How the Church Should Entreat Her Elders

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How The Church Should Entreat Her Elders

1 Timothy 5:1, 17-21

[Study Aired July 26, 2020]

Across the bible, God has so much to say about elders, from the torah to Revelation. There is not a single verse one can find in the word of God where the elderly are being derided or rebuked (Save for 2Kings 2:23, and those rude young people met a sad end as a result of their blatant disrespect of Elisha). It is our modern cultures which have brought us here. In our modern cultures the younger generation have taken over, and they have no value for the parents and their elders. For Governments to appear politically correct, they have given in to these demands, and laws have been changed to place youth on a par with parents and their elders. “Human rights” is no longer human (Anthropos) but is now more about children’s rights and women rights. This so-called modernism is violently placing parents and elders under youth, in communities and churches. Little  wonder this is prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, so we should not be dismayed.

Isa 3:4  And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
Isa 3:5  And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.

Isa 3:12  As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

God’s divine order is that correction, discipline and respect for the elders must be a strong foundation in any righteous community, even if modernism has thrown it out through the window. Families and church must heed this piece of instruction!

1Ti 5:1  Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; (KJV)

1 Tim 5:1 Don’t speak angrily to an elder. But talk to him as if he were your father. Treat the younger men like brothers. (Paraphrased)

The word Intreat is G3870. Παρακαλέω. parakaleo

“to call to one’s side, call for, summon, call upon, that which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.
To admonish, to beg, beseech, to strive to appease, to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation,”

In summary it is instructive to respond to an elder with honour and respect.

Below are scriptures that further clarify how to entreat elders, and those who disobey God’s word should be admonished.

Lev 19:32  You shall rise up in the face of gray haired; and you shall honor the face of an old man; and be afraid of your God. I am Jehovah.

Heb 13:17 Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you.”

Job 32:3  Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
Job 32:4  Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. 
Job 32:5  When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.
Job 32:6  And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.

God instituted elders both in the Old and New Testaments. These are not just titles to fill space but critical tools in God’s eternal purposes. The architecture of the twelve foundations, both in the house Jacob and in the heavens, is structured around elders. Therefore, we must take seriously all instructions and commands about elders (honour and respect, correction and discipline). The same instructions are not given about the rest of the family/the body of Christ.

1Ti 5:17  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1Ti 5:18  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
1Ti 5:19<  Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
1Ti 5:20  Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
1Ti 5:21  I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

How should we treat those whom God has called to be leaders in the body? Secondly, how do we correct them when they sin, teach heresy, or have personality conflict with any among the flock?

Then thirdly, what does the Bible say about disciplining an elder? Is there a difference between disciplining one of the flock and disciplining an elder?

in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15, we read:

“And we urge you brethren to recognize [it means to respect, to know well] those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you brethren, warn those who are unruly [Those who are acting in an unruly manner, insubordinate toward those in leadership, who we should be esteeming highly are examples of being unruly. Unfortunately, some at Thessalonica were acting toward their elders in an unruly worldly fashion.], comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, BE PATIENT WITH ALL. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

The key phrase is, of course, verse 13. “Esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” As long as verse 13 is always at the back of our minds, every argument, attitude and behavior toward an elder must begin and rotate around that requirement for very high esteem. Not fear them, not simple respect, but VERY high esteem, whatever “very high” means to you. The bible does not just throw words out for no reason. Every word has been placed by the Holy Spirit for us, with exception to translators’ additions. Every word (in the original languages) makes the whole difference. Here, Paul is not talking about those in government because he is speaking about those who labour in the word (their work).

Are we to obey and submit to elders no matter what? No! When are those occasions when we would not be obligated to obey, in fact, we would be obligated not to obey?

In summary, if an elder or some elders, were to ask us to do/believe something, or they were to lead us to do something that is unbiblical (false doctrine), that is unethical, that is illegal or immoral, then we would be obligated to say, “No.” We would be obligated to disobey in such a case. We would be obligated actually to follow what we are going to see in 1 Timothy 5:20. Now, note again very carefully the four categories I just mentioned: If it is unbiblical doctrinally or otherwise, if it is unethical, if it is illegal, if it is immoral. Should God allow those four things to happen among us (and He will as He desires after the counsel of His will), the body or any of us in the body must confront the elder in love, and we shall shortly see how that confrontation is done scripturally.

Are you saying elders could be wrong at times? Ooh, yes! Here is a case study for consideration:

Exo 32:1  And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Exo 32:2  And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
Exo 32:3  And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
Exo 32:4  And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Exo 32:5  And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.

However, I have been in so many historical situations in Babylon and have observed so many modern churches where they confronted their leader or leadership, and they disobeyed their shepherds, and they opposed those who were over them, and it was not done for those four parameters I have mentioned above.

I could hear statements like “Well, I just don’t like the way he is leading. I just don’t like the direction the fellowship or church is going. I don’t like the way they are prosecuting the word of God, or they spend money etc, etc”. Again, let me repeat for our better understanding; has the elder done (or said) something illegal? “No.” Immoral? “No.” Unethical? “No.” Unbiblical? “No.” By the way, if you examine carefully, these four areas of assessming when to confront an elder are a kind of summary of the qualifications of an elder. Statements like, “Why can’t he do things this or that way?”  “I just don’t like him or his presentation” etc, are advance indicators of serious problems within a carnal believer.

Such a believer has yielded his/her heart to the enemy to break up the body. A brother/sister with this attitude has a problem, and their problem is not with the elder(s). Their problem is with the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, and at that point one has now stepped into a serious world of rebellion and potential judgment.

We must be diligent to obey the word of God in matters of interpersonal relationships and discipline in the body. The New Testament provides 31 positive and 13 negative one-another commands, to emphasize interpersonal relationships in the church. So how we treat one another, including elders who may be in “error”, is extremely important. When we act in disobedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 and are tempted to reprimand our elder(s) unduly, we are mistreating those whom God has divinely, sovereignly called to a leadership assignment in the body.

Here are other texts in the Bible that deal with issues of church discipline (including interpersonal private relationships with an elder). The first is found on the lips of Jesus. In Matthew 18:15-17, “Moreover, if your brother [an elder is a brother] sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother, but if he will not hear, take with you one or two more that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. [And we’re going to see that same principle expounded about an elder in just a moment in 1 Timothy 5]. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.”

Matthew 18, Deuteronomy 17 and 19, are applicable universally to the whole body, including any issues touching interpersonal relationships with or among elders. In our relationships, the church cannot abandon scripture and embrace our various individual cultures whether Eastern, western or animist.

Therefore, you start with ‘one’. If he won’t hear one, go with two or three. If he will not hear the two or three, then you are to bring him before the church, and enact Matthew 18:17, “If he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” This means you are to cast him out and treat him like an unbeliever. However, this is not a private individual affair, and the statement “tell it to the church” is weighty and carries its own protocols. Whoever we are, if we do not follow these laid-down procedures by our Lord whenever there is an infraction between us, then we are disobeying His commandments blatantly and willingly.

Then the question comes, what does it mean, “tell it to the church”? What is meant by that phrase? We must consult the sum of God’s word.

Psa 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth, And all of Your righteous ordinances are eonian. (CLV)

2Pe 1:20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture at all is becoming its own explanation.

When you put together Deuteronomy 19:17-18, Acts 15:6, 12, 22-23, Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Corinthians 6:4-5, the verses clearly define for us who or what the church is, in matters of discipline and correction in the body. See now how these scriptures flow together:

Deu 19:17  Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
Deu 19:18  And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;

Act 15:6  And the apostles and elders came together for to consider this matter.

Act 15:12  Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.

Act 15:22  Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
Act 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

The matter was first taken to “the apostles and elders”. The whole multitude ‘kept silence’ to hear what the apostles had to say, and “then it pleased the apostles and elders with the  whole church” to send a letter to the Gentiles…

This is consistent with Hebrews 13:17:

Heb 13:17 Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you.

While Matthew 18 does not say “take with you one or two elders”, the sum of the Lord’s words here certainly indicate that we should “be deferring to our elders” in every situation.

The principle revealed in shaming the Corinthians for bringing matters of judgment to “the least esteemed in the church or outsiders” again indicates that the “one or two others” should preferably be one or two elders.

1Co 6:4  So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?
1Co 6:5  I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough [preferably a mature elder] to settle a dispute between the brothers, (NLT)

Put these verses together with:

Heb 13:17 Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you.

We are commanded here to “be deferring to… your leaders” and it is “the sum of Thy Word” which is Truth. Considering the example of Acts 15, it is indeed “the apostles and elders” who are to consider any matter before “telling it to the church”. Now it does say, “If they do not hear the church let them be unto you as an heathen man and a publican.” So, “the whole multitude” does not vote on doctrine. We do not see the practice of voting on doctrinal matters. We see consensus and mutual agreement as the Spirit leads. The congregation however, has a function of confirming doctrine to those who are not “persuaded” of “their elders” and are not “deferring to them”. In other words, the congregation is encouraged to let the offenders know that they are not in agreement with the offending brother, but with the eldership/the church.

What about when an elder(s) are in error or sin. First, elders are human, and as much sinners as all of us. However, they deserve respect just like the rest of the flock, even when one feels the elder is errant. There is this one text where the Bible speaks about those who are divisive doctrinally which addresses the issue of elders who shepherd and teach the flock. That is found in Titus 3:8-11. Now, with that as a broad overview of what the Bible has to say about how we treat our elders and how to exercise church discipline on them, Paul applies or addresses both of those issues (correction and discipline) here in this text.

Tit 3:8  This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Tit 3:9  But AVOID foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Tit 3:10  A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Tit 3:11  Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Before we can correct anyone in the body, in verse 9, we are instructed to avoid certain things. Every imaginable correction must AVOID these traits before we try to correct others, including elders. The word avoid: “peristemi“ literally means to turn oneself about so as to face the other way. Here is what we must prayerfully avoid in correctional experiences:

Tit 3:9  But avoid…

  • foolish questions, (godless issues that do not add to our spiritual maturity)
  • genealogies, (matters trivial and meaningless to basic doctrine, irrelevant issues)
  • contentions, (carnal feel-good, revengeful emotional tantrums)
  • strivings (fighting mode, combatant, quarrelsome)

…for they are unprofitable and vain.p

In Verses 10-11 we are instructed to reject a heretic and divisive man who will not heed the true and accurate counsel of many.

Heretic: The definition of heresy is a belief or action at odds with what is accepted, especially when the behavior is contrary to the doctrine of Christ. A heretic is a person believing in or practicing religious heresy. A person holding an opinion at odds with what has generally been accepted by a multitude of counselors.

Titus was to take measures against those who insisted on going their own way or fronting their own understanding of the word. Their “self-will” makes them self-condemned.

Even if demonstrably a heretic in any one sense of that word, and a disturber of the peace of the body of Christ, God gives no man/woman any other authority over him but to shun him. Reject! [G3868].

Παραιτέομαι, paraiteomai: to refuse, decline, to shun, avoid. For example, of one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation or a feast.

Do a heretic or the sinning elder no harm in body, soul, character, or substance; just hold no communion with him; avoid fellowship, communication, sharing any type of “bread” with one who cannot be admonished, corrected and repent. Leave him alone, leave him to God!

The above instructions to Titus could also be universal to the whole body, but are specifically addressing Elders. Those instructions support Matthew 18. However, we have more tailored instructions that provide specifically how to handle errant elders or if any has a matter against him/them, in 1 Timothy 5:19-21.

1Ti 5:19  Don’t listen to any charge against a church elder, UNLESS AT LEAST TWO OR THREE PEOPLE BRING THE SAME CHARGES. [One individual cannot conclude that an elder is wrong or in error. Therefore, one must check with other saints as a witness, and see if others recognize the heresy.]
1Ti 5:20  But if any of the elders should keep on sinning, they must be corrected in front of the whole church, as a warning to everyone else.
1Ti 5:21  In the presence of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, I order you to follow my instructions! Do nothing out of prejudice, and don’t be partial or have any favorites. (Living Bible)

1Ti 5:21  I testify fully, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the choice messengers, that these things thou mayest keep, without forejudging, doing nothing by partiality. (YLT)

We should thank God when a church has good elders. Praise God when a man spends a lifetime with integrity, with respect, with holiness, and with godliness and patience.  Tragically, sometimes elders fall by the wayside and sin or even start to teach error (remember the case study of Aaron and the golden calf, or the Nicolaitans). I’ve actually heard (usually it’s Babylonian ministers) people say, “Well, touch not God’s anointed. Touch not God’s anointed.”  This is an erroneous quote from the Old Testament. It was a reference to king Saul NOT to the pastor or the overseer or the elder who is in leadership in the church. Rather, the Bible has a very specific word and a very specific plan of how we would deal with an elder in the church who tragically has gotten involved in sin or is teaching heresy or using unacceptable doctrine or unbiblical phrases. Here are the four steps listed in verses 1 Timothy 5:19-21, above.

FIRST of all, Get All The Facts: 1 Timothy 5:19

Pro 18:13  He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Verse 19, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except [same phrase you heard on the lips of Jesus back in Matthew 18] from two or three witnesses.” This is a principle found in Deuteronomy 17:6, again elaborated more thoroughly in Deuteronomy 19:15-20, reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 18:16, and confirmed by the Apostle Paul. Here is a biblical way of establishing that indeed the elder has a matter to answer:

Deu 17:6  At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is to die be put to death: he shall not be put to death at the mouth of one witness.

Deu 19:15  One witness shall not rise up against a man for ANY iniquity, and for ANY sin, in ANY sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall a matter be established.
Deu 19:16  If an unrighteous witness rise up against ANY MAN [including an elder] to testify against him of an offence;
Deu 19:17  then both the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges that shall be in those days; [issues must not be discussed before a public forum but the matter is brought before priests and judges]
Deu 19:18  and the judges shall make thorough inquiry; and if the witness be a false witness, and he have testified falsely against his brother,
Deu 19:19  then shall ye do unto him as he had thought to have done unto his brother; and thou shalt put evil away from thy midst.
Deu 19:20  And those that remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil in thy midst.

2Co 13:1  This third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall EVERY MATTER be established.

Mat 18:15  Moreover if thy brother [elders are also brothers] shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone [this is a biblical caveat against any public corrections, arguments or rebuke to a brother or sister]: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
Mat 18:16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

In 1 Timothy 5:19, Paul is providing instruction for how to handle accusations of sin/heresy against the elders. He’s warning against accepting a charge against an elder unless supported by two or three witnesses.

As we read in the Law, it was of utmost importance to safeguard innocent people from false accusation, and as Jewish law required the agreement of two/three witnesses before a man might be called upon to answer a charge, so it must be in the church, especially when an elder is implicated. He must be protected against malicious intent; but if there are real grounds for accusation, then disciplinary action should be taken before the whole church. We saw what the whole church process involves. It is not crowd or public justice. God does not work that way, nor as the worldly justice system. It is very unfair, no, actually sinful. Following the established process in Deuteronomy, all those who do that should be put to death. Apostle James calls such haters, murderers!

In short, when elders are accused the apostle builds in an exhortation to remind the church “two or three witnesses are required not only before an accusation is sustained, but before it is entertained at all.”

Why would Paul provide this exhortation?

It seems most natural here to understand this warning because shepherding leaders are so vulnerable to slander, attacks and false charges. The enemies of the body of Christ often take vengeance on the ministers in the body. A smear campaign can completely ruin an elder’s ministry. So, Paul’s first word to Timothy is that he must never listen to gossip about leaders, or even to a serious accusation if it is made by only one person, unless the evidence has been examined by the eldership thoroughly. Every charge must be endorsed by several responsible people before it is even listened to.

It has been observed, . . . as soon as any charge is made against an elder, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved. This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because nearly everyone overzealously takes these accusations, so that without investigation, they eagerly move to condemn their elders whose good name they ought to be defending.

In other words, if you are going to bring an accusation against an elder there must be multiple witnesses. One is not enough. There must be two and preferably three who can validate and verify the truthfulness of the accusation that is being brought against an elder in the church, SO GET ALL THE FACTS and make sure two other people who are not your close friends/family member, have the same facts based on the word of God not conjectures and false emotional conclusions. The culture of democracy and speaking out what we wish when we want, has never been, will never be and is not biblical. You can talk what you want out there, but before the King and kings and priests, you guard what you say.

Ecc 5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And your heart must not hasten to bring forth speech before the One, Elohim; For the One, Elohim, is in the heavens, And you are on the earth; Therefore, let your words become few.”

Now, if the facts are clear and this elder is indeed guilty of heresy or sin, we must act. I believe the Bible is addressing the kind of sin or heresy that is public. It is sin that is serious. Doctrinal heresy is a serious matter because it confuses the flock. If such an error is unrepented publicly, it must be corrected publicly. If it is a sin/heresy that has not been repented of even after it has been highlighted to him privately, it is of the serious sort. So, at that point, move to point #2.

SECOND, Confront Him/Them to Their Face. 1 Timothy 5:20

1Ti 5:20 Those who are sinning be exposing in the sight of all, that the rest also may have fear. (CLV)

“Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all.” So…

  1. They have or are sinning/teaching heresy. 
  2. They are not repentant, about the error or the sin. 
  3. People know about it or heard it. 
  4. It is of a serious nature (not frivolous or trivial matters). 

Paul says, and Paul is assuming, that you have already gone one on one, and they refused your concerns. You cannot publicly confront an elder/brother/sister during an assembly however legitimate the issue is. This kind of confrontation in public is not scriptural at all. It is our carnal way of dressing people down and is sinful. It does not break any bones to be patient and correct the matter later on after the counselors, priests and judges have made THOROUGH inquiry. Moses taught it, Jesus taught it, Paul taught it = 3 witnesses.

Deu 19:17  then both the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges that shall be in those days;
Deu 19:18  and the judges shall make thorough inquiry;………

  1. You’ve now gone back with two or three elders, and again, there is no success. 
  2. So, after confronting him one on one, confronting him with multiple witnesses, if he does not hear you at that point, as painful and as unpalatable and as distasteful as it can possibly be, you have to bring it before other elders first (priests and judges). It is good decorum and biblically keeping in rank, if the matter is finally brought to the attention of the whole church by elders, instead of an individual or group of individuals. This is to avoid a possible rebellion where a clique of people wish to break rank and split the church.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is a good example, and we do not see ordinary brothers discussing the matter and even if they did (because we are told they were present), the Holy Spirit recorded for us what the leaders said and concluded. In fact, James had the last word! There was disputing and disagreements at the beginning, but they all finally were “… persuaded by their leaders, and they deferred to them” [Heb 13:17]. This was in recognition of biblical ranking.

You say, “Have you ever seen that done anywhere on earth?” Not very often because most Christians don’t have the stomach for it, and they will excuse themselves by pointing at you for being judgmental or lacking love. You know, the “loving” thing… If you wish to know the biblical loving thing, it is DO NOT WINK AT SIN/HERESY. The loving thing is not to sweep heresy under the rug. That’s the cowardly way. That’s the ‘chicken’ stuff, which is able to destroy the church of Christ.

Only then can the elders protect the body of Christ against rumor mongering and false reports! If the elders don’t expose the heresy/sin, they will lose the trust and confidence of the fellowship. People will perhaps even leave the church. When an elder sins, even if he is repentant, he must be removed as an elder (temporarily if it is a minor infraction, or permanently if it is heresy or moral/legal etc. problem), and it must be explained to the fellowship. There needs to be censure, reproof and exposure. Situations like this must be handled wisely by the other elders. This is the best thing for the church and for the elder who sinned!

THIRD: Recognize the Value of Fear. 1 Timothy 5:20

In both Deuteronomy 19:15-20 and 1 Timothy 5:20 accurate correction and discipline brings about holy fear.

“Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all” [why?] “that the rest also may fear.” In other words, if the church has Christ’s courage to do that with one/some of their elders, what will they do with you if you get into the same lifestyle of sin or heresy? If they will deal with those on the highest level of leadership, they will also be willing to deal with anyone else in the body as well. So, there is a positive value to fear when it comes to church discipline. Then #4:

FOURTH: Do Everything without prejudice or partiality.

1Ti 5:21  I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing according to partiality.

I think Paul recognized that we have a tendency to be partial and to act with prejudice. And so, he says in verse 21, “I solemnly charge you…” [this is a solemn process].

  1. i) before God, 
  2. ii) the Lord Jesus Christ, and 
  3. iii) the elect angels [that is, the saints]

that you observe these things [how Paul?]

  1. i) without prejudice,(prejudging) 
  2. ii) doing nothing with partiality (favouritism)

The goal of church discipline, then, is not to throw people out of the church or to feed the self-righteous pride of those who administer the discipline. It is not to embarrass people or to exercise authority and power in some unbiblical manner. The purpose is to restore a sinning believer/elder to holiness and bring him back into a pure relationship within the body. The purpose is to gain our brother, if he is repentant.

Why this variation with elders? Because, the council of elders guard against one another and chances are very high, by the time anyone realizes the heresy, other elders could have taken it up. Where the matter is differences in relationship with another brother/sister, revert to the lay-person model in Matthew 18. If they don’t repent, then you appeal to witnesses, some of whom should be church elders (1 Tim 5:19), and then you publicly rebuke them (Deu 19:15-20), then tragically, there is possible excommunication, expulsion and disassociation with them/him.

Still, even if we have to turn them out of the fellowship, we must love them.  We still admonish them. We still pray that God would bring repentance into their heart and into their life.

Are there cases or those matters that cannot be restored?

Yes, scripture clearly instructs us that there are matters that can be repented and the sinner is accepted back to the body, while there are others that are not restorable, and that restoring such a one would violate the scriptures.

In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Paul deals with a situation of receiving one who had been living in sin, repented and has asked to be restored to the church. Juxtaposed against 1Corinthians 5:1-5 where a young man was having sex with his stepmother, and the church was just letting him sin and stay a part of the church, then Paul had to say, “Kick him out.” They kicked him out. In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, he may have come back and said, “You’re right church. I’m wrong. I repent.” And they said, “We aren’t going to let you back in.” Paul, in essence, basically says, “What?! You swing from one extreme to the other. If he’s in habitual, unrepentant sinning folk, he needs to be removed. If, however, he repents and demonstrates that he has repented, then let him back in, forgive him, and restore him.” So Paul is responding in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 to the same situation in 1 Corinthians 5:1-7, and we can learn immensely from these two opposite experiences, as a church, on matters of discipline and restoration.

1Co 5:1  Everywhere it is heard that fornication is among you, and such fornication which is not named among the heathen, so as for one to have his father’s wife.
1Co 5:2  And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that did this deed might be taken from your midst.
1Co 5:3  For as being absent in body, but being present in spirit, I have already judged the one who has worked out this thing, as if I were present:
1Co 5:4  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together with my spirit also, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Co 5:5  to deliver such a one to Satan for destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1Co 5:6  Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
1Co 5:7  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

2Co 2:5  But if anyone has grieved, he has not grieved me, but from in part, that I not overbear all of you.
2Co 2:6  This censure by the majority is enough for such a one.
2Co 2:7  So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive and comfort such a one, that he not be swallowed up by the overflowing grief.
2Co 2:8  So I beseech you to confirm your love to him.
2Co 2:9  For to this end I also wrote, that I might know the proof of you, if you are obedient in all things.
2Co 2:10  But to whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For also if I have forgiven anything, of whom I have forgiven it, it is for you, in Christ’s person,
2Co 2:11  so that we should not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his devices.

However, there is a point where there is no redemption in this life as per instructions from Hebrews 6:4-6. There is a difference between those who have put Christ to an open shame as opposed to the Corinthian fornicator, whose spirit can yet be saved “in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Here are stern instructions given to the church on the irredeemable cases.

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
Heb 6:5  And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
Heb 6:6  If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Heb 6:7  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
Heb 6:8  But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

The above verses have always been confused with a sinning or backsliding believer. Hebrews 6:4-8 does not describe the Corinthian fornicator type of sinner, who could repent and be forgiven and restored to the body. As we shall shortly see, this portion of scripture addresses those who have “fallen away” and not those who have fallen. There is a difference.

The main word is impossible. The writer to the Hebrews is not saying it is just difficult, but truly without possibility.

Here are other uses of impossible in Hebrews: It is impossible for God to lie (Heb 6:18). It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats can take away sin (Heb 10:4). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). These impossible verses are biblically not reversible. Hebrews 6:4 is in the same family of irreversible declarations. There is no possibility to restore one who has fallen away.

Those being described cannot be an ordinary brother/sister struggling with sin. They fit the description of elders and matured brothers and sisters, “Who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” This is very impressive, and a novice does not fit. The last portion, “…. and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” is the confirmation that this has to do with the doctrine of Christ and not any other sin.

From all human observation, we must say these are mature believers spoken of in Hebrews 6:4-5, who have pressed on past elementary oracles of Christ towards perfection (maturity) – Heb 6:1-3.

The phrase “If they fall away”: There is a great difference between “falling” and “falling away”. Falling away isn’t just falling into some sin. It is actually departing from Jesus Himself, from His doctrine. It is straying from His doctrine and recanting that which will never pass away. Falling away is more than just sinning. For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity (Pro 24:16). The difference is between being a Peter and a Judas. If you depart from Jesus (the word of God, (Revelation 19) there is no hope!

Rev 19:11  And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Rev 19:12  His eyes were< as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
Rev 19:13  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

In Hebrews 6:7-8 we are candidly told the serious consequences of “falling away” or what the epistle to Titus calls becoming a “heretic”. We covered that earlier. These are the tragic consequences;

Heb 6:7-8 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

If ground that is blessed by rain refuses to bear fruit, then who can blame the farmer for burning it? The picture presented reminds us that growth and bearing fruit is important to keep from falling away. We really bear fruit by abiding in Jesus (Joh 15:5) and cannot be in any danger of falling away. Once we fall away, there can be no restoration. Remember, abiding in Christ is being in accurate doctrine as we saw in Revelation 19 (His name is The Word of God). Note the three words are in capital letters.

Joh 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 
Joh 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without [outside of me] me ye can do nothing.
Joh 15:6  If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

That, my brothers and sisters, is how we are to entreat those God has placed as elders over us. We shall be continuing with this topic when the Lord provides more materials and opportunity.

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