|Q322 : Obedience and Service for the Lord
Hello Dr. Garland,
I am at a loss here, my heart is quite burden by the things that are occurring in my local church.
For the most part, we are a small group of believers and for the most part are quite ready for the Lords return, but I am concerned that there are some who are very liberal in their thinking when it comes to the separation of believers from unbelievers, there is no clear line of demarcation.
This summer I had to gently remind a friend that a woman who cohabits with her boyfriend, (she has 7 children, none are his) that this person cannot work with her in teaching children for vacation Bible School. The signals she was giving this woman was that it is acceptable to shack with your boyfriend and deliver God's word to children. To me this causes confusion even among her own children; what mommy's doing is OK too.
God doesn't change (Psalm 50:18).
I told the older woman, this woman hates God, how can she work for Him? The older woman stated, what about when Jesus said, Let the wheat and the tares both grow together until the harvest (Mat. 13:25-40)? Clearly she was taking the passage out of context because the Lord wasn't speaking about His bride because Jesus explains in verse 38: The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tars are the children of the wicked one.
Now my niece has taken this woman under her wing and calling on the woman to pray for certain situations, knowing this woman is still in sin.
Am I being too pharisaical? It seems to me the church from the beginning was for believers and if there were any unfruitful works of darkness going on, they were immediately disciplined (1 Corinthians 5).
I am fearful that many in the body of Christ aren't being wise in not following God’s command, that we not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. There are young ladies who are having babies out of wedlock every year, yet there is no discipline, these same women will go to these young women beck and call, as there is no accountability. I am grieved.
|A322 : by Tony Garland
First of all, let me congratulate you on seeing through the misuse of the parable of the wheat and tares in an attempt to avoid confronting sin in the church. There are many passages people fish for as the need arises in an attempt to justify an unbiblical viewpoint. We must always take care to understand the context of a passage—which will often determine whether the passage is being mis-applied (as this one was).
I share your concern regarding many fellowships which refuse to walk according to the principles given in the Scriptures concerning church discipline.
To begin with, it should be obvious that nonbelievers cannot serve in roles which are only suitable for those who know God (leading/teaching, leading worship, leading prayer). We are not to be separate from unbelievers (John 17:15; 1Cor. 5:10), but in activities directed by and taking place within the authority of a local church, unbelievers—especially those still practicing lifestyles of sin—cannot be role models or leaders.
So the very first thing we need to do is determine whether the individuals in question are believers or not. If they are not believers, then we need to be clear that, while they are welcome to attend our fellowship, they cannot function in spiritual roles at church.
If the person professes faith in Christ, then we must walk in grace and seek restoration and reconciliation with brothers or sisters that have fallen with a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1). But this assumes that that these brothers or sisters are 1) made aware that they are violating God's principles; 2) agree with God's assessment of what represents sinful behavior.
Assuming #1 has been done—then a biblical church will follow the well-known principles given in Matthew 18. The oft-quoted statement of Jesus, For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them, is actually given in the context of upholding decisions involving discipline for sinful behavior on the part of those who refuse to acknowledge their sin and turn from it (Matthew 18:15-20).
Many believers in our day appear to be walking according to the principles of this world, yet they purport to love Jesus. But this is simply deception: Biblical love is not a feeling, it is an action (cf. John 3:16). And the primary way our love for God is demonstrated in these cases is through obedience (Luke 6:46; John 14:15,21,23-24; 15:10,14; Acts 5:32; 1Jn. 3:24; 5:2-3; 2Jn. 6).
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.1
. . . there is a clear call to obey the Word of God without reservation or revision. This speaks to the legalistic practices of the Pharisees that added traditions to the legal instructions God gave His people in His Word. This speaks to the Sadducees neglect of the full revelation from God in His Word. It speaks to the current modern society which seeks to alter, discount, or disregard God's Word when it speaks to moral or social issues that are contrary to current cultural trends.2
Jesus cares greatly for the individuals who are living in sin—especially where they are unaware and uninformed. But after approaching them in private and graciously and tenderly communicating the truth of Scriptures, it is incumbent upon the church leadership to follow the steps regarding church discipline—otherwise the church itself (and the rest of the people attending there) are at risk. Jesus cares for individuals, but where they are unrepentant and continue on in their sin, His concern turns to the purity and safety of the church.
A church which is just like the world in refusing to call sin sin is not a Biblical church, is not demonstrating true love for God, and, ultimately, is not evangelistic as the Bible defines evangelism—although many times evangelism will be used in an attempt to justify turning a blind eye to sin.
If, after carefully communicating your concerns, your church leadership is unwilling to communicate/confront the individual as to their sin, then it is probably an indicator that you need to consider finding a different place to fellowship. A place where you will find the spiritual leadership and protection you deserve as a precious lamb of God (Acts 20:28).
Keep looking up! - Tony
|1 John 5:2-13
|Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
|Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master's Seminary Journal (Sun Valley, CA: Master's Seminary). [www.mastersem.edu].