Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
–1 Timothy 5:20
Sometimes God allows people, even Christians, to experience the consequences of their sins so that other people will be discouraged from sinning. We see an example of that in Acts 5. The church in Jerusalem was having a missions campaign. Barnabas sold a piece of land and gave all the proceeds to the church (Acts 4:36-37). I’m sure everybody was encouraged by his gift. Ananias and Sapphira saw what happened, and they thought, “Boy, we want people to pat us on the back like that.” So they decided to sell a piece of property and give all the proceeds to the church too. They sold the property. They gave some of the money to the church, but instead of keeping their commitment, they kept some of the profit for themselves. How did God deal with that? In a very public way. “Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?’ … As he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last” (5:3-5). God struck him dead right on the spot.
Ananias’s wife, Sapphira, came in a few hours later, not knowing what had happened. “Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband” (vv. 9-10). Then, in one of the greatest understatements in all the Bible, verse 11 says, “Great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.” Can you imagine if you were a church member and you saw two people struck dead who had lied about what they were going to do? God uses consequences to discourage other people from sinning.
In 1 Timothy 5:20 Paul said to Timothy, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” Paul said if a leader in the church sins, don’t sweep it under the rug. Make his discipline public so that the rest of the church may be fearful of sinning. But this principle has wider application than the church. Parents, if your son gets his third speeding ticket and you revoke his license, that is a lesson not only for him, but it is a lesson for his younger siblings to see what happens when a child drives recklessly. Employers, you may have a dishonest employee who is embezzling funds. A reason to get rid of him is not only to get rid of the thief but also to promote honesty among other employees as they see what happens to an employee who steals. God’s principle is for people to experience consequences so that it can be a deterrent to others to sin.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.