Keith Hunt Restitution of All Things


                    DISFELLOWSHIP !! 
                         PART 2

                           by
                       Keith Hunt

                  DID PAUL CONTRADICT CHRIST?


     A Christian is told by Paul not to "keep company........NO,
NOT TO EAT WITH" a brother who is a fornicator, covetous,
idolater, railer, drunkard, extortioner - 1 Cor.5:11. We have
discussed earlier the type of person who would be doing these
things(a person who practices openly, as a way of life with no
remorse or sorrow or attempt to overcome these practices) and
that the church may have no choice but to dis- fellowship them.
Yet, is Paul saying here that the church brethren should not
attempt to bring this person back to Christ and Godliness - that
they should never speak to or write to such a person in Christian
love and concern?

     Let's look at what Paul said. He told the brethren "not to
keep company" but he did NOT SAY, "Do not keep company and NEVER
SPEAK to such brothers." He did not say, "NEVER WRITE to them."
He did not say, "You must leave them alone - neither write or
speak  to them, even in an attempt to win them back to Christ."  
     OF COURSE HE DID NOT SAY THESE THINGS to the Corinthians,
because Paul KNEW we should endeavour to restore such persons to
the brotherhood of Christ. He wrote so, as we have seen in
Galatians 6:1 and 2 Thes.3:6,11,14-15. The apostle James also
taught this truth(James 5:19,20).
     Paul did not contradict James or Christ.

     Paul was telling the Corinthian Christians that they should
not have CLOSE FAMILIAR contact with such people. They were no
longer to be BUDDY - BUDDIES. They were not to associate with
them as they once did. They were not to SOCIALIZE with them -
attend parties, cookouts, weekend campouts, backyard barbecues.
The church was to censure them from its social functions,
picnics, dances, and feasts.
     BUT NOWHERE in this verse or any other writings of Paul,
does he teach that the church is to treat these brothers or
sisters as ENEMIES - which must be shunned and never spoken to.
     On the contrary, Paul taught Christian brethren to try to
win back the wayward brother, just as James taught, just as
Christ taught in the parable of the Lost Sheep. And just as God
inspired Ezekiel to write to the shepherds of Israel(Ezek.34).
     To DO THIS will necessitate, AT TIMES, a certain amount of
speaking to, or writing to, the brother you want to see back in
the fold and true way of the Lord.

     ROMANS 16:17-18

     Paul says to MARK those which cause the church troubles and
avoid them.  The Greek word for "mark" simply means - regard,
consider, take heed, look at. It is the same Greek word used in
Phil.3:17, where Paul tells us to MARK those who follow Christ
and use them as your example. The Greek word itself does NOT mean
"disfellowship."
     Paul does say to AVOID them.

     But HOW?

     This instruction by Paul can be rightly taken in TWO ways.

  1. Censorship WITHIN the church. Such troublemakers you will
soon discern by their spirit of dissention and division in
conversations and life style. They will be ever trying to divide
and destroy unity. From such Paul says WITHDRAW - stay out of
their way, do not be a buddy-buddy of theirs. Then, God willing,
they may come to see the error of their tongue and ways. Kind
loving correction will often solve the problem as others withdraw
from them. 
2.  Censorship OUTSIDE the church. The problem these
troublemakers bring may become so large and offensive to all the
members of the church that they may have(in order not to fall
into confusion and disarray) no choice but to put these people
out of its fellowship. If this be the case, then we are to avoid
them as previously stated under 1 Cor.5:11. But using love,
endeavour to bring them to the unity that is in Christ.

     If the number 2 way be the only course of action left for
the church, HOW is it to be done?

     We have already seen Christ's instruction in Mat.18. Does
Paul here say any differently? Does Paul here give the local
minister - one man - as many congregations only have one minister
or Elder - the right and authority to disfellowship these
persons? Does Paul say it is only the elders(plural) who have
this right? Did he say Peter or James or some HEAD apostle(who
claims headship and/or is put as head by others) only had this
authority?

     Let us notice carefully what Paul said:

     "Now I beseech YOU, BRETHREN. Mark them...."(verse 17).

     He did NOT say: "I beseech you, minister" or "I beseech you,
elders" or "I beseech you head elder."
     He said: ".....You, BRETHREN."

     Yes, he addressed ALL the brethren to whom he was writing.
We read in chapter one, verse 7, that Paul was writing to ALL the
Christians at Rome; and he says this MARKING of certain ones must
be done by all.

     The word of God does not contradict itself. Paul does not
oppose what Christ taught. If these verses are used to say we
must disfellowship those who cause divisions and walk contrary to
Christ, then it must be the BRETHREN(THE MAJORITY DECISION OF THE
CHURCH CONCERNED) WHO ARE TO EXERCISE THIS CENSORSHIP!
     Not one man!  Not one minister or elder!  Not even a
collection of elders!  It is the church as a WHOLE that have this
authority!
     This is clearly what Christ taught, and this is what Paul
taught!

     1 COR.16:22 "IF ANY MAN LOVE NOT THE LORD JESUS CHRIST LET
HIM BE ANATHEMA MARANATHA."

     The Greek word for ANATHEMA is, as Strong's Concordance
says: "a (religious) ban or(concr.) excommunication(thing or
person) :- accursed, anathema, curse, x great."

     The LIVING BIBLE translates: ".....That person is
cursed...."   The RSV says: ".....Let him be accursed...."    
The MODERN LANGUAGE renders it:  ".....He shall be accursed...."

     The one Greek word for the English "Let him be" is in the
PRESENT IMPERATIVE tense.  
     The present tense denotes action now going on or a state now
existing.  The imperative denotes the mood of a verb that
expresses a command, request, or advice.
     The Greek word is in the command, request or advice mood,
and in the present (not past or future) continuous tense.

     How we translate the Greek word "anathema" will give us a
few alternatives as to how to understand what Paul is saying. If
we translate it as ACCURSED or CURSED, then we go with how the
LIVING BIBLE renders it: "....that person IS cursed."

     Paul is giving advice. Those who do not love Christ are NOW
presently under a curse. To love Christ is to accept Him as your
saviour and keep His commandments. Then we are not under the
penalty of the law - death. We are not cursed to die as sinners,
but free from death to life. Those who do not love Christ(and His
word) are presently under a curse of death until they repent of
their sins and accept Christ as their saviour. 
     Those who once loved Christ but have made shipwreck their
faith, who now no longer love Jesus and His way of life, are
again presently cursed by the penalty of sin - death. 
     Paul is thus advising them that LOVE is the important thing.
To love Christ is to love what He taught, to love to obey  Him,
to love to serve Him, love to follow in His steps. As Paul had
already said in chapter 13, though a person has great gifts and
deeds, if he did not have love it was to no avail. His gifts and
deeds would not save him without love. A true sincere humble
attitude and motivation towards Christ, and loving concern for
fellow man, is an essential for not being under the curse of
death.

     If we translate "anathema" as meaning BAN or EXCOMMUNICATE,
then we stay with the KJV of "Let him be(advice, command - now
be, present action) anathema(banned, excommunicated).

     So then we have another verse which would teach that the
church has power to censure certain individuals. 
     But nothing in this verse gives ONE man this right or
authority, not even a group of  elders.
     Nothing contradicts what Christ taught in Matthew 18:15-17
(or anything else Paul wrote)  that the CHURCH(the collective
members as a whole) ONLY HAVE THIS POWER.

     Who would be the ones so censured? Why, only those who do
not love Christ. The expression "love not" is in the present
tense. Paul is talking about persons who LOVE NOT Jesus as a
present continuous way of life. We have already seen the types of
persons and life styles that could come under "not loving the
Lord Jesus Christ."

     Paul finishes by saying "Maranatha" - which is a Syriac
phrase, and signifies "THE LORD COMETH."
     The very Lord they do not love, is coming - coming to
execute judgment, and to say to the wicked, those who will not
repent: "Depart from me you workers of iniquity."  For if you
never come to love Christ you must be censured to the eternal
curse of eternal death.

     GAL.5:10,12. "HE THAT TROUBLES YOU SHALL BEAR HIS JUDGMENT,
whosoever he be ...... I would they were even cut off which
trouble you."

     Is there anything in these verses that gives ONE minister,
or a group of ministers, the power to excommunicate? Does Paul
say: "These troublemakers I will PERSONALLY disfellowship" or
"When I find out who these people are that trouble you, I will
put them out of the church" or "Find out who these persons are
and have your Elder/s disfellowship them." ?
     No!  There is nothing said to contradict what has been
already said by Jesus, that only the CHURCH as a whole has the
authority to disfellowship anyone. Paul did not even know WHO
these troublemakers were. He said they would bear their
punishment, "WHOSOEVER he be."  And verse 12 should be better
translated from the Greek to read: "I wish those who unsettle and
confuse you would(go all the way and) CUT THEMSELVES
OFF"(Amplified Bible).
     The INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH also gives the sense as Paul
WISHING that these troublemakers would cut THEMSELVES OFF. See
also the PHILLIPS translation.

     If you wanted to stay with the translation of the KJV, at
best, Paul is only giving the churches of Galatia(the book was
written to churches of Galatia - chapter 1:2), his WISHES, his
desires, his advice - that the churches themselves would bear the
responsibility of ACTION. 
     This is the understanding taken by most Bible commentaries.

     1 THES. 5:14. "NOW WE EXHORT YOU, BRETHREN, WARN THEM THAT
ARE UNRULY..."

     Here Paul and others (now WE exhort)  did not immediately
cast out those who were unruly, but told the brethren to warn
them. Paul obviously did not take it upon himself. He probably
did not even know who these unruly people were. He gave the
BRETHREN the power to warn them, which is exactly what Jesus
Christ Himself taught, as recorded in Matthew 18:17.

     TITUS 3:10,11. "A MAN THAT IS AN HERETIC AFTER THE FIRST AND
SECOND ADMONITION, REJECT; knowing that he that is such is
subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself."

     The Greek for "heretic" used here denotes "to take for
oneself, a schismatic" (see Strong's Concordance). A person then
who causes DIVISION, who has a mind set on dividing, whose
purpose and aim is to divide and conquer. The Greek for
"subverted" is correctly translated PERVERT.  The Greek word for
"sinneth" is in the present tense.
     The men(could be a Christian brother or could be just an
outsider wanting to cause trouble) here spoken of are HABITUAL
sinners. They live a life style of this sin. They are perverted
as a present continuous action in this sin. What is their sin?
Why, constantly working to disunite and divide the church.

     These verses and Romans 16:17-18 are related.  

     Notice!  Paul is teaching Titus exactly the same thing as
Christ taught His disciples - one admonition, two admonitions,
third admonition (by the whole church - Mat.18:17) - reject.

     There is no conflict between Paul and Christ - only HARMONY!

     1 TIM. 6:3-5. "IF ANY MAN TEACH OTHERWISE, AND consent not
to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
to the doctrine which is according to Godliness, he is proud -
knowing nothing - but doting about questions and strifes of
words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the
truth, supposing that gain is Godliness. FROM SUCH WITHDRAW
YOURSELF."

     It should be evident from the plain language Paul uses here
as to the character and lifestyle of the people here described.
It does NOT describe a person who loves God and his fellow man
with sincerity and humility, but has a few differences of opinion
on church administration, policy or understanding of some Bible
verses.
     
     The person Paul describes is DESTITUTE OF THE TRUTH! These
refuse God'sword and will not live by it!

     What does Paul say to Timothy(a minister of God)?  Does he
tell him to use his PERSONAL authority to cast them out of the
church - to disfellowship them?  Does Paul instruct Timothy to
get some other ministers and together censure these people?  Does
he tell Timothy to go to a higher ranking elder(maybe Peter,
James, or Paul himself) with their names and evil deeds, and
obtain authority from them to excommunicate these fellows?
     No!  He tells Timothy none of these things.  He does tell
him to do a PERSONAL thing, something all true followers of
Christ should do.  When confronted with these types of
individuals - FROM SUCH WITHDRAW YOURSELF!  Do not be a buddy of
theirs.  Stay out of their way.  Don't be a close friend of such
persons.

     Such people here described by Paul to Timothy may very well
come under the verses of Romans 16:17-18 and Titus 3:10,11.  And
so the instructions of Matthew 18:15- 17 would need apply.

     1 TIM.5:19,20. "AGAINST AN ELDER RECEIVE NOT AN ACCUSATION,
BUT BEFORE TWO OR THREE WITNESSES. THEM THAT SIN REBUKE BEFORE
ALL, THAT OTHERS ALSO MAY FEAR."

     If Timothy did not have any PERSONAL power to disfellowship
anyone, then what authority did he have in regard to other
ministers or elders?

     The letters to Timothy are known as PASTORAL letters -
instructions to a minister or elder.
     It is evident from these verses that an elder can act as a
mediator between problems within the eldership itself and that of
the membership of the church.
     Paul was instructed by Christ. He knew the teachings of
Jesus as given in Mat.18:15-17. Paul would have instructed
Timothy likewise. If a minister had aught against another
minister he should go to him alone and try to solve the problem.
If that doesn't work, then two or three can go together to the
one involved in the dispute. Now, if no satisfaction can be
reached between these ministers, then Paul would ADD ONE MORE
STEP to be taken in eldership problems: bring in a MEDIATOR. 
Paul is instructing Timothy that he should not be a mediator in
eldership problems until the first TWO STEPS of Matthew 18 have
been taken.

     If it is a member of the church having a problem with an
elder, then the same rule of Matthew 18 still applies - personal
talk first to try and solve the problem, then if not rectified,
two or three go to the elder involved. If still no satisfaction,
then another elder/s brought in to mediate. 

     If the Elder is in the wrong, does Paul then say Timothy had
the power to "disfellowship" or "cast out" or "excommunicate"
these sinning ministers?  No!  All the PERSONAL authority that
Timothy is given is to REBUKE the sinning minister before all -
to rebuke those who are clearly to be blamed and will not repent.

This is the power that is given to the servants of God - a power
that Paul himself had to use against Peter when Peter was clearly
and obviously in the wrong for racial prejudice at one time in
his life(see Gal.2:11-14).

     If the Elder would continue in the sin with no repentance
then the final actions of Mat.18 would need be applied by the
whole church - disfellowship.

     Nothing here in 1 Tim 5. gives any minister the personal
power to mark and disfellowship another minister.

     1 TIM.1:19-20. "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which
some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of
whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto
Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."

     Here at last (some will say) we have a passage which says
Paul himself PERSONALLY marked and cast out of the church two
individuals.

     If this is so, then truly we have found a contradiction in
the scriptures. But Christ said the scriptures CAN NOT BE BROKEN!

God does not contradict Himself!  So let us carefully and humbly
search for the truth as to what Paul is saying here. Remember
also what Peter said about some of the writings of Paul(2 Peter
3:16).

     Paul is talking in verse 19 about individuals who have CAST
OFF or REJECTED (as the Greek word for "having put away"
signifies) THE faith (the word "the" is in the original Greek,
see the Greek-English NT by Berry).  They had turned away from
Christ, from following in His steps. These two named individuals
had made ship wreck their faith in Christ.  The tense for the
Greek word translated in English as "have made shipwreck" is in
the AORIST INDICATIVE, which signifies an action taken in the
PAST.

     Paul says SOME(even more than those named) - indicating that
they, of their OWN will and determination, have already(at some
point in the past) cast away the faith - no longer walking with
Christ. Paul does not say that he himself cast away their faith
by putting them out of the church.  He does not say that he
"marked" and disfellowshipped them and by so doing has caused
their faith to be broken and rejected. After all, can ANY MAN by
his decree nullify your faith - claim you are no longer a child
of God?  Or is it YOU ONLY, by your own mind and life, who can
terminate your relationship with God and Christ?

     These people of their OWN SELVES - their own deliberate,
willful determination, decided to turn the other way and no
longer follow the faith of Jesus. They were not "put out" by some
MAN. They turned away from Christ by their OWN choosing.

     The MATTHEW HENRY COMMENTARY says: "As for those who had
made shipwreck of the faith - he specifies two.....who had made a
profession of the Christian religion, but had quitted that
profession."

     Now let us study verse 20. 

     Paul singles out two individuals who had quit the faith. As
this letter is written to a minister, it would not be wrong to
deduct that the two men named were also ministers, and were well
known by Paul and Timothy, hence he mentions them by name.
     The Greek for "I have delivered" is in the first person
singular aorist indicative. Here is what the ANALYTICAL GREEK
LEXICON says about the aorist tense: "The Aorist is strictly the
expression of a momentary or transient single action.....and in
the indicative mood it ordinarily signifies past time. It is,
however, used of a prolonged action, if there is no positive need
to make a direct expression of the circumstance. It is thus of
constant use in the narrative of past transactions."

     We could paraphrase this statement by Paul to read:

     "I personally on an occasion in the past delivered them over
to Satan."

     The tense of the word is a single action done in the past.
But what about the MEANING of this Greek word? 
     Strong's Concordance says: "To surrender, yield up, entrust,
transmit, betray, bring forth, cast, commit, deliver, give,
hazard, put in prison, recommend."
     Matthew Henry comments: "Paul had delivered them to Satan,
and DECLARED them to belong to the Kingdom of Satan."
     Paraphrased, we could render this: "Whom I have entrusted,
committed - RECOMMENDED to Satan."

     Does this action of Paul - recommending someone to the power
of Satan, seem UN-Christian? We must remember that God does
chasten every son He loves(Heb.12:3- 11). And He may, if He
chooses, use the power of  the Satanic world to fulfil His
purpose. God did use and allow Satan to bring much trouble on Job
in order to humble him to real repentance.

     Paul is not out of order in asking God to deliver these two
men(he knew as one time servants in the work of the Lord) over to
Satan and his power. Why?  Paul goes on to tell us: "That they
may be DISCIPLINED(as the Greek is better translated) not to
blaspheme."
     He wanted them to come back to the faith - to repent - to
walk again with God.  So, even in this Paul shows CONCERN and
LOVE.

     Paul knew and obeyed the teaching of Christ, to LOVE your
enemies, PRAY for and do GOOD to those who persecute,
despitefully use, and hate you. Paul prayed now that these two
men who had left the faith and were now a part of Satan's world,
would be disciplined by the evil that Satan could bring upon them
so they would again be restored - converted back to God and the
faith of Christ.


     A HUMAN MAN - HEAD AND DECISION MAKER OF THE CHURCH?


     Some teach that Peter was made head of the church by Christ.

Others say that the true church today is headed by one man who is
able to make binding decisions, even to the casting out of the
church those he will.
     Those who teach this idea use Matthew 16:18-19 to give proof
to the supremacy of ONE authoritarian man as head of the church.

     But what is the real truth?  Let us examine these verses
very closely.

     Jesus said: "And I say unto you, that you are Peter(Greek
word - petros; meaning a "stone"), and upon this rock(Greek word
- petra; meaning a "ledge" or "shelf of rock" or "huge boulder")
I will build my church (Mat.16:18).

     Now, since some claim that the rock on which the church was
founded refers to Peter - and not Christ - notice the true
meaning, as originally written by Matthew in the Greek language. 
     Peter was also called Cephas(Greek Kephas - from the Aramaic
Kepha).  In John 1:40-42 it is related how Andrew(Simon Peter's
brother) found Peter and brought him to Jesus.
     "And when Jesus beheld him he said: You are Simon, the son
of Jona. You shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation,
a stone"(verse 42).

     The English word "stone" is translated from the Greek word
petros, meaning a single stone or loose stone. Also the Greek
word "kephas" means such a stone, and Jesus used it when
referring to a human man - Peter.
     But when Jesus said: "upon this rock I will build my church"
the Greek word, as written by Matthew, was neither kephas or
petros, but P E T R A - which means a LARGE MASSIVE ROCK!

     The Greek PETRA can not mean the human Peter, but the
glorified Christ!  Speaking of the Israelites under Moses in the
wilderness, Paul wrote: "....For they drank of that spiritual
rock that followed them; and THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST"(1 Cor.10:4).
     The church is described in Ephesians 2:20 as "being built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets(including Old
Testament prophets), JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF BEING THE CHIEF
CORNERSTONE."
     Here Christ is plainly said to be the chief, or the HEAD!
     The real foundation of the church is Christ. "For other
foundations can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS
CHRIST"(1 Cor.3:11).
     He is shown in Revelation 1:13,18, to be the living HEAD,
spiritually in the midst of the church.
     Read it also in Eph.5:23; 4:15; 1:22-23; Col.1:18,19; 2:19.

     Now, what about Peter being given the power to make BINDING
DECISIONS for the church?  Was he given authority to decide
DOCTRINE - the change of doctrine - make binding decisions as to
what the church members were to read, who to listen to, who was
to be IN the church or who was to be CAST out?

     The AMPLIFIED BIBLE translates Matthew 16:19 as follows:

     "I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and
whatever you bind(that is, declare to be improper, and unlawful)
- on earth MUST BE ALREADY BOUND IN HEAVEN; and whatever you
loose on earth(declare lawful) MUST BE WHAT IS ALREADY LOOSED IN
HEAVEN" (emphasis mine).

     A footnote gives you the reason why the compilers of the
Amplified Bible so translates verse 19.  "Williams:'perfect
passive participle; so things in a state of having been already
forbidden(or permitted)."

     The ANALYTICAL GREEK LEXICON says this:  "The PERFECT
conveys the double notion of an action terminated in the past
time, and of its effects existing in the present."

     So, contrary to popular teaching, Christ was NOT telling
Peter that he would be the head of the church with power to
decide great issues and make binding proclamations on the
brethren, BUT that HE, Christ, would be the foundation and head
of the church, and that Peter or any other disciple, minister,
elder, apostle, prophet, teacher, could only bind or unbind on
the brethren that which God had already declared to be lawful or
unlawful.  
     And how can anyone know what God has made lawful or not? 
Why, only by a study of God's revelation to man - the BIBLE!

     God does not leave man to decide for himself what is right
or what is wrong, what are the true doctrines of God, what
practices and customs to observe. What is SIN, and what is
RIGHTEOUSNESS. He does not leave mankind without instruction on
the LARGE, IMPORTANT issues of life.  Such doctrines as "church
government" or the doctrine about "church disfellowshipping"  and
how to settle disputes among brethren are all plainly revealed to
us in the word of truth - the Bible.
     Man, woman, elders, deacons, can only search the scriptures
to find out what God has already laid down as to the truth of the
matter on these and other subjects that are given to us to
understand.
     Christ was telling Peter that he did NOT have the authority
to rule the church with an iron hand or bind things of his OWN
choosing on the people of God.


     CAN A GROUP OF MINISTERS MAKE BINDING DECISION?

     
     If ONE man was not given this power to make binding
decisions, then surely a GROUP of God's servants can do so, is
what some will argue, giving Matthew 18:18 as proof.  And so the
Roman Catholic church has, to name one organization, used this
teaching to establish Sunday, the first day of the week, in place
of the 7th.  Also , it has been used to establish Christ-mass,
Easter, and other festivals from paganism, to dogmatize celibacy,
to prohibit the use of contraceptives in marriage, and other
doctrines.

     Can a group of men therefore decide to ADD to doctrine,
change doctrine, or make up doctrines and BIND THEM on the rest
of the church?  Can a group of ministers get together and decide
WHO can be in the church or who they can throw  out? Can some 
elders decide to disfellowship another elder?

     The AMPLIFIED BIBLE translates Matthew 18:18 as:

     "Truly, I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be
improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden
in Heaven; and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful
on earth must be already permitted in Heaven."

     The GREEK TENSE is again perfect passive - just as in
chapter 16:19.

     Surely, there are many decisions to be made as far as
administration, evangelism, spreading of the gospel via print and
TV etc., youth activities, church socials, office supplies, and
other day to day things in the life of a church. BUT binding laws
can only come from God - for only God is the lawgiver - James
4:12.
     All that man can do is humbly and diligently search the word
of the Lord to find what He has made lawful or unlawful.

     
     There is a certain area where elders do have some authority
regarding people and sins. 
     After Jesus was resurrected He appeared to His disciples and
in the context of the Holy Spirit, He said to them: "Whose soever
sins you remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose soever
sins you retain they are retained"(John 20:23).

     One clear area God's servants must use this power and
judgment is when an elder is counselling someone for baptism.
Room does not permit me to go into this subject of water baptism
here, needless to say it is a very important topic in the New
Testament. I have written on it in detail for those who want to
request the study.
     Water Baptism is a serious undertaking, with great spiritual
meaning. A minister/saint must be sure(as sure as an elder/saint
can be with the Spirit of God, allowing that he is still human
and can not see the depths of the heart) the person requesting
baptism is in an attitude of repentance and wanting to turn away
from sin.  Usually through a number of counselling sessions an
elder or elders or saints can ascertain if someone is ready to
truly yield and follow in the steps of Christ.
     I have known some situations where the person was wanting
baptism only because their friend was going to be baptized, or
their mate was ready for baptism but they were not really
repentant or wanting to forsake sin. So the elders/saints refused
to baptize them, and in so doing their sins were retained until
they fully came to know what accepting Christ as their personal
saviour was in truth and righteousness.
     There are, now and again, circumstances where an individual
comes in contact with the church, wants some of the things that
the church can offer, desires to have some of the great blessings
and gifts that come by being a true member of the true church,
yet their attitude of heart is FAR from the true God and His way
of life. Elders will often be able to see the truth of the matter
and may have to finally rebuke or correct such an attitude in
those persons.
     We have an example in the NT during the life of the apostles
Peter and John. It is found in Acts chapter 8, and beginning with
verse 14.

     Let me comment on verse 13 first.  Simon it is said
"believed" and was "baptized." His real deep attitude of heart
was soon to be manifested. The leaders and elders in the
church are human, and can from time to time be fooled by some
people who look and sound and act for a while as if they are
truly converted. But time and situations prove otherwise.
     Simon became a follower of "the work." Looking and wondering
at all the things being done - the miracles and signs.
     Now starting in verse 14, Simon begins to see one way in
which people receive the Holy Spirit.
     He offers the apostles money to buy this gift of being able
to give the Spirit to others. His attitude was ALL WRONG! He
wanted to use the Holy Spirit for his own ends, to feather his
own nest and fame. Peter could see through Simon's glass house
and paper walls. 
     Look at the words from Peter,verses 20 through to 23!

     Simon's heart was FAR from the righteousness and purity of
God. Peter could see it and responded accordingly. Simon's sins
were RETAINED, and could only be blotted out from the record by
true humble repentance.

     So, the servant's of the Lord do have some power, some
authority, when it comes to sin, but this is a separate and
different subject than the topic we are studying in this
exposition.

     Nothing is stated in Acts 8 that Simon was disfellowshipped
by Peter or John, both of them or any group of persons. Peter
tells Simon his sin and admonishes him to repent. We are given no
further information about Simon, his attitude after this incident
- nothing -  the NT is silent on the matter.

     The elders of the church do have some authority in matters
of sin as we have seen. They also have authority in some other
areas. Please read Matthew the 10th  chapter and Luke chapter 10.
     You will find the disciples called and sent forth to preach
and teach the word of God given authority or power over a number
of things, but not one or a collection of them as leaders and
elders, are given power/authority to cast out of the church
anyone - to disfellowship!

     As stated before in this study, the elders are PART OF the
church, but are NOT "the church" that Jesus said only had the
power to disfellowship(Mat.18:17). The elders can be part of the
body of believers, part of the process, leading to someone being
disfellowshipped, but only a part, not the whole.


                   A SERIOUS MATTER

     For the church to disfellowship anyone is a serious
undertaking. It should be done only when all else has failed, and
they had better make sure, with fear and trembling, that God's
word justifies their decision. For the Eternal God will
".....have judgment without mercy, that has shown no mercy; and
mercy rejoices against judgment"(James 2:13). So the church had
better speak and DO as, ".....They that shall be judged by the
law of liberty"(James 2:12).

     The Church of God should be filled with the fruits of God's
Spirit, which are: "....LOVE, joy(gladness), peace, PATIENCE(an
even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness, self-control
(self-restraint, continence)......" (Galatians 5:22,23, Amplified
Bible).

     Let us show love, patience, tolerance, to our fellow man.
Let us give the "benefit of the doubt" to our brother. 
     For love, ".....is not easily provoked, thinks no evil....."
and ".....is ready to believe the best of every person...." (KJV
and Amplified Bible - 1 Cor.13:5,7).


     Let the members of the Church of God get on their knees, and
pray that the church will never have to exercise its power and
authority to disfellowship anyone!


                    ....................


Written first in 1980. Slightly revised in 1995.
     



Footnote

     It was after the first writing of this study that I became
personally familiar with a number of church organizations that
employed in practice the truths given in the word of the Lord
regarding the doctrine of disfellowshipping an unrepentant
sinner. One such church organization was the Seventh Day
Adventist church. In learning from them how they went about
applying Matthew 18:15-17, I was pleasantly surprised to find it
was as written in this study of mine.
     The eventual decision to disfellowship a person from their
church is made by the WHOLE membership of that particular
congregation involved. Only the actual members of that
congregation have voting power - no outside members of another
congregation, no visiting members from another congregation, can
participate in the judging and decision.
     Such an event is very rare in the SDA churches,and is taken
very seriously, with much soul searching, deep sorrow, with
spiritual pain and even heartfelt literal crying on the part of
many. It brings the whole congregation very close together in
humility.

 
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