Simply a thought…
A hymn of praise is not fitting on the lips of a sinner, for it has not been sent from the Lord. For a hymn of praise should be uttered in wisdom, and the Lord will prosper it.
(Sir 15:9 RSV)
I have made no bones about enjoying the Orthodox Study Bible, and this is one of the reasons why. While reading Acts 16 today, I came across a cross reference pointing to Sirach 15.9 as well as Luke 4.43.
Now as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit that enabled her to foretell the future by supernatural means. She brought her owners a great profit by fortune-telling. She followed behind Paul and us and kept crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” She continued to do this for many days. But Paul became greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out of her at once. (Act 16:16-18 NET)
We have a great man of God, Paul, preaching to the sinners in Thyatira concerning Jesus Christ. He meets a possessed slave girl, who was a fortune teller. She exercised great supernatural powers. We can draw the conclusions to the false prophets today, but in reality, the slave girl was little more than an astrologer. We cannot deny that her power was real. Even in the days of Irenaeus, in his first book of of Against Heresies, tells us a man with the ‘familiar spirit’. These people who entertain such spirits are condemned in the Old Testament and to be stoned.
Their entire being is fifthly – from head to toe. The slave girl had to be rid of the spirit before being allowed to speak of God. The same is said of the demonic filled people in the gospel.
When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ. (Luk 4:40-41 NKJV)
Chrysostom says at this point,
“But in what follows, And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak, mark the humility of Christ, who would not let the unclean spirits make Him manifest. For it was not fit that they should usurp the glory of the Apostolic office, nor did it become the mysteries of Christ to be made public by impure tongues.”
No, to how does this apply to us? First, I know of a man, a pastor, who allows anything on the pulpit area. He knows of the truth, having preached it for decades, and having required from those that purport a gift of God some standard of holiness. Now, I when I sat under the man, if that was such a thing then – for I did not know what that truly meant – he would allow others of similiar doctrine to minister, but the doctrine was similiar and the standard well measured. Sometime ago, his wife fell disastrously ill, soon dying of cancer. His nature of anger quickly overtook him and he essentially ran off those that would disagree with him.
A few years ago, by way of mutual acquaintances, I learned that he has erased his standard of holiness as well as allowed the discontinuation of doctrinal preaching. He allowed those with very dissimilar doctrines to creep in, to lead those songs of praise, to overtake the leadership of the congregation to the point where it is nothing of which I remember from my younger days.
I have to think that Sirach was indeed wise when he wrote these words, uttered in inspiration. This is not to mean that a sinner cannot repent or call upon God, but to stand in the holy place and sacrifice to God while remaining a sinner would be wrong to allow. The Church is a holy place. To me, it is not merely a place to go to on Sunday morning, but the central part of the Christian life. It is the Church house where we celebrate a birth, a death and marriage. It is where we can gather support for a rough week ahead. It is like the Tabernacle of old, the place where we can seek the face of God.
The Church house is the place where we bring our sacrifice of praise, our holy hands, our shouts of joy. How dare a sinner intrude to offer a sacrifice and thus make a mockery of God. To think the sinner holy enough to offer sacrifice to a holy God while they think themselves without need of that very same God, still finding themselves stained by corruption!
We must make room always to allow the sinner a place of repentance, but this is the only sacrifice from the sinner that God accepts. The alter of this sacrifice must never be closed, but to allow the sinner to offer a song of praise to God and to rejoice in that sacrifice is make the holy unholy.