To summarize, church discipline is appropriate in either of two general cases:
1. When a person threatens the safety of the flock — either physical safety or spiritual safety.
2. When a person is guilty of sin that could lead to that person’s own damnation.
The first case might involve a thief or sexual predator, or a false teacher who teaches doctrine that jeopardizes the souls of the members.
What sorts of teachings might jeopardize the congregation’s souls? And what sins might lead to an individual’s damnation? Well, anything that contradicts the necessary elements of faith. Hence — Continue reading
As I see it, there are essentially two kinds of excommunication or disfellowshipping in the NT.
First, as mentioned in the last post, sometimes you remove someone to protect the flock from that person. The driving concern is protection of the flock from a wolf.
Second, sometimes you remove someone in order to shame that person into repentance. In this case, the health of the church is a concern — because sin undealt with can spread — but the primary concern is the spiritual health of the person being removed. Continue reading
So where’s the line? What separates a “false teacher” from a teacher who makes mistakes?
Well, I see basically two concerns reflected in the NT —
First, there are teachers who teach things that, if believed, would destroy the faith of the listeners. They threaten damnation.
Therefore, they must be removed from the church at whatever cost. This would include those who teach a works salvation, those who in fact deny the need to be faithful to Jesus/obedient/penitent, and those who deny the basic truths of the gospel.
Second, there are teachers who threaten other kinds of harm. Some are thieves. Some are sexual predators. Some are selfish. Some teach doctrine that may not damn but which will destroy the church. Continue reading
Thanks to Grace Centered Magazine for finding this.
The NT often condemns people called “false teachers.” Who are these people? I mean, does the condemnation of false teachers mean that every teacher who makes a mistake is damned? If not, then what errors damn and which do not?
Sadly, the term is thrown around very easily — and often just because we disagree. What do the scriptures say? Continue reading
Commentators have long puzzled over these odd passages —
(1Ti 1:18-20 ESV) This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
(2Ti 2:16-18 ESV) 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.
That’s all we know, except that these false teachers had left the true faith, been disciplined in some sense by Paul, and appear to be lost for having taught that the resurrection has already happened. Continue reading
Little noted in our preaching is this
(Gal 2:11 ESV) But when Cephas [the apostle Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
The translation “stood condemned” is controversial, but it carries the weight of scholarly consensus. Continue reading
We need to test our theory about falling away against other passages that deal with the question.
While Hebrews seems to very plainly teach that Christians might fall away, what about Paul? Those who teach perseverance of the saints (POTS) often rely on his teachings.
However, James D. G. Dunn points out that there are passages in Paul that seem to contradict POTS, such as —
(Phi 3:12-14 ESV) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
It does seem clear that Paul considers final salvation as not yet attained. Rather, he must “press on” while “straining forward.” (And like Dunn, I part company with NT Wright at this point.) Continue reading
So if that’s how we’re saved — by faith — then how might we fall away? Well, let’s not make this unnecessarily complicated. If faith is the path in, then losing one’s faith is the path out. We leave by going back on how we came in.
Now, “faith” as we’ve covered has these three elements:
1. Belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus is Lord. God resurrected Jesus.
2. Faithfulness to Jesus.
3. Trust in Jesus to keep his promises.
So reversing any of these three will damn. Continue reading
So let’s go back to 1 John 1:7, a crucially important passage — but in context —
(1Jo 1:5-6 ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
John writes in a very black-and-white fashion. Either you practice the truth (the gospel) or not. Either you are in fellowship with God or not. And you walk either in darkness or in light. There is no gray. After all, in God there “is no darkness at all.” That is, if I’m in God, then I’m entirely in the light, because there is only one light source, and if I’m in it, there’s no darkness at all. Continue reading