Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Biblical Reasons for Withdrawing from a Member of the Church

     The following sins are specifically identified in the NT as offences requiring disciplinary action: a private trespass against another with an unwillingness to repent (Matt. 18:15-17); causing divisions and offences contrary to biblical teaching (Rom. 16:17-18); sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, extortion (1 Cor. 5:11); strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, backbiting, gossip, arrogance, disturbances, impurity, fornication and lewdness (2 Cor. 12:20-13:2); all uncleanness, filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting (Eph. 5:1-7); disorderly conduct, refusing to work, meddling, freeloading (2 Thess. 3:6-15); rejecting the faith [straying from the truth, causing others to stumble] (1 Tim. 1:18-20; cf. 2 Tim. 2:14-18); not consenting to sound doctrine (teaching otherwise), pride, being obsessed with disputes and instigating senseless controversies, seeking gain from godliness (1 Tim. 6:3-5, KJV); vanity, greed, boasting, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, being unthankful, unholy, unloving and unforgiving, slander, without self-control, brutality, despising good, betrayal, stubbornness, haughtiness, loving pleasure rather than loving God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:1-5); being factious (Titus 3:10-11); and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11). To this list could be added offences which have provoked direct discipline from God, such as: lying (Acts 5:1-11); profaning the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:27-34); opposing the Lord’s work (2 Tim. 4:14-15); forsaking biblical love (Rev. 2:4-5); tolerating false teaching (Rev. 2:14-16, 20); spiritual lifelessness (Rev. 3:1-3); apathy and self-satisfaction (Rev. 3:15-19).
     These lists of sins, however, are more representative than they are comprehensive. The Bible contains other examples of soul-condemning offences, which would obviously require disciplinary action (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9; 1 Tim. 1:9-11; Rev. 21:8; et al.). But the broad statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 serves as a good general framework. The all-embracing “every brother” leaves no room for favoritism. The phrase “walks disorderly” (or “leads an unruly life”) indicates that the offence is ongoing rather than occasional or accidental. While the particular disorderly conduct addressed in this context is idleness and meddling (v. 11), the word ataktôs itself refers to “a disorderly or an irresponsible manner.” It was originally a military term used of a soldier who was out of step, not keeping rank, or insubordinate (cf. H. K. Moulton Greek Lexicon 58), and in 1 Thess. 5:14 the noun form (ataktos) is translated “unruly.” The misconduct is further identified by Paul as behavior “not according to the tradition” received. The word “tradition” (paradosis) refers to the teaching which Paul had received from the Lord and passed on to others, and includes the entire body of Christian doctrine (1 Thess. 2:13-17; cf. 1 Cor. 11:2; 15:3).
     That an exhaustive list of sins was not intended (or even necessary) is demonstrated by general expressions such as the following: “and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10), “and the like” (Gal. 5:21), “any trespass” (Gal. 6:1), etc. So with a good knowledge of scripture along with basic common sense and mature reasoning (Heb. 5:14), any offence requiring church discipline ought to be “clearly evident” (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24; Gal. 5:19).
--Kevin L. Moore

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