When is it a Good Idea NOT to Follow Bible Counsel?

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 a heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17

This counsel rarely ever gets followed. How much better our world and church would be if people would follow this counsel from Jesus.

Here is what I have seen happen too often. Someone actually tries to follow this counsel, but at step 2, when he tries to get a brother to go along, the brother perceives it as gossip and does not want to meddle in the situation even though this is exactly what Jesus says to do. Or, instead of being neutral, that person gets an ear load from one side and goes into the meeting very biased.

Even more sadly, I have talked with church leaders who passed judgment on another member without ever hearing that person’s side of the story or going to them personally first. They clearly admitted they did not follow the counsel of Matthew 18because they already had all the evidence without needing to follow Matthew 18. What? You don’t need to follow Bible counsel because you already have the full scoop? Since when was following the Bible optional? Apparently it happens all the time. To me this is the most sad situation of the three, because the people not following Matthew 18 know they are not following it and don’t care, but they still think they are fit to be church leaders while intentionally ignoring Bible counsel.

Before many churches can heal and move forward in proclaiming the gospel, they need to make sure they are following the gospel themselves. We need to make sure we follow Matthew 18 when a problem arises and go to our brother or sister one on one without anyone else knowing. Most problems can be resolved at step one. If not, then step two means we should take along another party who can hear both sides of the story at the same time, and not get an ear full from one side before even hearing the other side. This talking to another person and stacking the deck in one’s favor is very easy for humans to do, but with God’s grace we can avoid this temptation – especially if we are honestly wanting truth to win.

The third step is to take it to the church. At this point the church should not be afraid to handle the matter. It is not gossip at this point; it is Bible counsel. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tells the church it will be judging angels and needs to be judging its own issues.

When we reject Bible counsel everyone loses. When we follow Bible counsel there is redemption for all.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Judging Without Throwing Stones

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”John 8:7 NKJV

The phrase Jesus used in John 8:7 has been widely taken out of context. Please keep a couple of things in mind. Jesus was talking to the very people who participated with the woman being judged. “These would-be guardians of justice had themselves led their victim into sin.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 460. By saying “He who is without sin” Jesus was being specific, meaning let a witness and not a participant throw the first stone. Jesus did not mean to give the idea that to obey the law of Moses one had to be perfect. They just had to be a witness and not a participant. The other thing to keep in mind is, Jesus was not talking symbolically. He was talking about literally throwing literal stones at her.

I want to make this clear, because I have sat in nominating committee meetings, where someone’s character was being discussed in relation to their fitness for a specific church office. As concerns about their character were voiced, someone came to their defense, with the cliche, “Let He who is without sin throw the first stone.” The cliche is totally out of place and context. We were discussing whether or not this person should have an office in the church, not whether they should be literally stoned to death! Please, in a church nominating committee there is a huge difference between denying someone an office and stoning them to death, as is the context in John 8. In a church business meeting there is a huge difference between church discipline and possibly removing their names from the books, and literally stoning them to death.

The Bible gives clear and definite counsel in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6, among other places on how to discipline a wayward church member. Still some will deny those inspired passages, and say we should practice love instead of discipline. Yet love includes discipline! Jesus says,

I correct and discipline everyone I love. Revelation 3:19 NLT

Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness.Romans 11:22 NLT

Jesus has given counsel to His body, the church on how to rebuke and discipline in love, those who are wayward, some of which may actually include being denied a church office, or even having their names removed from the books, (hopefully to be added back again after repentance!) but none of which includes actually stoning people to death as was literally discussed in John 8. In Revelation 3:19 we see that discipline and love go together, and in Romans 11:22 we see God being severe while being kind in saving sinners from their sin.

Please understand, judging someone according to Bible counsel is not the same as throwing stones. Please understand when we truly love people, we will follow Bible counsel on dealing with their sin, which includes loving discipline. There is no genuine love without discipline, and there is not genuine discipline without love.

Worship: From Exile to Restoration

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson, two things became apparent to me.  God’s church has never been perfect. The sins of the church leaders described in Ezekiel 8 makes this clear. Many people today act shocked, to see things happening in the church, that ought not to be. They talk about how religious piety is wanting. They talk about the olden days when the church was pure. Friends, the church has never been pure and religious piety has always been wanting. People say, the standards are not upheld like they used to be. For example, I heard someone talking a while back about how when they were growing up, you never saw an Adventist drinking Coke or Pepsi at a church gathering, like you may today. True. We did not drink it at social gatherings but many of us drank it at home. So are the standards slipping, or are we just becoming more real? I am not condoning drinking Coke or Pepsi at Adventist gatherings or at home. What I am suggesting, is that we take a realistic look at things. Are our standards slipping, or are we just becoming less hypocritical, and not hiding what we really do, and who we really are?

I only use Coke and Pepsi as a handy illustration. We, as a church and as individuals, have issues much more pressing than soft drinks. This leads me to my second observation revealed in our SS lesson. Intercession. When we see things in the church that ought not to be, often our first instinct is to have the people responsible removed. Years ago, a children’s SS teacher told me how a pastor changed her life. She was a smoker and a SS teacher. Convicted she should not be smoking, and teaching the children, she confessed to her pastor that she should no longer be teaching the children. The pastor told her she had it all wrong. She should keep teaching the children’s SS class. It was the smoking she should quit! By God’s grace she quit smoking and continued teaching. When my shirt gets torn, it is easier to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to sew and fix it. When we see people with problems in the church, we think it is easier for them to just leave and get someone else, instead of helping mend the people with problems. Jesus is not into quick fixes. Jesus is not into throwing people away because they are broken. This is why He has stood by a church so imperfect for not just centuries, but millenniums. Jesus wants to mend and heal His broken church and broken people. What the church needs is prayer warriors like Daniel, who in Daniel 9 interceded for the church of his day, and even saw himself as part of the problem, and saw God, not himself, as part of the solution.  Instead of praying for people who we perceive to be tainting the church to leave, we should first intercede for them and pray for their salvation.  After all, if we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and purify the church, why don’t we give the Holy Spirit time to do His work?

I understand church discipline is Biblical and has its place, but intercession has its place too, and it comes before church discipline. In the past we may have used church discipline as a quick fix. Throw away that old torn shirt and buy a new one. A Christ like Church will take the time to mend people, instead of throwing them away. This may make the church less than perfect for a while. That’s okay. It takes to time to fix things correctly. So I challenge you, instead of being critical of your church, intercede for your church. And I challenge you to go a step further. Ask Jesus to send the outcasts, that no other church wants  to your church!

Matthew 18; When is it a Good Idea Not To Follow Bible Counsel?

I am re-sharing this post while golfing and seeing friends and family in Texas and Tennessee. I took this picture in Fort Worth on Tuesday, December 20, 2011.

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 a heathen man and a publican.  Matthew 18:15-17

 

This counsel rarely ever gets followed. How much better our world and church would be if people would follow this counsel from Jesus. Here is what I have seen happen too often. Someone actually tries to follow this counsel, but when they go to step 2 and get a brother to go along, the brother perceives it as gossip and does not want to meddle in the situation even though this is exactly what Jesus says to do. Or, instead of the third party being neutral, they get an ear load from one side and go into the meeting very biased. And even more sadly, I have talked with church leaders who passed judgment on another member without ever hearing their side of the story or going to them personally first, and they clearly admitted they did not follow the counsel of Matthew 18 because they already had all the evidence without needing to follow Matthew 18. What? You don’t need to follow Bible counsel because you already have the full scoop? Since when was following the Bible optional? Apparently it happens all the time. This to me is the most sad situation of the three, because the people not following Matthew 18 know they are not following it and don’t care, but still think they are fit to be church leaders while intentionally ignoring Bible counsel.

 

Before many churches can heal and move forward in proclaiming the gospel, they need to make sure they are following the gospel themselves. We need to make sure we follow Matthew 18 when a problem arises and go to our brother one on one without anyone else knowing. Most problems can be resolved at step one. If not, then step two means we should take along another party who can hear both sides of the story at the same time, and not get an ear full from one side before they even get to talk to the other side. This is stacking the deck in ones favor, very easy for humans to do, but with God’s grace we can avoid this temptation especially if we are honestly wanting truth to win. Thirdly take it to the church. At this point the church should not be afraid to handle the matter. It is not gossip at this point, it is Bible counsel. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul tells the church it will be judging angels and needs to be judging its own issues.

 

When we reject Bible counsel everyone loses. When we follow Bible counsel there is redemption for all.