Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good.
Yesterday I witnessed these clear passages at work. I witnessed Christians, who had prayed and wept and reached and prayed some more—I witnessed them rejoicing as a strapping brother walked down the aisle. He started his walk before the song we were singing to encourage him even began. He beat the elders to the front; the ones who were on their way down front to take the hand of any one who came forward. I watched one of those elders weeping. I heard the statement of the erring brother; clear and humble and penitent, and I watched his family in the Lord embrace him and rejoice. It was a long time coming and it was eternal in its result.
It had been one week since the announcement had been made of his pending withdrawal of the fellowship of a congregation that loves him deeply. One week of praying and pleading with him. One week of inner turmoil and decisions to make on his part.
Why would anyone believe that we can ignore passages to withdraw our fellowship from those who become impenitent and hardened in sin? Notice some key words in the verses above that are taken from First Corinthians five and Second Thessalonians three:
we command you
in the name of our Lord, Jesus
In the name of our Lord Jesus.
when you are gathered with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ
for the destruction of the flesh
that the spirit may be saved
Your glorying is not good.
How could we ever even presume to say that we are following, as congregations, His will and incurring His full blessings when generations have gone by seeing Christians walk away into sins of all kinds—living and then dying in them—while we ignore passages that begin with a command to do something in the name of the Lord Jesus?
If you are a part of a congregation that lovingly obeys this immediately hard and eternally powerful command, you are blessed in a rare and comforting way. It’s purposes, in the context of these passages, is two-fold: purity of the church and penitence-provoking in behalf of the lost one. If you are a part of such a congregation, give deep and introspective thought before leaving such a church. (I know your reasons could be many and that this is not the only important New Testament command for churches.) One day the soul in jeopardy may be your own and you want to be part of a community of Christians under faithful shepherds who are weeping and coming for you when you are walking away from holiness. You want late-night, prayerful, living-room elders who are bound to Inspiration’s path of bringing lost brethren (and sisters) back.
True, sometimes the impenitence persists and the withdrawal is complete and the lost soul never returns. The Lord will not force a soul go to heaven. (This whole blog and my whole life would be an exercise in futility if this earth were not the testing ground for faithfulness.) But, even in cases where the purpose of a soul’s salvation is not achieved, the purpose of the purity of the church is not thwarted.
Don’t take the blessing lightly if you have shepherds who bravely lead in discipline in a who-are-you-to judge-me world.
And if you do not have the blessing, and you are proud of the “loving environment that would never presume to call out sin”, Your glorying is not good.