Online Bible Commentary
Church, NOT a Hospital for Sinners
Acts 2: 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them…44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common…47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (NKJV)
As a former pastor of a seeker sensitive church, I often spoke the phrase “Church is a hospital for sinners.” Unfortunately, that statement is not precise enough and now we are seeing the negative result of not being precise.
That phrase today is being used by many people to say that the church is just as full of sinners as the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Or, should I say nothing SHOULD be further from the truth.
The above passage gives us the pattern Jesus established for His church. We see that the people who believed that Jesus is Lord wanted to know what they needed to do to become followers of Christ (vv.36-37). Peter gave them the formula: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v.38).
To repent means that you are asking for forgiveness and you are turning away from sin. To be baptized is your announcement to the church that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior and have repented. Upon taking these steps the believer then receives the Holy Spirit who helps him not to sin.
This promise is available to everyone. Jesus calls for everyone to accept this promise and be “saved” from the penalty of sin (vv. 39-40). However, only some of those present accepted God’s promise, and those were added to the existing believers, the church (v.41).The ones who chose not to repent and be baptized were not allowed to be members of the church.
We then see that the church members had “everything in common” (v.44). And God was blessing them for their faithfulness and obedience by bringing in new believers daily (v.47).
So we see that the only members of Jesus’ church are repentant believers. Seekers cannot be members of the church. They are still seeking. They have not believed yet. Adulterers, thieves, the greedy, idolaters, homosexuals, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers and any other unrepentant sinners cannot be members of the church (1 Cor. 6:9-10). But anyone who believes and repents can be a member of the church.
The believers “had everything in common” (v.44). However, a person who has turned from a lifestyle of sin (repented) has absolutely nothing in common with a person who embraces a lifestyle of sin (unrepentant). This, again, proves that Jesus did not approve of unrepentant sinners being members of His church.
In summary, members of the church should be totally opposite of non members. They should not reflect the “world”, the domain of unrepentant sinners. They are a new creation. They have taken off the old, and put on the new.
So the proper phrase should be “The church BUILDING is a hospital for sinners.” Unrepentant sinners should be invited to the church. They are the patients. They have come to the “hospital” (the church building) willingly to be healed of their spiritual disease. Those who decided not to come will not be healed at this time.
The members, those who have turned from sin, are the nurses and the pastors are the doctors. I believe that is a much better analogy and reflects proper Biblical teaching.