Vol. 6, No. 9
~ Page 17 ~
In order to suggest a solution to a problem, one must admit the problem exists. This is why mental and physical abuse counseling begins with such a confession; it is the foundation upon which the rest of the program depends for success. Incidentally, there are potential problems with the Christian life that all Christians must come to accept. Among them is the fact that a child of God can sin so as to be eternally lost. While many of our denominational friends deny this possibility, the Bible has much to say to the contrary concerning Christians erring from the faith. The Word of God admits the problem; therefore, the Word of God is authorized to address the solution to the problem.
The following passage of Scripture forever refutes the idea that a child of God cannot sin so as to be eternally lost. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
Through James, the Holy Spirit admits the possibility that a child of God can be eternally lost, manmade doctrine notwithstanding. The language could not be simpler; a person needs much help to misunderstand this passage. When he uses the conditional word if, he clearly presents the logical possibility of the matter. Showing man's moral power of choice implies that he can decide to act contrary to God's holy will. Doing things contrary to God's will is called sin, and sin, without repentance, leads to death (Romans 6:23), whether one has been saved from past sins or not!
Thankfully, God has provided a measure by which those Christians who have fallen can come to forgiveness. The most crucial element in this formula, with the exception of Scripture itself, is the church. Several places in the New Testament address the spirit by which it is done, or a practical principle to follow when doing so. In either case, clearly stated in Scripture is the responsibility of the faithful to restore this one from the throes of sin. While many have laid the sole responsibility on the preacher or the elders, the Bible plainly teaches that attempting to restore the erring is a job for which every member of the body is responsible. The reason for this is clear: left unresolved, sin can eventually infect the whole body.
Recognize the problem. There is no way for someone to know if a brother or sister has erred, unless we know that brother or sister! Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss; it is sin (James. 4:17)!
Realize the truth. How can we tell if the estate of truth has been abandoned, if we do not live there ourselves? Jesus affirmed that truth is attainable (John 8:31-32), and Christians must abide in it (2 John 9-11). Every Christian has a responsibility to know the truth for both his sake and those that hear them (1 Timothy 4:16).
React quickly. When Simon the sorcerer tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter did not wait until Simon's heart became further hardened. He immediately exposed the sin, rebuked it and called for repentance (Acts 8:22). The longer the heart indulges in sin, the harder it will be to repent (Hebrews 6:4-6; 1 Timothy 5:20).
Respond appropriately. Paul described it this way, "...ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness" (Galatians 6:1). There is such a thing as doing the right thing the wrong way.
Repent fully. The individual must truly repent for the process to work the way God intended. What does this mean? The one in sin needs to be encouraged, as James says, "from the error of his way." This implies that the thoughts of the heart and the lifestyle in which the sin is involved must cease. Repentance is more than saying, I'm sorry; it is a total turn from sin--mind and body (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
Rejoice humbly. Saving a soul from death, by doing God's perfect will, provides more comfort than all the world's pleasures combined. Solomon wrote, "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right" (Proverbs 16:8). As it is with physical amenities, so is it also with spiritual ones.
Restore completely. What does this mean? As brethren, we need to forgive one another and put sins forgiven by God away from our minds. God promises to forgive those who truly show repentance (Joel 2:13). We need to live by the same rule (Ephesians 4:31-32). Jesus said, "...joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).
Speaking to sinners (Luke 15:1-2), looking to the heart of man, rather than physical appearance (Mark. 1:41), ignoring radical racism (John 4:6-25), taking time for children (Matthew 18:1-6) and finding compassion for the weary (Luke 7:11-17) are all tantamount trademarks of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, above all of these is the merciful forgiveness we find when we look to the cross, upon which he shed his blood for those who had no hope (Ephesians 2:13-16). Seen in his last words is the reason for which he vicariously visited man, "Father, forgive them..."
Christians, among other things, must look to the Scriptures for the answers to their spiritual problems. Too often, our brethren are taken in a fault and we fail to either see it or we neglect our obligations toward them. If this is true where you are, it may reveal much about the hearts of the members and leadership of the church.
May all Christians truly have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), and may we see the urgent need to restore the erring before the deceitfulness of sin robs them of their conscience, never to repent again.