If we were to take seriously the high view of the Church, what would result of a review of the Kingdom parables? Though baptism plays into this, and I’ll mention it, much more important is how we view the church in general. How does church discipline play in our lives? If we are at a church that does not believe in or does not hold a high view of discipline, what is to be done? Have we hung the keys to the kingdom at the door or, worse, left them hanging in the mailbox down the street?
And here’s the rub, for me at least: is a church that sticks to Matthew 18:15-20, sitting right there and simply acting in an authoritarian way, applying the stick (this hurts me more than it hurts you)? Or is this church, confessing that it holds the keys to the kingdom and the responsibility to discipline members, seeking out the message in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 Hebrews 12:10-13, Galatians 6:1-2, James 5:20, Titus 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:19-20 and more. And not simply to produce a conformed member, to teach a regenerate soul the way that they should go, but out of a genuine passion for their souls, that they might endure the race and meet that glorious day when their God says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Is our church, as a whole, especially her elders, driven to see her people truly repentant, poor in spirit, dependent on God and faithful to Him?
These parables and the warnings following should mean a lot to any member of a church. They mean the soul of any member of a church. It’s not just about the greater massive kingdom of God, but about the little towers spread throughout the land, each with her captains and sergeants and their men. Each one needs to care about this for himself and those with him in his local fold.
In particular, look at the parable of the weeds, or tares. And the net. And the wedding feast.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” — Matthew 13:24-30
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. — Matthew 13:47-50
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” — Matthew 22:1-10; Matthew 22:11-14
Instead of looking at these through the lens of some nebulous greater church that spans the whole world, take a minute to see it right in your neighborhood. At your church.
And say they’re all baptized.
What do we do with apostasy if baptism is a personal profession of faith that indicates regeneration? How much better does the whole system work if baptism is a sign (visual announcement) and seal (wedding ring promise) of God’s covenant promises.
And for all the people in our church, shouldn’t this feed right into Hebrews and James, maybe even 1st John? Why are there such grave warnings if we’re all regenerate? There should be no fear of falling away if we’re all regenerate. We should be wary of our own condition lest we become deluded about the nature of church discipline. It’s not just pats on the back and nods.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. — Hebrews 2:1
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. — Hebrews 6:4-6
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. — James 2:14-17
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. — 1 John 3:7-8
Or should there be a great great attention given to each other and ourselves, that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. And that we devote ourselves to this. Devote ourselves to submission to those placed over us so we may be disciplined, discipled by them. Look at how Paul dealt with the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. Look at how far he was willing to go for the souls of his fellow Jews. That wasn’t just a drive as a college teacher or philosopher trying to get his students to understand and act on a critical piece of information. This was the act of a coast-guard team, risking life in the sea to reel in one soul after another from the peril of the deep.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, — Philippians 2:12