Sermons by Marlin Harless

HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

THE RESTORATION OF AN ERRING CHRISTIAN
By Marlin L. Harless

I. INTRODUCTION: AN OVERVIEW OF OUR SUBJECT: It should be obvious to the diligent Bible student, that certain key words that are employed in this study are often used in a careless and lackadaisical manner, by elders, preachers, and journalists, who should act more responsibly, and in the best interest of their readers! Therefore, I feel obligated to attempt to define some of the key words in this study: "RESTORE, 3. KATARTIZO (GREEK), to mend, to furnish completely, is translated in Galatians 6:1, metaphorically, of the restoration, by those who are spiritual, of one overtaken in a trespass, such a one being as a dislocated member of the spiritual body. The tense is the continuous present, suggesting the necessity for patience and perseverance in the process. Extended Vines, page 962.

The word ERROR, PLANE (GREEK), "a wandering, a forsaking of the right path, see James 5:20, whether in doctrine, 2 Peter 3: 17; 1 John 4:6. Extended Vines, page 369. Much of the teaching and preaching of the gospel serves the children of God by correcting our weaknesses and faults, when we are disposed to obey it! At this point the word discipline comes into sharp focus, and, especially, when God instructs us to be self-sacrificing which is sometimes rather painful, then, too, chastening follows close behind. Not all discipline is painful, but chastening generally is. Since discipline almost always involves pain, and is therefore often neglected by individuals and churches. Yet the process can yield joy in the end (Hebrews 12:11) "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

Proper discipline is motivated by love, and is demonstrated most clearly in the discipline of God through His word. (Hebrews 12: 6) "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." If we love each other we will not neglect to exercise the discipline that is needed to "Consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:24). It is imperative that we keep focused on our primary objective in discipline---The Restoration of the sinner to God!!

II. THE MEANING OF DISCIPLINE IN SCRIPTURE: The biblical words used provide us with a broad sense of discipline. Notice four distinct terms used in the New Testament that portray the discipline of words and example. A. Teaching [didaskalia]---indicates teaching or the impartation of knowledge, or "learning." (Romans 15:4) "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our 'learning,' that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" (1 Timothy 4:13). B. Training, the Greek word "paideia" is translated as "chasten" in (Hebrews 12:6), but conveys a wider range of discipline activities.

1. It is translated INSTRUCTION: indicating the process of imparting knowledge or education in general. Notice its use in describing the merits of scripture in (2 Timothy 3:16) ["profitable…for 'Instruction' in righteousness."] 2. It also includes TRAINING or teaching through actual correction. The example of proper conduct in (Ephesians 6:4), "nurture [or training, emphasis, mine, MLH], and admonition of the Lord." PAIDEIA seems to include both. Thayer says, PAIDEIA is …A] The whole training and education of children…B] whatever in adults cultivates the soul, especially by correcting mistakes and curbing passions, hence instruction which aims at the increase of virtue." 3. Admonishment, the Greek word, "noutheteo" means to "put in mind, to correct, to correct one through words." It is used eight times in the New Testament, and 4 times it is translated as "warn."

A. (1 Corinthians 10:11), The use of Scripture: Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our 'admonition,' upon whom the ends of the world are come." B. (Titus 3:10, 11), Actions toward those who would cause trouble in the church: "A man that is an heretick after the first and second 'admonition' reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted , and sinneth, being condemned of himself." C. (Romans 15:4), The responsibility of all Christians toward each other: "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." D. Rebuke, This word, "epitimao," means to "convict, refute or reprove." It seems to convey a harsher approach than the previous word. It implies the ability to confront with judgment. (Titus 2:15), "These things speak, and exhort, and 'rebuke' with all authority. Let no man despise thee."

III. TYPES OF DISCIPLINE: A close look at the definitions above helps us to recognize the different types of discipline described in Scripture. As in the discipline of a parent with different children, the action needed varies with each child and circumstance. Wisdom is a necessary ingredient to proper discipline! A. Preventive: Some discipline is designed to prevent sin through teaching and encouragement. (Hebrews 10:24, 25), "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

B. Restorative: Jesus' instructions show us the progressive nature of proper discipline---from individual confrontation to congregational action---all with the goal of restoring the sinner. (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."

C. Protective: If rebellion continues, then the process of discipline must include actions to protect the rest of the flock from the "leavening" influence of rebellious sin, and the influence of the toleration of sin. 1. Paul addressed the problem of undisciplined sin in the church at Corinth, [a Christen man living in an adulterous relationship with his stepmother.] "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus!! Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" (1 Corinthians 5:4-6).

IV. "DELIVERING THE SINNER TO SATAN…" WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? 2 possibilities: A. To publicly recognize and declare the sinner for what he is---a servant of Satan, not Christ. This declaration does not make him such, his rebellion has!! The "destruction of the flesh" represents the subsequent punishment for the sin!! {This, that is the preceding statement, constitutes the following: "…There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" ((1 John 5:16c). When one refuses to confess, and repent of sin, he, or she, SPURNS THE LOVE, GRACE, AND, SALVATION OF GOD!!! The "sin unto death,' is the sin that is [un-confessed, and un-repented, and, consequently, un-forgiven!!] Emphasis, mine, MLH}. B. Since all restraints to sin have been rejected the only motivation that yet remains is the natural consequences of the sinful activity ["destruction of the flesh"]. So the church is to "turn this sinner over" over to his own vices, in hopes that his time in the pig pen will cause him to "come to himself" and return to the Father (Luke 15:17, 18).

1. Later Paul admonished the Thessalonians to discipline those among them who were lazy and unwilling to provide for their own. (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 7) "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received from us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you." These actions do not lose their primary purpose of restoring the sinner, and are not punitive in nature. Moreover, it is an absolute impossibility to 'withdraw fellowship' from the erring Christian who has ceased attending church services, because, unfortunately, the fellowship is already severed; however, if he, or she attends sporadically, the church should be advised by prior announcement of the elders, to "withdraw fellowship" from the offending member! 2. In (2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15) The apostle says, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, NOTE THAT MAN, AND HAVE NO COMPANY WITH HIM, THAT HE MAY BE ASHAMED. Yet, count him not as an enemy, but admonish as a brother. Beloved, when you have a personal encounter with the erring Christian, you should, in kindness, humility, and love, offer him, or her, encouragement to come back home: and make him, or her, aware that the church is praying for his, or her, return, daily!!! Never encourage or sympathize with the sinners' rebellion!!! "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17, 18). The word 'mark,' Greek, "skopeo" which indicates to look closely at or watch. The purpose of all such action is not punitive. Remember the pertinent facts: a. It is painful, but can yield peaceful fruit. b. It is done out of love. c. It is to restore a lost sinner back to God!! 1

V. THE SCRIPTURES PROVIDE A PROPER OVERVIEW OF WITHDRAWAL OF FELLOWSHIP FROM THE DISORDERLY!

Occasionally there are problems that emerge, when elders, and preachers, find it necessary to "withdraw fellowship" from the disorderly. "There are those who resist every effort which the saints make to restore them, and who persist in their disregard of duty thus leaving the church with no alternative but to withdraw fellowship. "Fellowship," involves partnership, participation, a sharing of responsibility and reward. Withdrawal of fellowship is the termination of any association, fraternal, social or religious with those who are in this category. Here, too, much error is current regarding this action.

It is generally thought that such is the sole responsibility of the elders of the church; and, the view obtains that it consists largely of an announcement from the pulpit that brother "A" or sister "B" has been withdrawn from. This is not withdrawal; it is merely the announcement of intention to do so---the actual withdrawal comes when each member of the congregation ceases all social and fraternal association with brother "A" or, as the case may be, sister "B." Withdrawal is an action of the members of the congregation, not simply or solely a decision of the eldership, though such decision usually precedes the action. A congregation may withdraw fellowship from the erring whether it has elders or not. In the actual withdrawal, the elders act as individual Christians, not in their capacity as elders. Much teaching is sorely needed in the area of congregational activity today.

Not infrequently the question is asked, "How can a congregation withdraw fellowship from one who has already ceased all fellowship with the church?" a query that evidences a defective concept of what fellowship is, and what withdrawal involves. If fellowship were no more than association in religious services thus involving, at the most, two or three hours a week, there would be merit in the objection; but it is far more than this. All disciples of the Lord, whether faithful or not, are members of the body of Christ; and their conduct, whether good or bad, reflects upon the church, thus justifying its efforts to keep itself pure and influential in the community. And, as we have seen, discipline, the ultimate action of which is dis-fellowship, has as its object the ultimate restoration of the fallen to fellowship. Paul instructed the church in Corinth to turn the incestuous man over to Satan "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Corinthians 5:5).

Moreover, Paul instructed the Thessalonians "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" that ye withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (2 Thessalonians 3:6). It is significant that the words "walketh disorderly" translates a Greek phrase with a military connotation, signifying "out of step, not in proper order, and it is remarkable that Arndt and Gingrich say [what is, emphasis, mine, MLH], involved literally is "irregular religious services!" Quite obviously, a person who is not in attendance because of carelessness, love of the world, etc., is "out of step," and not in "proper order" with the rest of the congregation, and thus an object of discipline. Where it is properly practiced, it has a solitary effect on the rest of the congregation; it impresses the people of the world with the fact that it is the aim of the church to keep itself disciplined and pure, and it is the Lord's way as taught in His word. To oppose this teaching of the scripture is to array oneself against God." 2

CONCLUSION: Brethren, this is a subject that has been grossly neglected by elders, preachers, and other professed Christians, for centuries; and when this discipline, being, as it is, fully authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the false teachers, and change agents refuse to apply it, as the need arises, and many today seem to avoid it, as thought it were a plague; is it any wonder that the 21st century church of Christ is, at this very moment, being dismantled, by restructuring the Lord's church, because church members, like Israel of yesteryear, ask for a king, so they could be like the Gentile nations; even so, today, church members want to ape the denominations, and reach out with both hands, and welcome them into our fellowship, without confession of sin to God, repentance of sins, and without baptism for remission of sins!!

Down through the corridors of time, even to this day, many of our present church problems that we are struggling with now, could have been prevented, if "church discipline" had been applied, as was sorely needed, and is in demand, even more so, today! Beloved, we are now paying the price of disobedience! Many professed Christians really do think they are wiser than God, and, that, they have a better understanding of man's needs than God does!! A wrong hearted wisdom is very destructive!

Consider king Solomon who was a very wise man, but his wisdom did not prevent his many wives from leading him into idolatry; and, beloved, it is even probable that Solomon actually died out of covenant relationship with God!!! My friends, hear me, are you listening? "And the Lord was very angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded!!. (1 Kings 11: 9, 10). Beloved, there are many professed Christians, today, who act and live, like Solomon: They "keep not that which the Lord commanded"!! Yes, the devil is laughing up his sleeve: he knows that his 'perseverance' will enable him to win many professed Christians from Christ!! God forbid!!!

Beloved, are you absolutely sure of your salvation? You should understand that you can not rest your salvation upon your feelings, and thoughts, or the commandments and doctrines [teachings] of men. My friend, you could be lost and not realize it!! The only way any one can be sure of his/her salvation, is to follow very carefully the teaching of the Bible, only then, can you know that you have done precisely what our Lord has required of all humankind, to come into a saved relationship with Him!!! The New Testament teaches that you must do the following to become a Christian: You Must---1. Hear the gospel, (Romans 10:14). 2. You must believe the gospel, (Romans 10:14). 3. You must repent of past sins, (Luke 13:3, 5). 4. You must confess Christ before men, (Matthew 10:32, 33). 5. You must be baptized or immersed, for the remission of sins, Colossians 2:12). 6. You must be faithful until death, (Revelation 2:10). Please! Please! Do it, Today! Today! Today!

ENDNOTES:

1 Southside Church of Christ, 13641 Learning Court, Fort Myers, FL 33919

2 Questions and Answers, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, by Guy N. Woods, pages 135-137

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

1. King James Version of The Bible, The New Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fifth Improved Edition

2. The American College Dictionary

3. The American Heritage Dictionary

4. The Expanded Vines, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

5. Theological Dictionary of The New Testament

6. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology

7. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament

8. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament

(E-Mail Address: mlharless@kvinet.com) Dear reader: In the event you find errors or mistakes in this sermon, spelling, misquotes, scripture references, etc., please feel free to inform me of the same! (Telephone number: (304) 247-6895 Thank you! (MLH)



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