“It is God’s glory to encircle sinful, repentant human beings in the arms of His love, to bind up their wounds, to cleanse them from sin, and to clothe them with the garments of salvation.” Prophets and Kings, 668
The Church Is Responsible Desire of Ages 805 "Whosesoever sins ye remit," said Christ, "they are remitted; . . . and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Christ here gives no liberty for any man to pass judgment upon others. In the Sermon on the Mount He forbade this. It is the prerogative of God. But on the church in its organized capacity He places a responsibility for the individual members. Toward those who fall into sin, the church has a duty, to warn, to instruct, and if possible to restore. "Reprove, rebuke, exhort," the Lord says, "with all long-suffering and doctrine." 2 Tim. 4:2. Deal faithfully with wrongdoing. Warn every soul that is in danger. Leave none to deceive themselves. Call sin by its right name. Declare what God has said in regard to lying, Sabbath breaking, stealing, idolatry, and every other evil. "They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal. 5:21. If they persist in sin, the judgment you have declared from God's word is pronounced upon them in heaven. In choosing to sin, they disown Christ; the church must show that she does not sanction their deeds, or she herself dishonors her Lord. She must say about sin what God says about it. She must deal with it as God directs, and her action is ratified in heaven. He who despises the authority of the church despises the authority of Christ Himself. DA 805. The counsel is clear.
1. The Church in its Organized Capacity”. Let’s pause here and clarify. The inspired counsel does not enjoin well-intended souls to do this work. Operating alone in our own strength, in our own wisdom leaves us without the balancing influence of fellow believers. God knew what He was doing when he provided this clear safe guard. Provision is not made here for any one person no matter their position within the church to make such important decisions. This is a decision for the Church in its Organized Capacity.
2. He Places a Responsibility for the Individual Members. Notice the wording does not speak of authority over but responsibility for individual members. The context is in dealing with sin. It is the responsibility for the individual member that is spoken of. Any people who think of themselves as having the last word about how others should or shouldn’t have behaved can condemn a sinner. There is no real brainpower required here. But to deal with actually taking RESPONSIBILITY for Individual Members, that is another matter altogether.
3. Toward Those Who Fall Into Sin, the Church Has a Duty: This is not optional work. Those who fall into sin NEED the Church and it is the DUTY of the CHURCH to care for them as outlined. Take note this speaks of those who have fallen not of those who choose to remain fallen. It speaks of those who have had a fall. What a difference between those who fall and those who lay down on the job! The one, who takes a fall, realizes what has happened and WANTS UP. The other likes it right where they are and WANT TO STAY DOWN. What is the duty of the organized church to those who have taken a fall?
4. To Warn, to Instruct, and If Possible to Restore:
This is beginning to sound like work, maybe even hard work. To warn indicates that the fallen one has lost focus and needs to hear a warning. LOOK OUT the train is coming? That is the duty of the organized church. GET OUT OF THE WAY. MOVE OFF THE TRACKS. That is the duty of the organized church. The fallen then rolls out of the way of the train. He/she has heard the warning. He/she has heard the instruction. They lay there dazed from their fall, but they have the will to live and responded to the warning and instruction. The train thunders past leaving both the fallen one and the onlooker who gave the warning, shaken and terrified at what has just happened. At that moment the concern is for the fallen one. No one goes over and starts to kick the fallen one or tell him/her what a fool they have been to be playing on the tracks; perish the thought. Everyone springs into action on behalf of the fallen one. One rushes to call 911. Others rush to the side of the fallen one to comfort and encourage, another tears some clothing up and uses it as a bandage pressing it on the wounds of the fallen to stop the bleeding. Another gently lifts the head and places their own coat or shirt under the head to lessen the pain of the moment. It doesn’t matter that the ground is oily or muddy. The concern is for the fallen one. We could follow the story from there. The ambulance comes, carefully the fallen is placed on the stretcher, placed in the ambulance, to the hospital, the tests, the hospital care, the rehab that follows. You get the point. LOOK OUT THIS RELATIONSHIP IS EVIL. That is the duty of the organized church. QUICK, GET OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP NOW OR IT WILL TAKE AWAY EVERYTHING THAT IS OF VALUE TO YOU EVEN YOUR ETERNAL LIFE. That is the duty of the organized church. The duty of the organized church is not to say “Bad Boy. Bad Boy. You have been very, very BAD. Do you understand you were BAD?” The fallen knows he has been foolish. He knows he never should have chosen to walk on that street. He knows all of that. That is not what he needs now. What he needs now is to find other arms that are out stretched in CHRISTIAN LOVE. What is needed now is BROTHERLY LOVE. What is needed now is someone who will walk with him through rehab (Christian counseling) and get him walking on the straight and narrow once again and then together we can all rejoice and say: “The power of Jesus has saved another fallen brother/sister and we did our part.” To Restore has been the missing element when dealing with fallen church members or church employees. Perhaps for a few hours maybe even days we think of the fallen, shake our heads and say poor thing. What was he thinking? Maybe even we wonder what it was like to have taken that moral fall. We then dismiss those evil thoughts and hope no one realizes such thoughts were even in our heads. And then we move on. Yes, poor fellow. HEY WAIT A MINUTE! I am laying here on the tracks. I am a mess. I am torn and bleeding. My family doesn’t know what to do. WE NEED HELP! Where are all my friends? Where are all those people I used to sit on committee’s with? Where is my Sabbath School Teacher? Where is my Sabbath School Class? Does any one care? Anyone? The silent cry is not uttered. We just hope someone does care and will help us.
5. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort," the Lord says, "with all long-suffering and doctrine." 2 Tim. 4:2. Reprove—admonish a : to indicate duties or obligations to b : to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner : to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to Rebuke—to tax upon, that is, censure or admonish; by implication forbid Exhort—to call near, that is, invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation)
With all longsuffering: Longsuffering— longanimity, that is, (objectively) forbearance or (subjectively) fortitude longanimity, meaning: a disposition to bear injuries patiently, forbearance : a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due : the act of forbearing : patience : the quality of being forbearing : leniency fortitude, meaning : strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage Strong’s Concordance used for KJV meaning and then Word definitions from: Miriam Webster’s Online Dictionary: Would it be correct to say the Apostle Paul directs us to deal with sin by earnestly, gently clarifying the duties, which have been neglected or despised? If necessary to be more direct and forbid continuing in such actions. When this is done then to call near, to invite to invoke, to implore and console. While we are doing this it appears the goal is restoration not punishment or exposure. The goal of restoration may require some actions that clearly censure that wrong actions of the fallen one, but not to keep them down but rather to build them up. Of course we have the power and authority to disfellowship, but is that our goal? Of course we have the power and authority to put the fallen church worker outside the circle of paid servants of the Lord, but is this our goal? We are to forebear! We are to refrain from enforcement that is due IF POSSIBLE. WE MUST DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO PLACE THE FALLEN AND FAMILY IN THE STRONGEST SITUATION POSSIBLE FOR REUNIFICATION, RESTORATION TO SERVICE, AND ETERNAL LIFE. That is our goal! Anything less and we are not as an organized church fulfilling our duty as outlined.
Desire of Ages 806 “But there is a brighter side to the picture. "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted." Let this thought be kept uppermost. In labor for the erring, let every eye be directed to Christ. Let the shepherds have a tender care for the flock of the Lord's pasture. Let them speak to the erring of the forgiving mercy of the Saviour. Let them encourage the sinner to repent, and believe in Him who can pardon. Let them declare, on the authority of God's word, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. All who repent have the assurance, "He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:19. DA 806.1. “Let the repentance of the sinner be accepted by the church with grateful hearts. Let the repenting one be led out from the darkness of unbelief into the light of faith and righteousness. Let his trembling hand be placed in the loving hand of Jesus. Such a remission is ratified in heaven.” DA 806.2 “Only in this sense has the church power to absolve the sinner. Remission of sins can be obtained only through the merits of Christ. To no man, to no body of men, is given power to free the soul from guilt. Christ charged His disciples to preach the remission of sins in His name among all nations; but they themselves were not empowered to remove one stain of sin. The name of Jesus is the only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. DA 806.3. As far as our opening thought is concerned:
“Toward those who fall into sin, the church has a duty, to warn, to instruct, and if possible to restore.” Review these duties:
1. Warn 2. Instruct 3. If possible restore What is your attitude towards this challenging duty? It is pretty easy to talk about the fallen one when we sit around in the afternoon after a great Sabbath dinner. It is pretty easy to pass along the tidbit we have heard about their fall. It is not too hard to pride ourselves that we never took their fall. The question is do we care about the ones who had a fall? Do we care about their families? Do we think that working to full fill our three-step duty in some way says that we are soft on sin and God will disapprove of us? After all who qualifies to claim the blood of Jesus? Who? Eccl 4:10 KJV “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” Eccl 4:10 CEV “If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.” Eccl 4:12 CEV “Someone might be able to beat up one of you, but not both of you. As the saying goes, "A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break."
We know there are falls. We know Jesus died for us—all of us. What is our plan to care for the fallen member, leader, brother, or sister? Surely we won’t be content to simply show them the door and do nothing to restore? Luke 6:35-36 KJV “…for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (36) Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”