The church is precious. Oh, I’m not talking about human divisions and denominations, but the one, true church of God established by Jesus Christ. Even the denominationalists diminish the importance of their divisions, separating them (and properly so) from the process of salvation, and then schizophrenically talk them up and exalt them. But the church of God is at the center of God’s salvation in every way.
What the apostle Paul had to say to the Ephesian elders applies generally to all Christians, as far as watching against false teachers, because of the price paid for the church:
And now I know that none of you among whom I went around proclaiming the kingdom will see me again. Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, Acts 20.25-29.
The overseers are doubly responsible, but the whole church is to watch and warn. Paul gives several reasons for the warning:
Its owner: the church belongs to God
Now, wait! If the church belongs to God, isn’t he responsible for watching over it and protecting it? Most certainly! And that is why the Holy Spirit put overseers in place.
Remember that there is no freedom of speech in the church. We are all constrained by the Word of God. “Whoever speaks must speak God’s words” 1 Peter 4.11a GW, because we are the church of God, who serve God, who obey God, who submit to God, who transmit the words of God.
Its price: he obtained it with Jesus’ blood
Forgiveness came through the blood of Christ. This forgiveness is for all. The first time real pardon was declared, the apostle Peter said, “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself” Acts 2.39. Nobody has ever been forgiven and nobody will ever be forgiven without the blood of Christ. How costly was this price! How exclusive the offer!
Therefore, every measure ought to be taken to protect the truth by which comes our sacrifice of sin, Hebrews 10.26. The Spirit is the truth and he testifies of our cleansing by the water and the blood, 1 John 5.6. Change the truth; lose the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.
Its danger: it will be threatened
Satan and his fierce wolves are working hard to change the truth and swap out the gospel for what is no gospel at all, Galatians 1.6-7. All watchfulness is required. Even among the overseers “men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them” Acts 20.30.
Have we not seen it ourselves? Elders claim to have prayed their way through to new spiritual insights. Preachers have read and studied at the feet of false teachers, and popularity sometimes turns their heads in new directions. Teachers want to swim in bigger ponds.
In the passage of Acts 20.25-29, there is a previous mention of blood. Paul said, “I am innocent of the blood of you all.” Let us watch and warn, in order to be free from guilt. For if we fail to watch and warn, we will be condemned for our disobedience. The blood (condemnation) of others will cause our own loss of eternal life. This applies to overseers, and it applies to every single saint. Jesus said so:
Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves, Matthew 7.15.
The one, true church of the one, true God is too precious to let it be lost to error.
One warning comes in the book The Right Kind of Christianity.