Day 3: Church Judgment – Part 1
On occasion, a unique situation will arise which will require church judgment. According to the Bible, church judgment is a form of discipline applied to members of the local church who are making decisions that are radically out of step with God’s will and the marks of a true Christian. Their decisions have resulted in, or could result in, harm to the witness of the individual and the local church.
It is important to note that church judgment is the last step in an attempt to bring an unrepentant member back into fellowship with the church. Many other steps would be taken before church judgment is exercised. If church judgment is exercised by the church, the individual being disciplined would be removed from church membership until repentance has taken place. In every case, church judgment is an act of love aimed at the full reconciliation of the church member to God and the local church.
Typically, there are only three situations that would result in church judgment:
Situation #1—An unresolved offense between two members of the church.
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
According to this passage, church judgment is exercised when an individual member commits a sin against another individual member and, after it is brought to their attention in several different ways, they remain unrepentant.
What is the first step in confronting someone who sins against you?
According to verse 15, it is to go to the one who has offended you in private. How seldom this is done. We are so quick to go to anyone and everyone else and tell them about somebody else’s faults rather than go to the source of the problem—to the only person who can do something about it.
The goal of this first step is not to humiliate or judge or get back at the person that has wronged us, but rather to win the person back to righteousness and restore the relationship.
Note: Wise reprovers will first examine their own hearts and motives before confronting others (Matthew 7:1-5).
What is the second step in confronting someone who sins against you?
If the issue is resolved in private the issue is settled. This is often the case at SRC and we praise God for that! But, if the issue remains unresolved, then the offended individual is commanded to take two or three witnesses to confront the offender again. The worst thing that could happen at this point is to just drop the issue because then no real reconciliation has occurred.
The purpose of the witnesses is to investigate the issue and confirm what actually happened. This way everybody has a clear understanding about the nature of the offense and can discern how legitimate it is. They can also help to facilitate restitution and reconciliation between the two church members if the offender repents. Finally, the witnesses can confirm that repentance did not take place if that is the case.
What is the third step in confronting someone who sins against you?
If repentance and reconciliation has not taken place yet, then at this point the issue needs to be taken to the church. At South Ridge, Community Groups and Service Teams often serve as “the church” in these cases, along with oversight from the pastors. At this point, church officials will ask questions such as: Was the alleged sin truly a sin? What Scriptures were violated? Can the alleged sin be confirmed by two or three witnesses? Did the offended person walk through the first two steps appropriately? If so, were the offenses clearly presented with a clear presentation of the Scriptures that were violated? Did the offender fail to respond to the offended?
If all these questions are answered affirmatively and the offender does not repent then Matthew 18:17 commands us, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” What this means in context is that they are to be removed from membership of the local church until they are repentant of the offense against the individual.
At South Ridge Church, we recommend that these three steps be taken whenever there is a conflict between two individuals in the church. In our experience, rarely will the issue get beyond step #1 because often repentance and reconciliation do take place between the individuals and unity and love within the church was upheld. It should also be noted that often this leads to a better relationship moving forward between the two individuals—all because they obeyed the Scriptures!
Church judgment is often rare, but 1 Corinthians 5 and other passages do outline that it is sometimes necessary. Situation #1 in today’s reading outlines appropriate steps to take if there is conflict between two individuals. In what ways do these steps help maintain love and unity in a church?
F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)
Read: Hosea 1, 2, & 3
Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method
PRAYER: On your own, take the opportunity to pray for your children or another loved one. The following outline may be helpful.
Four Prayers for Your children or children that God has placed in your life:
- Thank God for the miracle of the children God has placed in your life.
- Thank God for any way in which these children have changed your life.
- Commit these children’s future to the Lord.
- Ask God for help in figuring out how you may best guide and lead them.
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