Christians were found, baptism was administered where conversions took place, and discipleship was ongoing within the Christian’s Church relationship. There exists no clear-cut example of a Christian not joined as a member of a duly constituted Church as soon as opportunity to do so allowed. Thus, as God’s provision for the spiritual protection of a Jewish person who lived outside the reach of Mosaic Law institutions from the time of Mount Sinai until the crucifixion of Christ is not found, so also there is no mention of protection for the Church Age Christian’s protection outside the context of Church of Jesus Christ membership.

This being understood, what can be said about God’s protection of His children during our present era? God protects providentially. What is meant by providentially? I have usually defined Providence to this congregation during my tenure as the pastor as “the unseen hand of the invisible God, working in the lives of men to accomplish His will.” That protection of His own is part of God’s Providence follows. Different systematic theologies define Providence differently, but the best selling systematic theology of all time, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem, defines Providence in this way: 

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.”[1] 

Grudem goes on to write, “One aspect of God’s providential preservation is the fact that he continues to give us breath each moment,”[2] and “God’s providence provides a basis for science: God has made and continues to sustain a universe that acts in predictable ways.”[3]

On several occasions, it seems my life was protected by God’s Providence, overruling my reckless folly to preserve my life from certain destruction. I would guess a number of you have similar testimonies. A classic Puritan book titled “The Mystery Of Providence” by John Flavel would be worth your time to read.

Next, God protects angelically. We are reminded of angelic involvement in the Savior’s life after His birth. Recall the angelic announcement to the shepherds of the Savior’s birth, Luke 2.9-15. However, more to the point of our inquiry was the warning from the angel to Joseph to flee to Egypt to preserve the life of the Christ child from Herod following the visit of the magi from the East, Matthew 2.13. When Herod died, an angel informed Joseph it was safe to return home from Egypt, Matthew 2.19.

However, those events occurred before the phase of God’s dealings in which we presently live. In our era, we note an angel speaking to Philip, Acts 8.26, and an angel speaking to Cornelius, Acts 10.3. As for angelic protection, we take note of Acts 12.7-11, an angel delivering Peter from certain death, and Acts 12.23, an angel killing Herod Agrippa, who had earlier slain the Apostle James. Then there was the angel that instructed Paul to preserve his life and the lives of those on the boat with him, Acts 27.23. Hebrews 1.14, while not teaching what so many believe, which is the notion of guardian angels, does describe the availability of angels to being dispatched by God to minister to God’s people: 

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” 

Though few would dispute God’s protection of His own providentially or angelically, there is the protection by God of His own terminally, by killing them. You heard me correctly. God sometimes kills the body to preserve the soul. Is that an extreme step that God sometimes takes? Without question. Are you still unpersuaded? Consider.

Acts 5.1-11 records the case of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, members of the Church in Jerusalem: 

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,

2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.

6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.

9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. 

You may think that is a one-off event early in Church history. If that is so, then what does First John 5.16 mean? 

“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” 

I would suggest that First John 5.16 is at the far end of the spectrum of God’s chastisements of His children, referred to in Hebrews 12.5-9: 

5  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 

The child of God can respond to God’s chastisement and live. The professing Christian can experience no chastisement from God for sin and thereby give evidence in one’s life to be lost. But if you are a believer who is chastised, and you stubbornly continue to resist God’s will, He may take your life to spare your soul.

Providential protection of your life in this life, angelic protection of your life in this life, and terminal protection of your soul for the next life by ending your life in this life. More can be said about each of these scenarios, but I desire to address the protection provided by God for Christians by congregations and their shepherds.

This is best understood as God providing the means to protect those of His children who are obedient, meaning they will make the correct use of the means available, and they will exhibit the attitude of humility. Why so? Because to those in a Church congregational way, James 4.6 and First Peter 5.5 echo Proverbs 3.34 by declaring, 

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” 

Let us now consider how God makes use of the means of Church membership and congregational oversight to protect from spiritual harm His humble children: 

First, PROTECTION GOD PROVIDES TO HUMBLE CHURCH MEMBERS THROUGH THE MEANS OF THE CONGREGATION 

Shall we begin with Hebrews 10.25? 

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” 

We know from First Thessalonians chapter one and First Corinthians chapter thirteen that the Apostle Paul frames so much of the Christian life in terms of faith, hope, and love, so we might expect to see suggestions of that in this verse.

Would steadfast determination to assemble, as opposed to the unsaved behavior, reflect saving faith and subsequent faithfulness? Would the willingness to exhort others and allowing others to exhort you suggest loving interaction, something of little value to those who choose to stay home from Church worship who can neither lovingly exhort nor be lovingly exhorted? Of course, hope is reflected by anticipation of the day approaching.[4]

What is affected by assembling, where exhortation takes place, and hope is bolstered? One’s thinking is affected, of course, with the mind of the Christian being where most spiritual battles occur. With demonic access to the Christian’s mind an undeniable reality, what offsets such intrusions more effectively than the modeling of Christian living, the encouragement from others of like faith and practice, and the forward-looking of your gathered for worship brothers and sisters in Christ? How does this not provide spiritual protection from the encroachments of demonic doctrines and defeatist thinking provoked by foul spirits who would have you thinking that ours is not already a victory won by Christ, the conquering king?

Next, we consider Matthew 18.15-20: 

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 

This directive is not to be used to address every offense and slight the Christian suffers from another member. After all, love is supposed to cover a multitude of sins, James 5.20 and First Peter 4.8. But some sins rise to such a level of risk of harm to a congregation or members that this process must be employed to protect a Church’s members, sometimes from themselves. Categories of sins serious enough to warrant intervention by the congregation would include adultery, homosexuality, theft, effeminacy, covetousness, idolatry, reveling, drunkenness, and extortion.[5]

Those whose disorderliness, strife, and disruption interferes with worship and the sensible conduct of ministry are also subject to congregational action.[6] This would include flagrant violations of Christian leadership conduct and doctrinal deviation requiring congregational intervention.[7]

You might initially wonder how this addresses the spiritual protection of Christians who are Church members. I would remind you that Church discipline is only authorized within a congregation when dealing with other Church members. Matthew 18 does not in any way address a Christian at work or in the neighborhood or your family who does you wrong, as is also true of Hebrews 10.25. Let me also remind you that addressing sins committed by Church members is dealing with spiritual issues because demonic assaults that are successful intrusions into a Christian’s life always manifest with the Christian’s sinful behavior. And since Christians are strictly prohibited from speculating about someone else’s motives, and we should be careful of our own motives, we must confine ourselves to addressing conduct by a Church member that has been witnessed.[8] As well, we do well to remember that two or three witnesses are required to listen to an accusation and that we need to be very careful about listening to the accusations of unsaved people, who will lie about anything, and who are pawns of the Devil (who is our accuser).

Let me wrap up this point with First Corinthians 5.1-5: 

1  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

2  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

3  For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

4  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

5  To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 

So much attention is typically paid to the outrageous conduct of the young Church member who entertained a false hope and was not genuinely born again that another vital consideration is overlooked. It has to do with the spiritual protection that is provided to Church members by their participation in the body life of the Church, even if they are not genuinely converted to Christ. Remember, Paul directed that the young unsaved Church member be expelled from membership, thereby delivering him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Did the Corinthians want Christ to address sin within their congregation by chastising the whole body, or would they deal with sin by expelling the unrepentant member, who would then be subject to the withering assault of the Devil once he was thrust beyond the protection provided by the congregation? 

Next, PROTECTION GOD PROVIDES TO HUMBLE CHURCH MEMBERS THROUGH THE OVERSIGHT OF THE PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATION 

We begin with Acts 20.28-31: 

28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 

It is clear that the imagery Paul resorts to here is that the congregation is a flock, with overseers feeding the Church of God. The Greek word translated overseer is the word that is elsewhere translated bishop, and the Greek word translated feed elsewhere translated pastor. The threat is described as grievous wolves, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. To counter the threat, the flock is to be fed (this is Bible teaching and preaching) and warned.

Do you question that this refers to dangers that are essentially spiritual, the result of demonic influence if not demonic directives? Attend to what this same apostle would write to this same congregation in Ephesians 6.10-18: 

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. 

And if you still question that this is a spiritual conflict in which the pastoral ministry should play a significant role in a Church member’s protection, added to Paul comments in Acts 20.28-31 to the Ephesian elders, and to his Ephesian letter remarks in 6.10-18, ponder these comments written to Timothy, who was the senior pastor of the Ephesian congregation: 

First Timothy 4.1:

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” 

Second Timothy 3.16-4.5:   

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 

Let me wrap this up with a consideration of something written in the first of the New Testament letters to be written, James 5.13-15: 

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 

There were two types of sickness recognized in those days, a sickness that might kill you and a sickness that probably would not kill you. Verses 14-15 addresses the Christian who has a serious illness, one that might result in his or her death. But at this point in our considerations, we know that demonic assaults can cause serious illness, can they not? If someone suffers physically, the suffering might be God’s plan for that person’s life. Or, it might be suffering brought on to create a concern about one’s eternal destiny. Or, it might be chastisement resulting from a Christian committing sin.

In order to properly discern the reason back of the serious illness, James directs the child of God to reach out to spiritual leaders. Prayer comes first, followed by medical attention. Why so? The serious illness might be the result of a spiritual attack, or chastisement from God, or to open someone to a consideration of the Gospel. “So,” you might ask, “when was the last time a Church member sought you out to address a serious illness, Pastor?” Let me say that it doesn’t happen as often as it should, and it hasn’t happened lately. I am persuaded that one of the reasons this passage is in the New Testament is because some serious physical issues are the result of sin and are produced by chastisement, while others are the result of spiritual assault, with demons inflicting serious ailments on people. 

To conclude, there is spiritual protection from demonic influence and assault provided by one’s membership in a Church of Jesus Christ. Above and beyond that, there spiritual protection from demonic influence and assault provided by Gospel ministers.

Sometimes protection is provided by a preacher’s sermonizing, Bible teaching, and reproving, rebuking, and exhorting that ought to be a part of a pastor’s public ministry. At other times, more pointed ministry is called for in an individual’s life, whereby personal and private counsel is sought and provided.

It boils down to a consideration of what suffering is to be dealt with. Suffering is part of life. Suffering is part of the Christian’s life. That said, have you any interest in suffering needlessly, because of preventable chastisement, or because of demonic attacks that might be thwarted?

__________

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), page 315.

[2] Ibid., page 316.

[3] Ibid., page 317.

[4] This is likely a reference to the approaching Second Coming of Christ, Romans 13.21.

[5] Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology Of Biblical Christianity, Volume Three: The Doctrines of Salvation, the Church, and Last Things, (Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), page 292.

[6] Ibid., page 293.

[7] 3 John 9-11; 1 Timothy 5.19-20

[8] 1 Corinthians 4.3-5

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