The above photo was apparently taken at one of the largest ever Christian gatherings in Pakistan.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:19-25).
I have always – and still do – maintain that we should read and study the Scriptures, that we should not submit too readily to the predictable pattern of the world which is motivated by greed, sin, pleasure, curiosity, hunger for prosperity and for entertainment and for “feel good” experiences (see for example Romans chapter 12 verses 1 and 2). I have always taught that if our minds are formed, informed and transformed by the Scriptures, then we will eventually also act in accord with what the Lord requires of us – so that we become, not only hearers of the word of God, but doers of the word (see James 1:22).
The writer to the Hebrews, urged us to always consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds – and that we do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.
There are two sides to sin and unfaithfulness. The one side is to continue doing things that we ought not to do and the other side is to neglect doing the things which we know we ought to be doing.
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17).
This brings me to my own dilemma. So, firstly my disclaimer: This article is one of “thinking out loud”. If I do not have the answer for myself, I cannot presume to offer guidance for others who may also share my dilemma. I belong to the assembly of human beings who believe in Jesus as the King of kings, the Saviour of the world, the pioneer and author of our faith, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, the only mediator between God and humanity, the head of his body on earth and in heaven (which is the church).
I firmly believe that we are to…: Be completely humble and gentle; to be patient, bearing with one another in love. To make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. And I believe that: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:2-6).
I believe that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit is bringing us into complete unity in his Name and for his glory.
Martin Luther disagreed with what he saw as utter corruption and heresy being taught by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. Before the time of Martin Luther, there had been a great schism between the Eastern and Western churches and the Pope assumed authority over the Western church. Protestants could no longer agree or be in fellowship with those who called themselves Roman Catholics and who still submitted themselves to the authority of the hierarchy of the Western church.
One pastor once said to me that if ever I found “the perfect church”, I should not assume to join in fellowship with it because in that case it would no longer be perfect – because, as he obviously implied, none of us are perfect. But if that were true, then why bother to “protest” and leave the Roman Catholic Church?
We are required to humbly and to perfectly submit to Jesus our King, our High Priest and the only Head of His church – through the obedience that comes from faith.
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5-6).
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:25-27).
At a very early stage, the apostle Jude detected a serious problem with the church of Jesus Christ:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude verses 3-4).
Evidently, there were people, professing to be Christians, called to the obedience to Christ the King that comes from genuine faith, – people who called Jesus their Lord and Saviour, but who had evidently concluded that perfect obedience was completely impossible for sinners – and so, instead of appealing to the Holy Spirit to keep them from falling into their old habits, they decided to pervert the grace of God into a license to continue in sin and immorality.
Paul taught the following:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
What, may we suppose may happen, when instead of expelling the wicked person from among the church, the church adopts a doctrine which suggests that we are, after-all, all mere humans – and that we are all to some extent wicked and sinful, so that if we were to expel the wicked one from among us, then there would probably be no one left in Christ’s church? Would it not be more expedient to perhaps turn God’s grace into a license for small sins and mistakes – (and where should we draw the line)? There should perhaps be “cardinal sins” and “small sins”.
If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:16-19).
Israel eventually became thoroughly corrupt and unfaithful to God, even to the extent of persecuting and killing the prophets and Elijah lived in a kind of exile at many times. It is sometimes presumed that every last Jew rejected Jesus the Messiah and that perhaps Judaism and to be “Jewish”means that they do not believe in the Messiah, let alone obey his teaching. At times, Elijah, as a faithful prophet, thought that he was the only person left in Israel who had remained faithful to God – such was the extent of the corruption of Israel!
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11:1-6).
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).
Although Martin Luther did not withdraw from the Roman Catholic Church, but was actually threatened and eventually excommunicated, those who participated in the Reformation had eventually concluded that the corrupt in the Roman Catholic Church had become so complete, that to have remained in such an institution, which many believed had lost all connect to the Head, who is Christ, would do far more harm than any possible good.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4).
Please prayerfully consider this before I continue in the next part of this article. (As I said in my disclaimer, I am “thinking out loud”….:
If God’s kindness and grace does not lead to repentance, is there – or can there be – any hope or possibility that those who do not repent, will then, instead, turn God’s grace into a license for sin? The yeast has spread throughout the body. It is too late to expel the wicked person. Let us not look for the large gatherings in which sinners “run the show”. Let us pray that the Lord leads into a holy gathering in his name and that we learn what it means – that we have been called with a holy calling, to the obedience that comes from faith.
Please read the sequel to this article at Expel the Wicked Person from Among You