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A View from the Altar / Bees with no sting
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Bees with no sting

Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:8

There are several species of bees with no sting.  Stingless bees can produce honey, although defending the honey store would seem to be a problem.  Usually they hide their nests inside hollow trees and carefully seal up the openings to reduce the chance of invasion by flies, wasps, ants, and so on.  These bees could not survive in the rural southeastern United States where there are swamp hornets, fire ants, bears and rednecks.  You need tougher bees for that.

The Gospel has some sweetness to it.  Jesus forgives sins (1) and purges the conscience (2).  He gives eternal life (3) and fellowship with righteous people (4), and an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled reserved in heaven for the saints (5).  It’s good stuff, so naturally some people who aren’t part of the colony want the honey.  Many heathen would like to think Jesus hears their prayers(6), that they have a home in heaven (7), that they’re legitimately called Christians (8).

But when they insist on anti-Christian beliefs, the church and its preachers need to have a sting.  There are things worth defending.  To press the analogy a bit further, a honeybee that stings usually gives his life by doing it.

It’s true that the servant of the Lord must not strive. (9)  I think this means two things.  It means the minister of God must not allow himself to display a quarrelsome disposition even if he’s one of those jerks that loves to argue.  Second, it means you cannot argue anyone into the kingdom of God, principally because eternal life is God’s gift, not man’s achievement. (10)

Nevertheless, there is a right time for putting the wicked in their place.  Paul spoke of the minister’s duty of “stopping mouths,” (11) and I can’t think of that as anything other than winning an argument in a clear and convincing way.  This is done to preserve existing church members, not to gain new ones.  Something else that has to be done to preserve decency is an occasional round of kicking somebody out.  At the risk of abbreviating this to the point of misunderstanding, the Bible says we should kick out unrepentant personal offenders (12), openly evil persons (13), heretics (14), and church splitters (15).

Every true Christian winces at the necessity this.  We wish it weren’t so, and most churches simply won’t do it any more.  Pastors usually feel they’d do far more harm than good.  As a former pastor, I fully understand these sentiments.  But as a student of God’s Word, I can assure you that a church without discipline has a stingless bee for a pastor, and all his honey will soon be gone… if there is any left now, that is.

The New Testament does not convey a sense that Paul was a pugnacious man.  Here and there he’s weeping over a church, tearing up his shirt in grief, surrendering his rights, leaving his privileges unclaimed, suffering things a combative personality would never endure.  You just can’t picture him acting like spoiled brat baseball player kicking dirt on the umpire’s shoes or flipping off the crowd for booing him.

However, Paul understood something we in the PeeCee society don’t seem to get: There are things which God has cursed. And if God hates a thing, God’s people have no business defending it or even getting comfy with it.  A false Gospel is one of those things which must activate the inner warrior of the man of God.  There are others such as the doctrines of the Gnostics and the Nicolaitans.  My point is not to get specific about them but merely to establish on principle that there are times when the man of God has to carry out the office of the prophet and force people to take sides.

When Israel had made the golden calf and allowed idolatry and sensuality to enter the camp, Moses took up a strategic position in the gate.  (16)  The gate obviously represents the Lord Jesus who is the “door” (17) and the “narrow gate.” (18)  He then issued the famous challenge, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side, let him come unto me,” and this was followed by the slaughter of the ones on the wrong side of the line.  (19)  No preacher earnestly concerned for souls delights in a crackdown, and the Lord himself said he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  (20)  Yet there came a time when the Lord ordered his angels to take up weapons of slaughter and rifle through Jerusalem beginning at his sanctuary sparing only those who had the mark of the Lord upon them. (21)

We mistake when we suppose Calvary changed the nature of God.  He is eternally the same; Calvary changes sinners, or at least it’s supposed to.  Sinners who bypass Calvary and make no change must not be allowed to bring shopping bags from Vanity Fair into the New Jerusalem.  And sometimes, when they barge in anyhow and set up shop, they need to know the preacher can sting.  Sanballat and Tobiah had no right, no portion, and no memorial in Jerusalem. (22)  When Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around the city of God, his builders carried swords, and the wall kept the enemy out.

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(1) Eph 1:7;  (2) Heb 9:14;  (3) John 3:16;  (4) 1 John 1:7;  (5)1 Peter 1:4;  (6) John 14:6;  (7) Luke 13:28;  (8) Matthew 7:22-23;  (9) 2 Tim 2:24;  (10) Rom 6:23; (11) Titus 1:10-11;  (12) Matthew 18:15-17;  (13) 1 Corinthians 5:9-11;  (14) Titus 3:10;  (15) Romans 16:17-18;  (16) Exodus 32:26;  (17) John 10:9;  (18) Matthew 7:13-14;  (19) Exodus 32:27-28; (20) Ezekiel 33:11; (21) Ezekiel 9:1-11; (22) Nehemiah 2:19-20

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