Rebuking a Sinning Christian - Part 4
July 18, 2021
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:15-18).
If the first and second attempts fail at bringing the desired response of repentance of sin from the wayward Christian, then the matter must come before the church. The first and second rebukes are to be private. The third is to be public. This may sound harsh and extreme, and it is, but the purpose is to bring a Christian back to a place of holiness, righteousness, and fellowship. Again, it is not the intent of the church to be judgmental, but to be compassionate and restorative.
At this point the offender should understand the seriousness of his/her offense before the Lord and His people. You would think the thought of exposing his/her sin before the congregation would bring about such spiritual fear before the Lord and His people that repentance would come immediately. But I have known those who were so hardened in their heart and so ensnared in their sin that repentance was resisted. In such cases the fourth and final step is warranted. The offending party is to be removed from the fellowship.
In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 such a case was brought by Paul to the church. At this point the offender had become arrogant in his sin and refused to comply with the discipline of the church. Paul demanded the man be removed from the fellowship. His sin had already affected the church by corrupting it spiritually to the point they defended the man’s right to be wrong.
Hymenaeus and Alexander were two men of the same stripe. They would not forsake their profane use of the Lord’s name. After refusing the rebuke of the Apostle Paul, the Apostle turned them over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:20). Harsh? Yes. But sin is not to be tolerated among the people of God.
The ongoing response of the church toward an unrepentant sinning Christian is to maintain disassociation. (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14) But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us . . . And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.
“Lord Jesus, in these instructions we see the seriousness of sin, its effect on the sinner, and the seriousness of the church’s responsibility in dealing with an unrepentant Christian. Such action is humbling, but vital to the life and effectiveness of the church in purity and holiness. May we all consider our sinfulness and repent even before the first stage of discipline. Amen.”