IF YOUR BROTHER SINS AGAINST YOU

HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

Question: How do we decide that certain sins are to be brought to the attention of the church while others are not?

Answer: This is an excellent question because as a matter of fact there are sins that from the point of view of scripture appear to result in far greater damage than the sin of which this person is guilty. David, for instance, was much more severely disciplined for his pride on the occasion when he numbered Israel and took pride in the size of his army than for his sins of adultery and murder. Whenever a brother is guilty of gossip or a divisive spirit or bears resentment against his parents or some other person and he persists in that sin and refuses to respond, the same procedure ought to be followed. And we’ve done that. We don’t always do it consistently and that’s to our shame, but we have tried to follow up on these things. There are many of you here, individual believers, who have talked at various times with different brothers, and their response was to repent. When that happens the matter is ended. Jesus says in the very next paragraph after this section in Matthew 18 that if your brother sins against you and he repents, you must forgive him 490 times. It does not need to go any farther. If he repents then it’s all over and the relationship is restored. Ninety-nine per cent of the time it never goes any farther than that, but in those cases where it does, regardless of the type of sin, it ought to be handled in this way. We’re not singling out sexual sin as particularly heinous. All sin is damaging, and thus abhorrent.

Question: Is it necessary to make public the name of the brother whose sin you are announcing to the church?

Answer: Yes. Scripture is very specific about these things. Paul wrote the whole epistle of Philippians to the church in Philippi because of two ladies who were causing problems in the church. They couldn’t get along; they had been appealed to many times, but they kept on fighting and getting everybody upset. In that letter, he lays down an awful lot of theology before he gets to the personal issues it’s all about the unity of the body and how to preserve that unity through a spirit of humility and willingness to give up one’s rights. In order to understand the impact of this, you have to realize that these letters were read in public, as they only had the one scroll. Then, as the reader came to the end of the letter, with the entire congregation listening attentively, he read, “I entreat Eu-o’dia and I entreat Syn’tyche to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). He named them. If we didn’t name the person, there would be a great deal of speculation, since we all know people who are struggling with various sins. It’s necessary to name him, also, so you can go to that brother and continue to appeal to him. If you don’t know who he is, you can’t do that.

As to the young men who were involved with this person, scripture says clearly that what they are doing is wrong and destructive, and in most cases, they know that and they have turned away from it. In fact, this is how we know some of the circumstances. These men have come to us and have admitted wrongdoing and have asked for help, and scripture looks at them as it looks at anyone else who sins and turns away from it they are forgiven. The blood of Jesus Christ covers and cleanses us from all sins all sin, not just certain kinds of sin.

Question: Was this person informed that this announcement would be made?

Answer: He was informed and correspondence was sent, so he was fully aware of our intent. He was told, also, that we would retract instantly if he would come and talk to us and would be willing to turn away before the announcement was made. This announcement was made simultaneously at another church which was directly involved, and we kept the lines open so that we could phone them immediately if we were contacted by this person.

Question: How much of a factor is that person’s position of influence as a teacher in deciding at what point one goes to the whole body?

Answer: Scripture says that a leader is to be rebuked before all because his influence is so widespread (1 Timothy 5:20), and that did have bearing on our decision. It is true that leaders have far greater responsibility and great culpability. That’s a heavy one for all of us. That’s why we read in James: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

 

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