Legal Conclusions from Licking Baptist Church, Part 3

An element of the Licking Baptist Church case that’s not been commented on in the media is the significance of 1 Corinthians 6 on such disputes —

(1Co 6:1-8 ESV)  When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?  2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!  4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?  5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,  6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

Paul urges the Corinthian congregation to follow the model of the Jewish synagogues and try their own disputes. The elders of the synagogues served as judges in the Moses/Abner tradition, settling disputes among Jews of the same synagogue, refusing to go before pagan courts.

7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?  8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud–even your own brothers!

The conclusion of the passage has often been interpreted to mean that suits against a brother in Christ are entirely forbidden, but Paul’s point is that it would be better to file no suit at all than to file suit before a pagan judge. But he’s already said that the church should try these cases itself.

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers … ?

Modern American law allows those with a dispute to submit their case to an arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) who have the authority to decide the dispute and render an enforceable judgment. The disputants need only sign a contract agreeing to do this and naming the arbitrator.

Most elderships are reluctant to serve as arbitrators for fear of alienating whichever party loses, preferring to serve as counselors and conciliators. Therefore, they typically ask attorneys or elders from another church to serve as arbitrator — to take church politics out of the dispute.

In many communities, there’s a Christian lawyer association that has Christian lawyers trained to serve in such cases.

Now, given these facts, how should the molested girls have proceeded to seek civil justice against their pastor, their church, and the Baptist convention?

What would have happened, do you suppose, if they’d attempted a Christian arbitration, given that the courts will not force people to arbitrate?

What if the judges in their hometown were church-going Christians? Would that change your answer?

Does the fact that pastor had pled guilty to rape and served seven years mean that he is no longer a “brother” and so outside this rule?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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50 Responses to Legal Conclusions from Licking Baptist Church, Part 3

  1. Price says:

    What would the restitution be in this case? Could he return what he took? Yes, he should pay for medical expenses to treat the physical and mental trauma he caused. But, should a Christian seek punitive damages from another Christian? Or, even from a non-Christian?

  2. Price says:

    Also, if the Eldership is capable of deciding what is just and choose not to do it because they don’t want to alienate the loosing group…that’s pretty wimpy…If you can’t lead, move out of the way and let those that can. An Elder that is likely to show favoritism shouldn’t be an Elder and an Elder who is afraid of what might be said of him shouldn’t be one either… If the Eldership of the Church can’t be trusted to do the right thing, then the Church is irrelevant.

  3. aBasnar says:

    The “problem” is that the only penalty within a Christian church is the ban. The “sword” belongs to the world, within the body of Christ we cannot go beyond disfellowshipping an evil-doer. Settling a dispute within the church (see Mat 18:15-19) aims for reconciliation, restoration of fellowship – if that fails, we put the sinner outside the church. We are Grace-based.

    Now, in this case, this would mean to meet among just a few as a first step, and not everything needs to be made public in the church. If the transgressor admits his wrongs, the molested women are called to forgive him. Case closed. The preacher might be replaced or his ministry be “downsized” at least for some time, but we would be restored in fellowship and experience Grace. He might get a brother who would take more relational time and offer more counselling in order to help him overcome his carnal desires (like help a drug-addict).

    Something in us cries for justice, however. I believe this “something” would not be satisfied with repentance-forgiveness-restoration. But God deals with us this way. Does “Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” not apply in such a case?


  4. laymond says:

    Paul is talking about civil law, not criminal law. even if he is not, rape is not only a crime against a person, it is a crime against the state.
    I doubt the state is going to turn over criminal decisions to the church.
    used to the law respected the authority of a church in a certain building, such as a criminal running into a church building for sanctuary, that no longer works.
    People have grown to know you are no closer to the lord in that building than you are outside in “God’s world”. Arbitration, I really doubt the government is going to turn criminal law over to arbitration. apples and oranges.

  5. aBasnar says:

    P.S. These are articles 2 and of the Anabptist Schleitheim Confession of 1527 on which I based my recebt comment:

    (2) We have been united as follows concerning the ban. The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves over to the Lord, to walk after [Him] in His commandments; those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ, and let themselves be called brothers or sisters, and still somehow slip and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken. The same [shall] be warned twice privately and the third time be publicly admonished before the entire congregation according to the command of Christ (Matthew 18). But this shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the breaking of bread. so that we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread and drink from one cup.

    (6) We have been united as follows concerning the sword. The sword is an ordering of God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and kills the wicked and guards and protects the good. In the law the sword is established over the wicked for punishment and for death and the secular rulers are established to wield the same.

    But within the perfection of Christ only the ban is used for the admonition and exclusion of the one who has sinned, without the death of the flesh, simply the warning and the command to sin no more.

    Now many, who do not understand Christ’s will for us, will ask; whether a Christian may or should use the sword against the wicked for the protection and defense of the good, or for the sake of love.

    The answer is unanimously revealed: Christ teaches and commands us to learn from Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart and thus we shall find rest for our souls. Now Christ says to the woman who was taken in adultery, not that she should be stoned according to the law of His Father (and yet He says, “What the Father commanded me, that I do”) but with mercy and forgiveness and the warning to sin no more, says: “Go, sin no more.” Exactly thus should we also proceed, according to the rule of the ban.

    Second, is asked concerning the sword: whether a Christian shall pass sentence in disputes and strife about worldly matters, such as the unbelievers have with one another. The answer: Christ did not wish to decide or pass judgment between brother and brother concerning inheritance, but refused to do so. So should we also do.

    Third, is asked concerning the sword: whether the Christian should be a magistrate if he is chosen thereto. This is answered thus: Christ was to be made king, but He fled and did not discern the ordinance of His Father. Thus we should also do as He did and follow after Him, and we shall not walk in darkness. For He Himself says: “Whoever would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He Himself further forbids the violence of the sword when He says: “The princes of this world lord it over them etc., but among you it shall not be so.” Further Paul says, “Whom God has foreknown, the same he has also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,” etc. Peter also says: “Christ has suffered (not ruled) and has left us an example, that you should follow after in his steps.”

    Lastly, one can see in the following points that it does not befit a Christian to be a magistrate: the rule of the government is according to the flesh, that of the Christians according to the Spirit. Their houses and dwelling remain in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven. Their citizenship is in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven. The weapons of their battle and warfare are carnal and only against the flesh, but the weapons of Christians are spiritual, against the fortification of the devil. The worldly are armed with steel and iron, but Christians are armed with the armor of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and with the Word of God. In sum: as Christ our Head is minded, so also must be minded the members of the body of Christ through Him, so that there be no division in the body, through which it would be destroyed. Since then Christ is as is written of Him, so must His members also be the same, so that His body may remain whole and unified for its own advancement and upbuilding. For any kingdom which is divided within itself will be destroyed.

    You must read this with “Nonrestistance” in the back of your mind. So the only way of settling such disputes is by Grace and letting go (Gelassenheit) or by the ban. Therefore – weird as it seems – Paul does ask us: “Why not suffer wrong?” Christ was betrayed by His friend – He did not sue him. There will be a day when all things will be brought to light and we will be judged according to our works – “Mine is the vengeance, says the Lord” (His, not ours!). It is my deep conviction, that all we personally have forgiven here in this life won’t be taken into account on that day, because the sins of those whom we forgive, will be counted as forgiven – and vice versa (John 20:23). Imagine the eternal consequences of our forgiving or not forgiving others. We don’t speak of earthly losses, of a limited/short period time of pain but of eternal consequences.


  6. aBasnar says:

    Laymond, aldutery is (or at least was) a civil crime as well – but CHrist simply forgave instead of enforcing the Law.

  7. laymond says:

    Alex, we are not talking “sharia law” here. adultry was not a civil matter it was criminal, unless the civil penality was “death”, Jesus did not forgive adultry, no wittnesses, judged innocent. rape as far as I know did not carry any penalty, in the bible.

  8. aBasnar says:

    Be it as it may be: I affirm that within the Church (within the “perfection of Christ”) we don’t apply the laws of the world. And therefore we don’t go to worldly lawsuits against each other.

  9. Alabama John says:

    I agree with Rose Marie and Jesus. Shouldn’t go wrong there should I?
    Tie a millstone around his neck and throw him in the sea if he or she causes a little one to sin. Can this quote from Jesus get any plainer and easier to understand!

    We have way too many lawyers and want-to-be lawyers in America.

    Funny how most other things Jesus said is quoted often but this direct from His mouth is diminished and overshadowed by the LAW. What LAW? The one that supersedes the word of God in our eyes in many cases.
    Pharisees were lawyers weren’t they? How did God and Jesus His son feel about them?

  10. aBasnar says:

    Mat 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    I don’t get the connection of this verse to this story, not really. Is a child-molester causing children to sin? And if so: Shall we really apply lynching to child molesting? Or any other sin? Not quite, how I understand Christ and His apostles. There are clear directions of how to deal with such issues – and they don’t go beyond the ban.

    1Co 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
    (side remark: That applies to every sexual sin that is not tolerated by society, such as raping, child abuse, …)
    1Co 5:2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

    Period. I understand the frustration, anger, the desire for punishment and retaliation … but that’s not Christ’s way. Mat 18:6 is figurative in language and no licence for lynching.


  11. Doug says:

    Alexander, I don’t know if you have been following the Penn. St. university child molestation case of not, but if you have you should know that child molestation is a sin that is highly resistant to peer pressure, counseling sessions, reason, etc. You should also know that people who are molested as children frequently become child molesters themselves. So, this may well be about child molesting causing children to sin. A crime against the state needs to be handled in criminal court, not in church court. Personality disputes and differences of opinion (i.e., civil matters) are fine for the church to resolve but the church is very ill equipped to address criminal matters.

  12. Doug says:

    Alexander, my last comment kinda missed the point I was trying to make. Removing a child molester from the church is highly unlikely to make the child molester stop molesting. In my opinion, it would be a sin to just remove such a person from fellowship and allow him to keep on molesting outside the church or in someone else’s church. If you do that, the church itself could be liable for subsequent damage done by that person. Penn. St. found that out the hard way.

  13. rey says:

    “Does the fact that pastor had pled guilty to rape and served seven years mean that he is no longer a ‘brother’ and so outside this rule?”

    Yes. Rape is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, especially when committed by a pastor.

  14. aBasnar says:

    I understand your point, but who is going to lead the charge? Those who (hopefully) already have forgiven? Those who shall not judge? I know this sounds way too idealistic … But the ban not necessarily leads to repentance, it is forthe safety of the flock in the first place.


  15. laymond says:

    “Be it as it may be: I affirm that within the Church (within the “perfection of Christ”) we don’t apply the laws of the world. And therefore we don’t go to worldly lawsuits against each other.”

    Alex, that may well be, but just A J, I cannot consider a “child molester” a brother of mine, and I highly doubt that Jesus considers them a Christian, How is molesting a child following Jesus? only God can read the heart, and only God can forgive a repentent heart. I cannot forgive a person who committs such a horrendous crime against a sister, only the offended can forgive such crimes. but the state can punish those crimes, I believe God said that is what governments do. Like I said Paul was speaking of civil offences.

  16. laymond says:

    Alex, I get it we first disfellowship him, then sue the hell out of him, or worse.
    No brother sueing brother there.

  17. dw says:

    Heinous yes. But more so than sleeping with your mother(1 Cor)? I’m not sure that young man is the one spoken of as repenting in 2 Cor. But Paul does mention turning him over for destruction of the body that his spirit may be saved in the day of judgement. So do we have the right to condemn such a one? Can we say for sure that Christ sees such as beyond redemption? I don’t see Paul not calling him a brother. The sad part of our dysfunctional denominationalism today is that one can bounce from group to group to group and some place will be allowed. Disfellowshipping once meant something as not only from a spiritual sense people had a “good” fear, but a sense of family with a church. If they left the “world” they understood the church was to be their new family and family still meant something. Rey, where is your proof? I’m not defending the action. But in making judgment of an action one has to be able to prove such. Emotions play a large part , especially in such a case, but we are to let the Spirit and Word rule our emotions rather than vice versa.

  18. rey says:

    “Rey, where is your proof?”

    Proof of what? That he’s not a brother? I don’t think it requires proof. Any pansy religion that can’t even consider a childmolestor beyond the pale is dead. And anyone who would try to somehow accept such a person is not just spiritual dead, but moronic, and I dare even say evil. This is the type of offense you don’t come back from. Its beyond the point of no return.

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    As I listen to this concept of the (ban) being the only course of action available to the church, if the party does not repent and ask for forgiveness, and the same Christian instructions tell us that if he did ask for forgiveness, we would be mandated by God’s own instructions to just drop the case as if it never happened. It seems that if the church took the action as described, the church would be responsible for becoming an accessory to the crime according to the laws of our land. The church and the girls would of necessity had to cover up the crime (conceal it) from the authorities in order to administer the only judgment (the ban). This would have been considered by the authorities as an interference with due process of law. The authorities therefore would have had the right and responsibility to bring legal action upon all that participated, possibly the whole church. The church has no more right to be the administrator of the law of the land in this crime, than of any other crime that is punishable by the laws of our land. Suppose, that the crime that was committed was a brother murdered another member or child of the brotherhood. Would anyone attempt to say that the church could only (ban) that brother? In a situation such as this the church would be expected to cooperate fully with all of the governing authorities without concealing any facts, in fact God may require Christians or the church to report the crimes of their members for the governing authorities to administer any judgments that are required by the law. The responsibility then of the church would be as a supporter of the individual that God and the church both can and will forgive him of his actions if he so desires and shows fruit of repentance. Some may say no, you can’t demand that he has to show signs of repentance, because that destroys the free gift, man does not have to do any thing to be forgiven. Well if you see the gift as totally free and do not have to do anything to receive it, you should see that the same concept can never be reversed by something that you have done even (a ban) from the membership. If you would look a little closer into the things that God requires of any man, you might be able to see that the term “free” as stated by the giver is, because there is no amount of work or no amount of goods or no amount of servitude that could ever purchase the position that he has made available to you, (being adopted as child of the King). But, if you or the church attempted to subvert the due process of law of the land as suggested by some, just remember that Satan and all of his angels were once in fellowship with the God of the universe. If he is rendering judgment upon them because of their subordination, would he be a just God if the did not hold you to the same standards?

  20. George Morgan says:

    [deleted for violating site policies]

  21. Larry Cheek says:

    Saul who later became Paul was authorized by the Lord as these verses state. Would not that same man have been just as fully authorized to teach through written documents as he was to speak? In fact, we know that much of his communications fulfilling the Lord’s message about him was documents that were written and distributed while he was in prison. Which are available now for us to read.
    Acts 9:11 KJV 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
    12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
    Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
    14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
    15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
    16 For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

    Acts 9:11 NIV The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
    12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
    13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
    14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
    15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
    16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

    Would not any attempt to state that the authorized messenger of the Lord could not deliver a message to us through his communications with those he addressed be seen by the Lord as a direct rejection of his message? Even today we expect certain documents (a will) that we create to be authority of our desires after we cannot speak for ourselves. The messages from the Lord’s messengers are just as powerful as if they were spoken just like those words that you have quote that Jesus said.

  22. George Morgan says:

    [deleted for violating site policies]

  23. aBasnar says:

    It seems that if the church took the action as described, the church would be responsible for becoming an accessory to the crime according to the laws of our land. The church and the girls would of necessity had to cover up the crime (conceal it) from the authorities in order to administer the only judgment (the ban).

    I know this raises a number of questions. Let’s suppose two scenarios:

    1) Grace leading to repentance

    Unless it is murder or a heavy injury leading to the hospital, the state will be unanware of it unless someone is sueing. As we say in Vienna (worldly saying, but quite true): “Where there is no charge there is no judge”. Forgiveness is always costly, but also precious. We are called to offer Grace to others as God has offered His Grace to us. We shall not lower the standard just because we look at it from a perspective of worldly Law. We shall not even have such a peryspective.

    If it is a murder or a heavy injury, and the police gets involved – who hinders us to be gracious anyway? Imagine the court-session where the widow or the brother sitting in a wheel chair because of these injuries he suffered says to the jury: “I plead with you in the name of Christ that you show mercy with the sinner. I have forgiven Him as God has forgiven me. There is nothing to be settled between the two of us. He showed his remorse to me and apologized with tears.” I’m sure this would lead to an interesting session, and – in effect – would lead to a milder sentence.

    2) If he does not repent

    Well, the ban is what needs to be applied – either way. But still we can forsake our right for justice, like Paul said: “Don’t avenge yourselves, leave room for the wrath of God. I am the avenger, says the Lord.” If we truly believe that, there is no need for us to sue the sinner, is there? Do we believe that? As soon as we charge him, we take it into our won hands. By not charging him, we keep a door open for later repentance and reconciliation. Maybe even the widow would be the first one to embrace the murderer back into fellowship … oh that we’d all become more like Christ!

    Again, if the police gets involved, the procedure would be similar, but our wording would have to be a little different: “I plead with you in the name of Christ that you show mercy with the sinner. I have forgiven Him and God has forgiven me. I don’t want retaliation, but that he would understand the gravity of his sin – not before a human court, but in the light of God.” – if it were a crime that could lead to a death sentece, you might add: “Please spare his life so he gets time to repent and be reconciled with God and His church.”

    Grace is always risky

    God does not kill the sinner immediately. By showing Grace he gives him the chance to be transformed and renewed, but also to fall back into sin, to do even worse things to even more people. God took this risk with mankind. When we forgive we take the risk to be disappointed again and again – until the 7×70 is full.

    By being gracious we even risk our lives – and – be honest about it – the lives of others as well. But by the conversion of one sinner like Paul who had deserved death 1000 times, a multitude of sinners can be saved. That’s the gain of Grace. In the end, when all is summed up, I trust that Grace will be more fruitful than the sword. Even if for the present it might look otherwise.


  24. George, questioning the authority of scripture per se is really outside the scope of discussions on this site. It’s a baseline that Jay has set for the board.

  25. Being a believer does not exempt one from the reach of civil law. The king does not bear the sword in vain, and that goes for a member of your congregation. The king is also the Lord’s servant. As Everett Ulysses McGill said of a fellow felon’s baptism, “That might’ve put you square with the Lord, but the state of Mississippi is a little more hard-nosed!”

  26. Alabama John says:

    Not questioning authority, but realizing that we in the COC do study, teach obedience, and quote far more from Paul than from Jesus.
    All the denominations I know of quote more Jesus than we do.
    We do sing far more about and from Jesus than Paul though.

  27. Larry Cheek says:

    I thought that your quote from the scriptures, the Bible, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and love each other as I have loved you”. And your admission that Christ must have been the author, “Why are the teachings of Jesus not enough to guide us? Jesus made it very simple”. That you would have accepted that the Bible was the rule book that was compiled by God, Christ, and the chosen writers that produced the messages that you quoted from. If all of the rules in the book that you have tried to avoid by your statements you deny, proves that your reliance on what you did quote is useless to you.

  28. Price says:

    It seems that some don’t believe that Paul’s words were inspired by God Himself. If you doubt that then you doubt the majority of the new covenant text. If you do believe that God inspired the words of Paul then one would be hard pressed to explain how Jesus and Paul could be in conflict other than to attempt to explain how God was in conflict with Himself..

  29. Larry Cheek says:

    As I read your post do I understand that you believe that any crime that is committed by a brother in Christ, unless it is found out by the authorities, should be concealed by the church and be dealt with by offering him the opportunity to avoid answering for the crime with the law of the land in which our God has established rulers. I’ve been pondering about this statement, “Where there is no charge there is no judge”. I guess I have to understand it in a total different context. If you don’t press charges or if the crime is not made known to the authorities, then no judge will be necessary to judge the matter. But, that saying is very deceiving, because the fact that if there was a possibility that a charge could be made that needed a judge, and it was not reported to obtain judgement. Then all that participated in the non reporting became the judges and their judgment had no authority. They in actually, became partners in the crime. Now for the church’s part in an action where someone has committed a crime against the rules that have been established by the rulers appointed by God to render judgment upon the unruly of the land. The grace that the church may give in a matter such as this is not even remotely related to the grace that God gives. It is God’s rules and the laws of the land’s rules that are broken, the church was never set up as a legislative body to design rules. The church or a group of Christians, which is all the church is, has no right to adjust or even interfere with punishments from either God’s rules or the laws of the land. The church does have a responsibility to be a spiritual guide for the relationship between a Christian and the Lord. As for appealing to the judge of the land for a lighter sentence,“I plead with you in the name of Christ that you show mercy with the sinner. I have forgiven Him as God has forgiven me. There is nothing to be settled between the two of us”. And, “– if it were a crime that could lead to a death sentence, you might add: “Please spare his life so he gets time to repent and be reconciled with God and His church.” Would you believe that the world, non-Christians would accept an action of an individual receiving a lighter punishment just because he was Christian? Could you see the headlines in the news media, He was exempted from serving the sentence because he was a Christian. The murderer, rapist, etc: was not held accountable, just slapped on the hand or set free.
    Now, for his relationship with the church concept. You mentioned, “Please spare his life so he gets time to .” How long do you think it takes for a Christian that has fallen from grace as this story may represent to make himself right with God again? In searching the scriptures I believe that it states a prayer will do it, how much time would it take to ask God to forgive you again?
    God can forgive a Christian and immediately he could pay his debt to the judgement deserved without affecting his salvation. The last part of this statement, “repent and be reconciled with God and His church”. God is the overseer of the church not the members, If a man is reconciled to God the church has no authority to treat that man as if he was an outsider. Many times through out history the church has wanted to be or take the place of God in dealing with members.
    Let’s talk about this (ban) a little bit more, many churches place a reliance of great power associated with the disfellowship of members. This may not have nearly the influence over a member of the church as we have been led to believe. First, the church has to have created a fellowship with the member that would create a feeling of loosing something by the individual that was rejected by it. Second, the church that implements an action like that must convey to the individual that they are actually concerned about the brothers relationship to God, not to just the church. Third, this is not just a doctrinal issue, you refuse to believe just like we have taught, there must be a definite and clear to the scriptures direct disobedience of God’s instructions, ie: man sleeping with his mother-in-law, or being proven a false teacher refusing to correct, no guess work here, no lynch mob type of event by an aggressive church leader, preacher, or group of members. Otherwise, this (ban) is useless, it will remove the individual from the presents of this body of what might be called the church, but will never serve the mission of restoring a member to God with any of the above misplaced.

  30. johnny says:

    Eternal Forgiveness exist but the consequences of your actions exist in this world. I may ask forgiveness for robbing the bank and shooting the guard. I may may genuinely confess repent and seek forgiveness but the guard is still injured. I can not take that back.

    That said I must say this as well, it is my opinion that anyone who would suggest that a rapist of a child under his leadership could repent and ask forgiveness and escape any temporal punishment for his crime has no business as a Shepard of a flock. I would flee his flock as fast as I could and urge anyone in his flock to do so as well.

    I want Elders who like David protects their flock from the Lion and the Bear, not one who would confuse who he is charged to protect.

  31. aBasnar says:

    @ Larry

    I am fully aware of the difficulties in my approach. But these are the conclusions I arrive at when taking forgiveness and grace seriously. If someone has robbed a bank, for instance, the sin has not been done against us, the bank will sue. Butthe church can forgive and help to pay the fine or pay back what has been stolen. If a brother broke into my appartment and robbed me of my goods, he broke the same state-law, but it is up to me whether I sue or not, whether I forgive or retaliate.


  32. Larry Cheek says:

    What you state is true, about your helping. But, I would like to bring to your attention many years of visibility and of rearing 6 children of my own, of the relationship that I have observed other parents go through. The parents that went up against school officials, teachers, law officers, and anyone that brought accusations of their children misbehaving. Usually, detoured any punishments that really should have been endured by their children, did their children no favors. They did not gain any respect for authority and most became repeat offenders many to the extent that they became hardened criminals and were eventually committed to prison because they were a threat to humanity.
    These are human traits and if you will pay close attention you will notice that the church is not exempt from the same attitudes among some members.
    The church as I have experienced it will produce the exact same attitudes if it intercedes interrupting the punishments required by law.

  33. Alabama John says:

    We see them in different lights, Jesus love, Paul law.
    Not that ones words were from God and one not.
    In the church of Christ, we spend way more time and study on law than on love. We are well known for that.
    Interestingly when we get to heaven, its always a good question in a class to ask which one, Jesus or Paul we individually will seek out first to meet personally face to face.
    Law has tied us in the COC in knots we can’t seem to untangle, love hasn’t. Hard feelings, splits, among our liberal or anti brethren because of different understandings of Pauls teaching abound among us, we need more of Jesus teaching now.

  34. Price says:

    AJ. Perhaps we should take a fresh look at what Gos said through Paul ?? Perhaps it’s not so much law as we think. I guess it depends on what one is looking to find when they read ??

  35. laymond says:

    1Cr 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
    1Cr 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

    I believe Paul could write that same letter today, to the CoC. leaving out the part about Chloe, of course.
    When we say the CoC follows the advice of Paul, well that just ain’t so, and neither do they follow the teachings of Jesus.That causes nearly all others to call the CoC a cult. Most CoC follow a man, the man behind the pulpit.

  36. I believe that we should use arbitration by church leaders where possible; but my experience has not led me to expect justice.

    We are not accustomed to the practice that Paul referrs to; of taking legal cases to the elders of the community for a decision. Our leaders are not accustomed to making such decisions, and are often unprepared to take on the mindset of a wise judge. More often, their approach is, “I don’t want to hear the facts, let’s just settle this quietly.”

    While we have leaders who aren’t prepared to make such decisions, or to do the digging into the (often messy) circumstances to understand what justice would be, we have members who are quite willing to ask for direction on minor matters, but won’t accept true leadership. One elder complained to me, “I wish someone would come to us with a question more important than, ‘Is it OK is we paint the lobby pale green?'”

    Such questions show how much our culture has influenced our view of church. We see the elders as managers, or a board of directors of our community organization. We don’t often see them as leaders whom we would follow into death (which happened among first-century christians), or as leaders who have the authority to direct our lives.

    I’ve seen elders try to exercise such life-changing authority. The most common response has been for the offender to move to another congregation, without changing his/her life at all!

    In short, our elders often aren’t well set up to provide judgement in case of dispute among our members, and our members often aren’t willing to accept that kind of judgement from their elders. How can we fulfil Paul’s advice/command in this matter, while these conditions continue?

  37. Alabama John says:

    Price, it is law now whether it was meant to be then or not. Quotes from that law are on more lips and in more minds to recite in sermons than the scriptures concerning love are.
    Would that love was expanded and put in authority as readily and as often as law has been.
    Might of stopped all the differences we have and the dividing among us.
    You seldom see anyone topping another in love, but its very common to see who can top the other in law and its obedience. All splits I know of were because of some interpretation differences of law and the obedience or not thereof. never seen a split because of a difference in degree of too much love shown one another.

  38. Larry Cheek says:

    I know this will get a lot of communication, but this has been on my mind and very few places you can air your thoughts and get responses without being thrown out. I was in a very heavy debate about the necessity of every church to have Elders. I was affirming that with a preacher that obviously would do anything to be sure that none were appointed. So here goes a concept that developed as I dealt into the scriptures heavily.
    The apostles and men that they appointed to install Elders did that in what is said in the scriptures in every church. There were also men that were given special gifts that were to help teach and lead the church.
    Inter the problem that has entered my mind. There was never a command for anyone or there was never even an suggestion that anyone ever appoint Elders at future churches. Certainly, there was never an example to a church in the Bible to appoint Elders for themselves. Yes, I see there was instructions given for qualifications for someone to be appointed to that position, but those qualifications were directives to the men whom were appointed to perform that action. Nowhere, is there any hint that a man or body of men were to continue that action. You say how crazy can you get, well point one. We can easily understand that before the printed word was available for the common man to be able to read and study for himself, revelation had to be delivered by communicating other than hard copies that had authority. Thus the need for those special gifts and Elders. To shorten this a little I will allow you here to address these before going further. Just one more point if an Elder today is to be held responsible for the duty as a shepherd to keep the common men who have access to the same instructions that the Elder does as to whether an individual is saved or lost or even to keep him on the right path or in the body, what happened to the individual’s own responsibility, will an Elder’s efforts as a shepherd (by the way Christ claims the title of The Only Shepherd) actually be a factor in a man being saved that he has to constantly oversee to keep him within what the body sees as a follower of Christ? If so then the man only lived up to the church’s or body’s standards not Christ’s. Maybe I just overworked my brain on this subject to the point it has become fuzzy. So toss it around and see if I can make since of it. Thanks

  39. Price says:

    Larry, I wonder if your consternation isn’t more a reflection on the apparent need of some denominations or “groups” to sub-divide to infinity and then appoint Elders in each location. I don’t believe the instructions were written with the intent of supporting fraction and division. My guess is that Elders were appointed in every city, but not in every “home” where people met. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get along and then men (and women) could be used for the good of the church according to the spiritual gifts given them. Seems that would be preferred to filling the “opening” created by a church split with unqualified and non-gifted persons who happened to take our side in the argument.

  40. laymond says:

    Didn’t Paul have to make a trip to Jerusalem to see “The Elders” ?
    Anyway in my understanding, the work of elders today, is not to sit as judges.
    We would do well to call them “overseers” factually it is a political position, in the CoC.

  41. Historically, from the first century Jewish perspective, elders were expected to sit as judges. That was part of their function. In fact, the reason Paul used his right as a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar was to stay out of the hands of the Jewish elders and their judgment. To expect the believing elders in the city to exercise judgment would not have stretched anyone’s imagination.

    We as Americans have a hard time grasping this because we see things only as WE do them. Price speaks of having elders in the city, but since we long ago subdivided the church into disparate, unrelated clans, we can’t imagine elders recognized across those lines. We Americans are creatures of “our rights”, so the idea of NOT getting a lawyer and defending ourselves is a mystery to us. Even the idea of actual submission to spiritual authority is a strange concept, as we think power derives from us, so we don’t “submit” except under duress. As believers, we see organizational leaders and we don’t recognize that God even wants to extend his authority into the hands of godly men. Even those who would offer to arbitrate between believers assume that such should be done according to the rule of national law, rather than simply trying to find the mind of God in a case. So this whole thing is Greek to us. Worse than that– after all, we know a little Greek.

  42. Jay Guin says:

    Charles wrote,

    Even the idea of actual submission to spiritual authority is a strange concept, as we think power derives from us, so we don’t “submit” except under duress. As believers, we see organizational leaders and we don’t recognize that God even wants to extend his authority into the hands of godly men.

    Very true.

  43. Jay Guin says:

    Ralph wrote,

    I’ve seen elders try to exercise such life-changing authority. The most common response has been for the offender to move to another congregation, without changing his/her life at all!

    In short, our elders often aren’t well set up to provide judgement in case of dispute among our members, and our members often aren’t willing to accept that kind of judgement from their elders. How can we fulfil Paul’s advice/command in this matter, while these conditions continue?

    True. The American culture and the consumeristic culture we’ve created in our churches leads to a refusal of the members to submit to the elders — except, of course, when they agree with the elders.

    Fixing this problem requires far more than the 3-part sermon series. We have to re-discover what the Scriptures teach us about the gospel and our salvation. The problem runs very, very deep.

  44. Jay Guin says:


    One the worst mistakes made by the Catholic Church in dealing with child-molesting priests was to confuse forgiveness with discernment.

    When a priest abused a child and was caught, if he repented and asked forgiveness, the church forgave him (as it should) and then transferred him to a new parish to be around other children (a colossal mistake). Forgiveness does not mean ignoring the sin.

    After all, the church sinned against the priest by placing him in a situation where he’d be again tempted. The church sinned against the children as well, because it knowingly placed a priest who had not yet defeated pedophilia in a situation where he’d be seriously tempted to sin again.

    Repentance is the beginning of defeating sin, not the completion of the task.

    It’s one thing to forgive — which is essential — but quite another to ignore someone’s weaknesses and struggles when we decide what job or responsibilities he ought to have.

  45. Price says:

    George if you don’t believe in the inspiration of the writers of the NT then you will find yourself very lonely on this site. The authority for Paul’s writings was God Himself. How would that be different from Jesus ?? Sort of a nonsensical position to explore don’t you think ??

  46. You are the pastor of a local congregation and Brother B (from a congregation across town) comes into your office one day. He says he wants to place membership with your group, and wants to start off by giving you an offering of several thousand dollars. What is your initial response?

    I would wager that the most common initial response would be, “We are so glad God has sent you our way! Welcome!”

    I have seen it done otherwise in real life. Pastor A asked Brother B why he was leaving that other congregation. B said he just didn’t get along with that pastor anymore and he had been keeping his tithe in his pocket until he decided where he wanted to go. Pastor A replied, “Well, let’s give that pastor a call and get him over here so you guys can reconcile. Then, we’ll talk about you being part of this group.” When the astonished Brother B declined to participate in such a meeting, Pastor A handed him his check back, and advised him to spend more time in prayer and to go and be reconciled to his brother.

    That happened some twenty years ago and I still have a warm place in my heart for that pastor. Lots of church leaders talk about individual believers being more important than building the congregation, but not too many show strong evidence of this view in their actions.

  47. Larry wrote: “We can easily understand that before the printed word was available for the common man to be able to read and study for himself, revelation had to be delivered by communicating other than hard copies that had authority.”

    This interesting term, “hard copies that had authority”, may be the most succinct terminology I have heard to date for an extra-biblical doctrine about the NT canon itself. In this very-common view, Jesus passed his spiritual authority on to 13 fellows who then deposited that authority into a book, which is the only place it can be found today. This view essentially retires the Holy Spirit after the Council of Hippo, if not after 100 AD, when the last of the canonical writings had been penned. It is as though Jesus said, “I will be with you thirteen guys always, and everybody else will get a set of Cliff’s Notes about what that must have been like”.

    This is a vision to which I can find no link in scripture itself. Even after God gave the Law to Moses, He continued to reveal himself by the prophets, the greatest of whom was John. But somehow, we have decided that this spiritual process stopped, for unknown reasons and at some arbitrary point, taking the power of the living God –which has been active in the earth since the Creation– and reducing it to a set of rules and precedents over which we continue to argue today.

    I am coming to the realization that I do not know how to make clear the radical disconnect we have created from the authority and power of God and the price we are paying for our foolishness. It’s as though you found me sitting on a ticking time bomb, and you urged me to run away, only to find that I could not understand what you were so all wound-up about. To me, the problem is as obvious as growing a second set of arms, while to others, it is completely non-existent.

  48. Larry Cheek says:

    I understand you to be saying, that God’s revelation is ongoing as we speak. If this is true then the only men on earth that could disagree about anything reviled would be the ungodly or the false teachers, because God is not a respecter of persons and all of his revelation to his followers today would have to be totally in unison. All followers of Christ would receive the exact same revelation. There would not be any confusion as to the message received, because God through the Spirit cannot deliver a differing message. There would also never be a need to consult the scriptures for confirmation of the reviled word. In fact as you state the revelation is ongoing the old recorded messages would not have any authority, because the message is always changing, as we would say in the computer world being upgraded. All the messages in the scriptures admonishing readers to study to show themselves approved would be hogwash. The scriptures would be reduced to a history book with no more authority upon mankind today than the books written by historians recording events as they happen.
    I notice that you have concluded that the Law that was given through Moses, was altered continually by God through the prophets. If that was true it should be very easy for to document some of the incidents for us to see. But, if the scriptures are only a history book, then not a single part of it contains any authority, so where would you base the foundation of what has been changed. How would we see through the reading of the book that God issued commands that man was held accountable for obeying. If the rules are in constant revision, is there any point in time that we could identify as guide for us today.
    The concept that you have proposed would not fit any of the accounts in history of what man has set up as a god to worship, any and all things nature, livestock, ornaments, rulers, the earth itself, gods and goddesses all have had rules and rituals in place that required other men to obey or follow.
    I think that it can be easily proven if a man accepts that the scriptures are God’s message to man that all of the Law of Moses was delivered by God through Moses and that there was no modification to any of those laws by any prophet. All of those Laws were in tact when Christ entered to the world even though men were not obeying them.
    It appears to me that the idea that you have stated replaces all Scripture with Holy Spirit.
    If I have misunderstood and I believe that others would have also. I surely hope that you will be able to show us either where we are wrong or be able to better explain how your comments agree with the authority that is claimed by the written Scriptures.

  49. Larry Cheek says:

    You stated; “True. The American culture and the consumeristic culture we’ve created in our churches leads to a refusal of the members to submit to the elders — except, of course, when they agree with the elders.”

    I guess that in my studies of Elders one of the problems that I have encountered is about these rules from the Elders that we discuss. I did not notice in the scriptures that Elders were given authority to create rules from God to be obeyed. Let me clarify, my understanding of the relationship of the Elder with those he is responsible for was only to (using the term oversee) guide those he has become responsible for to the obedience of God’s or Christ’s rules, and even then sometimes a member of the church may have a clearer understanding on a subject than the Elder and the Elder may learn more correctly from an unlikely source. But, it’s God’s rules that the Elder is to use, not some created by a group of men called Elders. We all realize that any body of men have to agree to cooperate with each other even just to set up a time for a gathering or procedures that take place while gathered. We may call these rules but, these are more or less the guidelines for our interaction with this local gathering. Not intended to be set of rules that have the power of condemnation. A follower could treat these rules in such a manner that God’s rules could impose from his rules condemnation, but the authority involved would not be that of the Elders.
    In my previous post about the Elders, the goal that I was trying to direct to was that the Elders that were appointed in the scriptures, I believe were men that were given access through the Holy Spirit to a greater amount of knowledge about what would later be published as the scriptures than the common Christian received then. As the scriptures being published and being made readable by the common Christians took place each Christian became more responsible to read and apply God’s word for themselves, possibly relieving some of the responsibility of the Elders being the source of Bible knowledge, to more of a guide for difficult to understand portions, because he is required to be well versed in the scriptures. Unlike the early Elders there were not text to be studied by either, therefore the need for direct implantation of information by the Holy Spirit.
    It appears to me that is maybe what Charles is referring to, that he seems to believe is now available for any and all Christians. If he would be correct then would the Elders become even less necessary? After all who could disagree with a Christian who was given his knowledge directly from the Holy Spirit?

  50. Price says:

    Larry. It is pretty clear from scripture that there were “types” of revelation from God. One was for the individual or group and the other was for all men for all time… Remember Agabus prophesied about the drought that was to occur and the people were able to make preparations. The Corinthians church members who were properly gifted were able to speak into the lives of non-member visitors and cause them to realize that God was indeed among them to the point of repentance. Paul said the gifts were to be used to exhort, edify and encourage… He did not say that the gifts were to be made into Law that all must follow. In fact, Paul used very strong language to cause all who read his words to “earnestly seek the spiritual gifts, especially to propesy”…He did not say that this was only good through August 10th or for the year 65AD… If we believe anything Paul said that wasn’t OBVIOUSLY limited by culture (pearls, feet wasing) then one would find his words about seeking after the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to edify, exhort and encourage other brothers and sisters and strangers to be a command. No need for CENI here !! He said do it … \

    You’ll also remember that Agabus encouraged Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem because he would be mistreated and bound in chains…Paul’s individual word from the Lord was that he was to go. Agabus was given information and properly informed Paul. Except Paul was not bound by law not to go just because the word was from a known prophet. He had his own marching orders apparently…or he was a little bull headed…whatever, he went. No record of condemnation for him going..

    We also know for sure that the prophetic voice at the church in Corinth was mighty…but do we know a single thing they said? Nope. If revelation from God was for all men for all time then we are in serious trouble not having a single sentence from anyone in the Corinthian church when Paul said that they were prophesying so much that he had to tell them to calm down and do it in an orderly fashion…

    Not trying to defend Charles, he’s capable of that himself but I did want to point out the common error that some have in their understanding of the prophetic word. Not all of it was for all mankind for all time.. and, that is clear from reading the various passages concerning it.

    One last thing… One could hardly imagine that EVERYTHING that God spoke to Elijah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah was written down. Not even all the miracles of Jesus were recorded which means that not all HE SAID was recorded.. I would guess that if you were being honest that there were times in your on life that you felt “moved” to do or not to do something for some unknown or inexplainable reason that after the fact you realized that you were A) extraordinarily lucky or B) God held your hand.

    The testimonies throughout all the churches everywhere are too numerous to discount.. God is involved with His people as He has always been. Except for those who’s faith is so weak that as Jesus said, here “I can do very little.”

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