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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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church discipline

Church Discipline Part 8 Those Gray Areas

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Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

We are still progressing along in our study of dealing with “issues” in our local church bodies. Please, read the passages below, because an in depth look at them is not the plan here. They do, however, illustrate some powerful points in this series as we look at the issue of church discipline. Perhaps we should have covered this earlier, as it has a lot to do with the subject of confronting sin.

Romans 14

Acts 15:22-35

I hope we are in full agreement that some transgressions simply have to be confronted, and that fellow believers have every right and obligation to do just that. Here is the thing, though; not every offense we might find personally distasteful to us personally has to be confronted. Some things are clearly black and white in God’s Word. Some are not; some things are gray.

Sadly and unfortunately churches, and the people in them often make lists of “rules” that have to be followed among membership which simply aren’t necessarily based on what God’s Word tells us. So, on one end of the spectrum, we have legalism. Some churches, conversely, turn a blind eye to anything that may happen among the body. The other end of this spectrum, of course, is license. Legalism and license, both wrong and neither in accordance with God’s teachings.

If you like to watch R rated movies, is that really any of my business? On the other hand, if you are regularly seen exiting the local Porn theater, is that?

If you don’t do the dishes at home, is that my business? On the other hand, if you openly and notoriously cheat on our wife, is that?

You drink a glass of wine on occasion, is that really my business? On the other hand, you go out every weekend and get rip roaring drunk, is that?

Let’s say I have been a believer for 40 years, and you were saved just yesterday. Might the expectation of maturity and behavior be different for me after 40 years than it is for you after 24 hours?

I am not offering answers up there, merely asking questions and providing things to think about. How do  we know? How can we tell the difference? Beats me. We certainly can’t know by our own understanding but have to apply the guiding and illumination of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. We always have to remember what we are out to do. We aren’t out to cast out the heathen and clean up our church act. We are out to bring the erring brother to repentance and restoration. If you are not aiming for that objective, then you may actually be the problem.

Church Discipline Part 7 More Next Steps

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Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

So, where did we leave off last time? Well, we had discussed our sinning brother. We had gone and talked to our sinning brother. Our prayer had been that he would simply acknowledge what had been going on, repent, and move in a different direction. Sadly, he or she has not. In fact, they have simply ignored our Biblically based counsel and chosen to continue openly and rebelliously on their chosen path. Now what?

Does it really matter that much? Yes, it does. We have covered that pretty completely and I hope arrived at the quite Scriptural conclusion that the transgressions of our brothers and sisters do matter, and sometimes have to be addressed. They may be hurting themselves or another person. Even if they are not, harm is certainly done to both Jesus’ work and His church by open, notorious, and unrepented sin among it’s members.

But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Basically, our brother or sister has ignored us, and we have not won him back, and further action in this matter is needed. Who are the one of two others? Who should that be? Why more people?

So, who should deal with an erring brother? Well, I look and look and don’t find a set pattern for who that should be. Is it the responsibility of the leadership of a church, such as Deacons or Elders? Perhaps. Is it the responsibility for those close to the erring brother or sister? Perhaps. I think it just depends on the nature and character of what is going on to a certain extent.

Let’s say a man or woman is cheating on their spouse, and their circle of friends has become aware of it. That might be the perfect time for those friends to intervene and confront their friend. On the other hand, let us say a person is engaging in malicious and unfounded rumor spreading about the pastor. Perhaps that would be a time for church leadership to step in and say something. Either way, we must always remember the goal here is repentance, a change of behavior, and restoration of the erring person. We are not to approach as if we are the morality police, come to punish the wayward criminal. Personally, I think confronting a situation at the lowest possible level is likely the best way to handle things.

Why two or three more? Well we can see a couple of examples of this thought elsewhere in God’s Word:

Deuteronomy 19:15 A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If the issue being discussed is an offense from one believer to another, perhaps the presence of several people can mediate the offense and bring all parties back to fellowship with one another. If readers recall, that is precisely happened at my own house after the big boom there. If that happens, the problem is solved, and all becomes well. Problems cannot always be solved, and in that case the presence of more than one person can serve several purposes. It can prevent the unfair and unfounded accusation of wrongdoing by one person against another. It can also provide corroboration of transgressions if a person simply will not repent and turn from their sin.

Again..and again…and yet again. I will say again that the objective of this entire process is not to punish wrong doing. We are, as I have repeated, not the morality police. God is the judge of our hearts, and our actions and only He is authorized to administer justice to a believer. We always have to maintain the focus on what we are trying to accomplish here: repentance and restoration.

Well, there we have it. Our brother or sister is sinning, and will not admit and repent of their activity. We have talked to them privately and we have talked to them by committee so to speak. If things change, that is wonderful and an answered prayer. But, what if they don’t? What then?

Church Discipline Part 4 Whose Business Is it Anyway?

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Matthew 18:15-17

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Last time, we left our post with a couple of questions:

When our brother sins. Against who? Are we talking about brother to brother offenses or just sin in general?

Yes!

If the sin or offense is not against us, is it even our business?

Yes!

Now, let me explain what I mean as best as I can! I want to reference my friend Don Merritt again for a really good explanation of just who the offense in question might be against. Maybe I am being lazy here, but he did a great job of discussing this. I agree totally with his assessment that a case could be made either way about the offense in question. I also agree with his conclusion that it may not really matter just who the offended and/or sinned against party really is. Any sin on the part of our brethren may harm us personally, may harm another of the brethren, or may be harmful to the Kingdom. They are all certainly grievous and wounding to God, aren’t they?

Is our brother’s sin really any of our business? Isn’t that really between him or her and God? I have to vote yes on both of those questions. Of course Jesus is our ultimate judge, and we are told not to judge any one. We are not to pronounce judgment on another person. We don’t know any person’s heart, nor can we be in the business of telling them if they are right with God or not. We can go to Galatians 5 and read all about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. The only reason I bring that up is the phrase I have heard, “We aren’t to judge, but we can be fruit inspectors.”

That really doesn’t answer why though, now does it? Why is the sin of our brother’s and sister’s really any of our business?

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming themselves. We are our brother’s keeper. That means as brothers and sisters of a person, we have a responsibility to help them keep themselves out of harm’s way. Many behaviors which we would classify as sin, are in fact harmful physically and/or emotionally to the person committing them. We would certainly be withing bounds to help them out of that situation.

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming US! We are, as The Bible teaches, to forgive even the believer who sins directly against us. Period. That doesn’t mean we have to expose ourselves to their offense or even let them continue in that offense. The gossiper is a good example. If our brother or sister is gossiping about us, the attempt to make this offense stop is certainly within bounds.

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming another. The cheating businessman, or the man abusing his wife may not be harming himself or us, but he is certainly harming others and correcting them on this behavior is certainly withing bounds.

Finally, our sinning brother or sister may be harming the the Kingdom, and the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a reason so many think our churches are full of hypocrites; sometimes they are. It’s simply not good for the testimony of our churches for members to come to church on Sunday morning and act like an angel, then for the rest of the week act like the devil himself. Dealing with church members who engage in open and notorious sin is certainly within bounds.

Great! We have concluded here that, yes, sin among the brethren is not just their business, but likely OUR business. Now what? We run out and talk about them amongst  ourselves, then toss them out on the street, right?

Well, no, not really.

Coming up: A story of a restoration

Church Discipline Part 2 Let’s Define Church.

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Matthew 18:15-17

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

We are taking a short study trip through that passage, which gives us guidelines on what is often referred to as “Church discipline.” We might also say, “How to deal with ‘issues,’ among us.”

Before we dive in too deep, maybe this is a good opportunity to talk about what is meant when “church” is referred to here. This post is not going a big dissertation about the local church, or anything like that. We could talk all day about the local church, the so called “universal church,” the invisible versus visible church, and a lot of other issues about “the church.” It’s a great discussion, and someday I’d love to have it. For the purpose of this short study, I am just going to review quickly about what I believe is taught regarding the church as is relates to this issue. Even then, it’s not really going to be a study of it, just a simply relation about what I believe Scripture teaches about the church.

Directly from the Doctrinal statement of the work I am part of:

We believe that Jesus Christ established His church during His ministry on earth and that it is always a local, visible assembly of scripturally baptized believers in covenant relationship to carry out the Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ, and each church is an independent, self-governing body, and no other ecclesiastical body may exercise authority over it. We believe that Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission to the New Testament churches only, and that He promised the perpetuity of His churches

I would present also the following in support of that statement:

Matthew 4:18-22 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 28:19,20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 1:14-20 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

John 1:35-51 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Ephesians 3:21  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

As we continue on with that, we will dig in more deeply on exactly what this means, and how it fits with our passage in more detail.

Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Church Discipline-Whose Business Is It Anyway?

matthew 18 21

Matthew 18:21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Last time, we left our post with a couple of questions:

When our brother sins. Against who? Are we talking about brother to brother offenses or just sin in general?

Yes!

If the sin or offense is not against us, is it even our business?

Yes!

Now, let me explain what I mean as best as I can! I want to reference my friend Don Merritt again for a really good explanation of just who the offense in question might be against. Maybe I am being lazy here, but he did a great job of discussing this. I agree totally with his assessment that a case could be made either way about the offense in question. I also agree with his conclusion that it may not really matter just who the offended and/or sinned against party really is. Any sin on the part of our brethren may harm us personally, may harm another of the brethren, or may be harmful to the Kingdom. They are all certainly grievous and wounding to God, aren’t they?

Is our brother’s sin really any of our business? Isn’t that really between him or her and God? I have to vote yes on both of those questions. Of course Jesus is our ultimate judge, and we are told not to judge any one. We are not to pronounce judgment on another person. We don’t know any person’s heart, nor can we be in the business of telling them if they are right with God or not. We can go to Galatians 5 and read all about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. The only reason I bring that up is the phrase I have heard, “We aren’t to judge, but we can be fruit inspectors.”

That really doesn’t answer why though, now does it? Why is the sin of our brother’s and sister’s really any of our business?

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming themselves. We are our brother’s keeper. That means as brothers and sisters of a person, we have a responsibility to help them keep themselves out of harm’s way. Many behaviors which we would classify as sin, are in fact harmful physically and/or emotionally to the person committing them. We would certainly be withing bounds to help them out of that situation.

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming US! We are, as The Bible teaches, to forgive even the believer who sins directly against us. Period. That doesn’t mean we have to expose ourselves to their offense or even let them continue in that offense. The gossiper is a good example. If our brother or sister is gossiping about us, the attempt to make this offense stop is certainly within bounds.

Our sinning brother or sister may be harming another. The cheating businessman, or the man abusing his wife may not be harming himself or us, but he is certainly harming others and correcting them on this behavior is certainly withing bounds.

Finally, our sinning brother or sister may be harming the the Kingdom, and the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a reason so many think our churches are full of hypocrites; sometimes they are. It’s simply not good for the testimony of our churches for members to come to church on Sunday morning and act like an angel, then for the rest of the week act like the devil himself. Dealing with church members who engage in open and notorious sin is certainly within bounds.

Great! We have concluded here that, yes, sin among the brethren is not just their business, but likely OUR business. Now what? We run out and talk about them amongst  ourselves, then toss them out on the street, right?

Well, no, not really.

Coming up: A story of a restoration

Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Church Discipline, What’s That?

matthew 18 21

Matthew 18:21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

For those who may not have been reading, we are in a series of devotions in which we look at forgiveness in the Bible. We have been on this particular question for a while now, and will likely be for a while more. The reason for that is that, although we man not be talking about that passage above in every devotional, much of what is talked about in Matthew Chapter 18 seems to revolve around that conversation between Jesus and Peter

The common thread throughout this passage is fairly simple; it is a thread of love, forgiveness, and restoration. We have talked about dealing with how deep our forgiveness for the brethren should be, dealing with the more tender of our brethren as children, and seeking out those who have strayed and bringing them back.  Again, it seems to all revolve around those 490(read infinite) instances of forgiving Jesus instructed Peter about.

Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. Next in line for discussion is how we handle things when a brother or sister doesn’t quite come back the way we might have intended. What happens when they keep heading the wrong direction?

My blogging friend Don Merritt at The Life Project wrote a great post entitled Dealing With Issues  that addresses this very issue. A link to that post would be quite sufficient, as it was a great post! But, because I am a writer, write I shall. I didn’t steal all of Don’s stuff; he just really nailed it really, really well I thought.

Matthew 18:15-17

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The passage above covers what is commonly referred to as “Church Discipline.” If one were to look up a definition of the word discipline, the results might be found to be quite disturbing. At least, I personally hope some of them might be found disturbing. A person would see words such as rules, order, and punishment used. Ugh! Some further reading would reveal a phrase, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” Okay, that seems some better!

Discipline…Disciple. Discipline…disciple. We are to be disciples. Our objective in our Christian walk is to, over time, become disciples of Christ and ultimately more Christ-like. That then is the ultimate objective of what we refer to as “Church Discipline.” We aren’t here to teach our brethren to be rule followers, or to punish them when they don’t follow them! We are to teach them, and disciple them, in becoming more Christ-like. Conversely, when things don’t quite go the way they ought to, we are to help bring them back….to restore them, 490 times if that is what it takes.

Just a couple of questions as we wrap up today and move on:

When our brother sins. Against who? Are we talking about brother to brother offenses or just sin in general?

If the sin or offense is not against us, is it even our business?

Do I have thoughts on these questions? I sure do. Until next time, Peace.

Great Questions In the Bible-Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Taking It To the Church

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Matthew 18:21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before we begin we ought to recap quickly where we have been. We have been using the passage above as the center-point, or pivot around which we have built a series of devotions. Specifically, we have been dealing with an issue often referred to as “church discipline.” We have been taking a look at how to deal with a brother or sister who has sinned or fallen short in such a way there is no choice but to intervene in the situation. Here is a quick recap:

It’s not a “gray area.” What is occurring is clearly causing harm to the brother/sister, another person, the church, or the Kingdom in general and its testimony

A private conversation has not helped, as the offender has either denied or rebuffed our efforts to help them get back on path.

Visits by the brother/sister’s friends or perhaps church officers has not helped.

Clearly we have a situation that cannot continue without harm occurring.

What now?

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: Take it to the church. Yes, that is correct, throw the business in question right out there for everybody to know. That seems harsh doesn’t it? Why on earth would we do such a thing?

Well, we are not:

Laying the ground work to kick the no good out.

Hoping the public humiliation will just make them, and the problem, go away.

Make ourselves, and our church look good in the community. “Hey, look what WE do to no good sinners!”

Additionally, we are not throwing our authority as moral policemen around here; in fact, church discipline conducted according to God’s Word  would better be called God’s discipline. Additionally, we are not out to condemn the offender in our midst. Public condemnation is likely to only bring out the worst in a person and humiliate and drive them away.

What is the goal? We have said it before, and we will say it again; the goal is repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. OUR goals with our offending brother or sister are exactly the SAME objectives our Lord has for us as sinners. That’s it, and it’s very, very simple.

At this point, the church, the local assembly of believers should be aggressively and compassionately pursuing the offending brother or sister. We should love, beg, and plead for our loved one to repent and return to us. All of us, the entire church. I make specific mention of the church as a body, because that is who it is. Whether it be a local church of 75 believers or 1000 believers, it is the local body of believers who need to be chasing this brother or sister. It’s not a church committee or disciplinary committee within a church, and it is certainly not some ecclesiastical board or authority outside of the local assembly of believers. It is literally, the church family and body that our wayward brother or sister is part of.

We have loved, we have chased, and we have pursued. Our beloved one has continued still to live in their sin and rebellion. What’s next?

Great Questions In the Bible-Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? More Next Steps

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Matthew 18:21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

So, where did we leave off last time? Well, we had discussed our sinning brother. We had gone and talked to our sinning brother. Our prayer had been that he would simply acknowledge what had been going on, repent, and move in a different direction. Sadly, he or she has not. In fact, they have simply ignored our Biblically based counsel and chosen to continue openly and rebelliously on their chosen path. Now what?

Does it really matter that much? Yes, it does. We have covered that pretty completely and I hope arrived at the quite Scriptural conclusion that the transgressions of our brothers and sisters do matter, and sometimes have to be addressed. They may be hurting themselves or another person. Even if they are not, harm is certainly done to both Jesus’ work and His church by open, notorious, and unrepented sin among it’s members.

Since this matters very much to our Lord, He gave us fairly clear instructions on how to progress when a sinning brother chooses to continue in there sin. Here, again is our process:

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. Basically, our brother or sister has ignored us, and we have not won him back, and further action in this matter is needed. Who are the one of two others? Who should that be? Why more people?

So, who should deal with an erring brother? Well, I look and look and don’t find a set pattern for who that should be. Is it the responsibility of the leadership of a church, such as Deacons or Elders? Perhaps. Is it the responsibility for those close to the erring brother or sister? Perhaps. I think it just depends on the nature and character of what is going on to a certain extent.

Let’s say a man or woman is cheating on their spouse, and their circle of friends has become aware of it. That might be the perfect time for those friends to intervene and confront their friend. On the other hand, let us say a person is engaging in malicious and unfounded rumor spreading about the pastor. Perhaps that would be a time for church leadership to step in and say something. Either way, we must always remember the goal here is repentance, a change of behavior, and restoration of the erring person. We are not to approach as if we are the morality police, come to punish the wayward criminal. Personally, I think confronting a situation at the lowest possible level is likely the best way to handle things.

Why two or three more? Well we can see a couple of examples of this thought elsewhere in God’s Word:

Deuteronomy 19:15 A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.

If the issue being discussed is an offense from one believer to another, perhaps the presence of several people can mediate the offense and bring all parties back to fellowship with one another. If readers recall, that is precisely happened at my own house after the big boom there. If that happens, the problem is solved, and all becomes well. Problems cannot always be solved, and in that case the presence of more than one person can serve several purposes. It can prevent the unfair and unfounded accusation of wrongdoing by one person against another. It can also provide corroboration of transgressions if a person simply will not repent and turn from their sin.

Again..and again…and yet again. I will say again that the objective of this entire process is not to punish wrong doing. We are, as I have repeated, not the morality police. God is the judge of our hearts, and our actions and only He is authorized to administer justice to a believer. We always have to maintain the focus on what we are trying to accomplish here: repentance and restoration.

Well, there we have it. Our brother or sister is sinning, and will not admit and repent of their activity. We have talked to them privately and we have talked to them by committee so to speak. If things change, that is wonderful and an answered prayer. But, what if they don’t? What then?

Great Questions In the Bible-Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Next Steps: A Private Conversation

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Matthew 18:21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

We are still pondering and exploring this one question from the Gospel of Matthew, and the conversation it records between Peter and our Lord. This continues to be our question, even though we are wandering around quite a bit.

Specifically, we have been talking about a subject often referred to as “church discipline.” We have convered the idea that the transgression of a brother are very much in fact, the business of the church; we have even talked about a situation where sin and error in a church were confronted and dealt with very wisely and Biblically. Now, we are going to talk about how we, as church member, might go about dealing with sin in our midst.

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. We have established that “against you” in this situation may or may not be against personally. In many ways, a sin of any sort is a sin against all of us. Some things seem to come to light here.

Tell him his fault between YOU and him. You who? Is this the preacher’s job? Is it the job of the Deacons or Elders? Clearly if something is done against us directly and personally, we should also deal with it directly and personally. What about other open, unrepented sins among us? Well, just allow me to say this; our preachers and leaders are not in place to be morality police in our congregations. Whose job is it to approach a sinning brother? I would say the person who observes the behavior. One writer said the following: “The person initiating discipline is any believer who is aware of another believer’s sin.”

Accountability partners are good here. I know exactly who is going to come tell me when I mess up, and he knows who is coming to see him when he does. Truly, if we love our friends, we will confront them when they step off the Godly path.

You and him alone. This is a big point. At this point, who really needs to know about what a brother is doing? Well, the offending person knows(maybe), you know, and any others who have personally observed know. At this point, who does NOT need to know? Anybody not on the previous list! I get that some legal issues might require telling others about something, but really, this should be a completely private matter.

When is the best time to approach a situation such as this? When it happens. Sins allowed to be fully developed and become habitual are much harder to eradicate from our lives than those we face honestly earlier. In fact, it is entirely possible that our brother has absolutely no clue there is a problem.

Attitude counts. The truth is that none of us want to be told we are doing wrong. At least I don’t, and I assume that is true for readers as well. We have to confront the sins of our brother openly and honestly, yet without condemnation. Telling someone what they are doing is not the same as condemnation. Our goal here is not just to inform them they are wrong, or to establish our own perfectness in the eyes of another. Our goal is to teach what is right, and bring a person back into fellowship. Any conversation with our brother such as this has to be done in meekness and humility, with an obvious air of reconciliation on our part.

To sum up. The truth is that discipline and restoration is not easy; it is a difficult subject. It can be an uncomfortable and difficult task. It is, however, a necessary one. God is love, and we should be the earthly expression of that love as well. Sin is destructive to the sinner, it is destructive to others, and it is destructive to the work of God and our churches. We do not love anyone by simply turning our heads and ignoring it. Even worse would be to ignore our brother’s faults with an air of smug indifference our self righteous contempt; what would be sin on our own part.

If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Done properly, in love, and with meekness and humility this entire process can end right there. After all, isn’t that the goal? If our brother acknowledges his issue, honestly repents and commits to staying on the path then nothing further need happen.

It doesn’t always work that way, though, does it? If our brother refuses to listen and repent, what then?

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