The Heart of God
The Presence of Charity
The Priority of Charity
The Type of Charity That Is Needed
The Goal and Effect of Eharity
The Efficacy of Charity
The Driving Force behind Charity
“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Charity is a “fundamental” and an “essential” of a New Testament church.
The Heart of God
Love is the essence of God’s character. He does not merely have love; He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Love is of God (1 Jn. 4:7). All love flows from Him. When parents long for their children to love one another, that is just a little snippet of God’s Father heart. Love is the essence of God’s commandments (Ro. 13:8-10). Love is the royal law (Jas. 2:8). God’s kingdom is a kingdom of love (Isa. 11:9).
The church should be the outpost of Christ’s kingdom, like a Greek colony. The sending city was called a “metropolis” (mater = mother, polis = city). The Greek cities trained their children in the work of commerce, and sometimes one son was chosen by lot from every family in the sending city to establish the new colony. The colony was ruled by a charter written by the sending city. The colony kept the gods of the sending city. Fire was sent to the new colony from a public fire that was kept burning in each city in one of the temples, signifying the spiritual tie between the sending city and the colony. By their colonies, the Greeks spread their language and culture all across that part of the world.
We see many lessons from this for the churches. They are outposts of Christ’s heavenly kingdom, and each member is an ambassador of that kingdom. The churches should be training their children for the Father’s business and sending them out to start new colonies. Each new church, generation after generation, should reflect the spiritual character of the original church.
The Presence of Charity
Peter takes for granted that believers have charity. It is a product of Christ living in you. If there is no charity, there is no Spirit of Christ, and if there is no Spirit of Christ, there is no salvation.
“Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Ro. 8:9).
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pe. 1:22).
The fervent love that covers a multitude of sins is first of all the love of God that provided the perfect atonement of Christ’s blood.
Charity is not born in us full blown. We are to “increase in love” (1 Th. 3:12). In 2 Peter 1:5-7, we see that charity is the product of spiritual growth.
The Priority of Charity
Charity is to be “above all things.” It is the heart attitude that makes the ministry effectual. “Probably to absence of love in the Church is due, more than to anything else, the defections from the Church. It is largely in the power of love to make others what they should be, to draw them into the Church if they are not in, and when they are, the quick eye of love should detect the first signs of wandering, and the gentle power of love restrain. The atmosphere of heaven is love, and when that is the atmosphere of the Church, God will be honored in the beauty of a piety which otherwise he seeks in vain” (Pulpit Commentary).
There are a thousand things that God’s people are instructed to do, but above all is the necessity that there be fervent charity.
Charity must permeate our discipline.
“When a church is infiltrated with false doctrine [or sin], it is not long until punitive church discipline must be exercised. In Galatians 6:1, the Holy Spirit reminds us that punitive discipline is intended to bring the offender to repentance and restoration. And it is so important that those who are exercising it, do it in love with the view to help a brother, being conscious of the fact that were it not for the grace of God they would be the ones who would be having to be disciplined. We impress our church family with the fact that to discipline a brother with a censorious self-righteous attitude makes us as guilty of heinous sin as the one whom we are disciplining. Most churches would have to have a baptism of love before they could begin a New Testament church discipline program. I always have a serious question about any member who seems concerned that we hurry to discipline a brother. Love waits long, is patient, and does not rejoice in iniquity. We have dealt with some folk as long as three and four years before withdrawing fellowship” (James Crumpton, New Testament Church Discipline).
The Type of Charity That Is Needed
We are to “have fervent charity.”
“This expression occurs in non-biblical Greek to describe a horse at full gallop and a runner straining for the tape at the finish line of a race” (Thomas Constable).
God wants wholehearted, passionate service in all areas of our lives; He hates lukewarm. The world accepts enthusiasm in sports and politics and many things, but not in “religion.”
God’s love is not an emotion, it is an expression. It is not something we feel, it is something we do.
“by love serve one another” (Ga. 5:13)
“be kindly affectioned one to another in brother love” (Ro. 12:10)
“forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2)
“as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10)
You cannot work up a feeling of fervent charity, but you can focus on caring for the brethren and ministering to them and dealing in a godly way with sin. You can stop being selfish and sitting around having a pity party and focusing your attention on your own condition and needs, and focus instead on others. And this produces right feelings. “We cultivate charity by doing acts which love demands. It is God's merciful law that feelings are increased by acts done on principle” (Biblical Illustrator). I need to think about what I can do to help my brethren, to encourage them, and challenge them, and be busy doing those things.
It is the fervent love that causes one to want to cover sins and help people get victory over sin rather than to judge them and criticize them and gossip about them. Charity is sympathetic, caring. Consider how you feel toward those you love the most, such as a child, a grandchild, a special friend. God’s love is like a father pitying his children. It is the love of David and Jonathan (1 Sa. 20:17). Charity compels you to help those you love. You are patient with them; you aren’t quick to condemn; you want to carry them along, to see them grow and get victory, to be restored when they fall.
The environment of fervent love is the environment in which God’s children can best grow. This is how God looks upon and treats His redeemed. It is how the church leaders are to live and act. It is how every member of the church is to live and act.
These are the churches that will be standing until Christ comes. These are the churches that are most fruitful with real spiritual fruit rather than mere external conformity. It is love that wins the heart to a passionate relationship with Christ; we love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Fervent love will win our children to Christ and win them to full discipleship.
If charity can cover sin, how much more can it cover things that aren’t sin (e.g., frustrating habits, being slow to order food, slow to make decisions, misplacing things, not talking much, the pastor who had a distracting cow lick). “I knew a pastor in Texas who told me that he had a lock of hair right on top of his head which would always stand up no matter how he combed it. He said that the choir threatened to quit because of it. They sat behind him and could always see that hair come up sometime during his sermon. They actually became angry with him because of that lock of hair. Every time he went for a haircut he had the barber cut it off because he did not want to offend his choir. Imagine that type of thing! If they had had love in their hearts, that lock of hair wouldn’t have bothered them one bit” (J. Vernon McGee)
The Goal and Effect of Charity
It shall “cover the multitude of sins.”
What does it mean to cover sins?
Charity doesn’t ignore sins or condone sins. Shakespeare wasn’t right when he said that “love is blind.” And John Wesley wasn’t right in saying, “He that loves another, covers his faults, how many soever they be. He turns away his own eyes from them; and, as far as is possible, hides them from others” (John Wesley).
Covering sins doesn’t mean ignoring sin; it means dealing with sins in a godly way. We learn this by comparing Scripture with Scripture. We are never taught to ignore sin; we cover sin, first of all, by dealing with it in a godly way: by kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). This is the starting point and the continual duty. This is 70X7 forgiveness (Mat. 18:22).
We deal with sin, further, by patience, by giving people time to grow, by giving God time to work in their lives (1 Th. 5:14). This is a necessary part of preaching (“with all longsuffering,” 2 Ti. 4:2).
We deal with sin by reproving and rebuking those who persist in disobedience (2 Ti. 4:2).
We deal with sin by restoration, which involves everything necessary to restore someone who is backslidden (Ga. 6:1).
This is how Christ covered the sins of the churches in Revelation 2-3.
This is how Paul covered the sins of the church at Corinth.
This is how the first church I joined helped me as a young Christian.
Dealing with sin in a godly way is the essence of love. “It wishes the well-being of the whole man--body, soul, and spirit, but chiefly spirit. And the highest love is the desire to make men good and Godlike” (Biblical Illustrator).
“... this also we wish, even your perfection” (2 Co. 13:9).
A Multitude of Sins
A “multitude of sins” are the sins that are committed daily by sinners. Though we are saved, the old man is still present and there are daily sins. Consider Ephesians 4 - lying, every type of deception, anything less than complete honesty (v. 25), stealing, including stealing time from an employer (v. 28), laziness (v. 28), bitterness, wrath, clamour, evil speaking (v. 31).
This shows the total error of any type of sinless perfection doctrine. There are multitudes of sins in the Christian life that must be dealt with.
There are sins unto death that cannot be covered (1 John 5:16-17). This is sin that is especially grievous before God and is not repented of. David almost committed this sin (2 Sa. 12:13).
The Efficacy of Charity
It can cover a multitude of sins.
We need fervent charity in the home: husbands loving their wives (if you love your wife you won’t let yourself be bitter against her and be too demanding of her and be uncaring about her), wives loving their husbands (if you love your husband you will honor him and submit to him), parents loving their children (if you love your children you will not neglect them, you will not fail to train and discipline them), children loving their parents (if you love your parents you will honor and obey them; you will not want to hurt them). We need to find ways to show love, find ways to build one another up in Christ. We need to think about this and plan for this
We need fervent charity in the church: By the members for the pastors (“to esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake,” 1 Th. 5:13); if you love your pastor it is easy to honor and obey him; you will give him the benefit of the doubt; you will honor God by honoring the authority God has given some men; but you will not follow him blindly; that is cultic. By the members toward one another (“exhorting one another,” Heb. 10:25).
The Driving Force Behind Charity
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Pe. 4:7).
Both passages dealing with covering sin are prefaced by prayer. Compare James 5:16-20.
Little prayer results in little spiritual power, which results in little love.
[Excerpted from THE DISCIPLING CHURCH: THE CHURCH THAT WILL STAND UNTIL JESUS COMES. New for March 2017. This church planting manual aims to establish churches on a solid biblical foundation of a regenerate church membership, one mind in doctrine and practice, serious discipleship, thorough-going discipline, and a large vision for world evangelism. We examine the New Testament pattern of a discipling church, and we trace the history of Baptist churches over the past 200 years to document the apostasy away from the biblical pattern to a mixed multitude philosophy. We also document the history of “sinner’s prayer” evangelism which has affected the reality of a regenerate church membership. The book deals with biblical salvation with evidence, care in receiving church members, the church’s essential first love for Christ, the right kind of church leaders, the right kind of preaching, training church members to be Bible students, the many facets of church discipline, building strong families, youth ministry, training preachers, charity, reproof, educating the church for spiritual protection, maintaining standards for workers, the church’s prayer life, the church’s separation, spiritual revival, the church’s music, and many other things. The last chapter documents some of the cultural factors that have weakened churches over the past 100 years, including the theological liberalism, public school system, materialism and working mothers, the rock & roll pop culture, pop psychology, the feminist movement, New Evangelicalism, television, and the Internet. There is also a list of recommended materials for a discipling church. 550 pages. Available in print and eBook editions]
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