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 Vol. 4, No. 9 

September, 2002

Since You Asked

~ Page 18 ~

Image Church Discipline

By Louis Rushmore

I have been a member of the Lord's church for a little over twelve years now. In that many years I have yet to hear of a congregation in our area or the surrounding area disfellowship anyone for any reason. Many members have come and gone without even the slightest bit of concern for their spiritual welfare. It seems that many of our brethren have a difficult time determining matters of truth and matters of opinion and this makes the decision to approach the steps of discipline much harder. Also having multiple diffinitions of the term "faithful" is a growing problem in some of our congregations. This being said, I would simply like to know what unrepented sins are those for which steps of discipline should be taken? Would it be all such sins or just those that man has termed "greater sins" such as fornication or adultery? I realize sin has no size in God's eyes, but most Christians seem to have trouble seeing this. Take as much time as you need to answer this question for me if you can, for I've pondered the asking of it for almost twelve years now. In Him, Rayford Henderson

As far as I can ascertain from your query, you have a biblical perspective of a local congregation's (often sorely neglected) responsibility to police itself with the Word of God. Abundant biblical evidence notes the spiritual harm that befalls both individuals who needing a spiritual spanking do not receive such and the congregation (1 Corinthians 5). Church discipline is not a mysterious variable of optional application, but it is no less than one of the identifying marks of genuineness of the church for which Jesus died and over which he is the head. Congregations, for instance, that would not think of dispensing with the weekly communion desperately need to reevaluate their treatment of church discipline, if they are in the habit of ignoring that unpleasant and unpopular command (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15).

Following are URLs for articles archived in the pages of Gospel Gazette Online that address the subject of church discipline. Also, in response to the query above, page two of this issue contains a chapter on church discipline from my book: The Church Divine. The chapter is entitled: "The New Testament Church Is Divine in Discipline."

Image Image Why Were Babies Killed?

I want to know why young children were killed many times in the old testiment? ~ Jim Buckley

Presumably, your question is why did God command that children as well as adults be killed in the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. God did not command that all Gentiles (non-Israelites) with whom Israel warred be killed, but God did command that all souls (men, women and children) among the inhabitants of Canaan or Canaanites be killed. Deuteronomy 20:10-17 makes that subtle distinction:

"When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:"

Deuteronomy 20:18 states the reason for which these specific nations were to be completely annihilated. "That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God."

Consequently, Joshua, who led the Israelites to conquer Canaan, did precisely what God commanded him in this regard. "So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded" (Joshua 10:40).

"And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. ... And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe." (Joshua 11:10-11, 14).

The danger that the nations in Canaan posed to God's Israel was immense, as recorded in Deuteronomy 7:1-6.

"When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."

Therefore, God executed his judgment against these idolatrous and wicked people, using Israel as the instrument of his judgment against them. Essentially, that small children as well as adults suffered death in God's judgment is no different in principle from God's judgment on the world of Noah's day and the end of the world in which small children also died and will die.

First, every person born is mortal and will die someday. Death is a definite part of the human existence, an appointment that each of us will meet someday (Hebrews 9:27). Innocent children (Ezekiel 18:20) and those who obey God (Hebrews 5:8-9), for which obedience he showers upon them his grace and mercy, lose nothing and only gain by crossing the threshold of death into the next world (Philippians 1:23-24).

Second, often innocents suffer because of the sins of others (e.g., drunk drivers). In addition to the sin for which one is guilty, and for which he may suffer physically as well as spiritually, one's sins often affect others. Sin is at fault and the ones who commit sin when innocents are affected by those sins. The parents and other adults among the nations of Canaan were guilty of idolatry and other sins for which God executed judgment upon them; those adults, because of their sins, were responsible for the same destruction that came upon their children.

Third, from a pragmatic perspective, it was necessary to remove even the children from the land, lest those children when older resurrect the idolatry of their parents as well as lay claim to the land of their forefathers. Take Moses for an example, who though raised in Pharaoh's palace, in the prime of life sided with his ancestral people and 40 years later led Israel from Egypt. Deuteronomy 20:18 portrays this pragmatic reason for killing men, women and children among the Canaanites.

Fourth, Judaism involved an earthly kingdom whereas Christianity involves a heavenly kingdom (John 18:36). It is inappropriate to apply a template of Christianity over the Law of Moses with its aspect of an earthly kingdom.

Last, we who are God's creatures are hardly competent to criticize our Creator and ultimately our Judge. Our mission is to learn from God's Word whereby we can make application to our lives, persuade others to do likewise and joyfully anticipate the heavenly hereafter.Image

Image Practicing Fellowship

By Louis Rushmore

My question is that I attend church every Sunday. Do I have to work for the church? Do I have to "get close" to the members? I am friendly and love my brothers and sisters. I just don't want to do the fellowship things. I just want to go and worship God and be with other Christians. ~ James Buckley

The primary Greek noun for the English word "fellowship" is "koinonia"; it means partnership or participation. It is used 20 times in the New Testament and is applied in various contexts to the relationship that Christians sustain between themselves and with the Godhead (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 2:9; 1 John 1:3, 7), the church contribution (2 Corinthians 8:4; translated as "contribution" Romans 15:26; translated as "distribution" 2 Corinthians 9:13; translated as "communicate" Hebrews 13:16), the Lord's Supper (translated as "communion" 1 Corinthians 10:16) and suffering for the cause of Christ (Philippians 3:10). Two more Greek nouns and two Greek verbs are also translated as "fellowship" or a related word, similar to the references and citations just mentioned.

In addition, compound Greek words that employ the preposition "sun" portray a union in whatever activity to which "sun" (or a form of it) is attached. Commonly, this results in a compound English word where "fellow" is half the word ("fellowdisciples" John 11:16; "fellowprisoners" Romans 16:7; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 23; "workfellow" Romans 16:21; "fellowhelper" 2 Corinthians 8:23; 3 John 8; "fellowcitizens" Ephesians 2:19; "fellowheirs" Ephesians 3:6; "fellowsoldier" Philippians 2:25; Philemon 2; "yokefellow" and "fellowlabourers" Philippians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philemon 1, 24; "fellowservant" Colossians 1:7; 4:7; Revelation 6:11; 19:10; 22:9; "fellowworkers" Colossians 4:11).

In the next place, other Scriptures paint the close relationship that Christians ought to maintain with each other in every facet of the practice of Christianity. "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17). "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). "Let brotherly love continue" (Hebrews 13:1). "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (1 Peter 1:22). "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:10). "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 4:32).

Finally, Christians anticipate a closeness forever in heaven before Almighty God (Revelation 7:15). There will be no intermission in heaven during which one may pursue respite from partnership with other saints in rendering unending homage to God. That fellowship will be all encompassing without end.

In conclusion, from the foregoing considerations, Christian fellowship includes: (1) the relationship sustained between Christians as well with the Godhead, (2) worship: e.g., the church contribution and the Lord's Supper, (3) suffering together, (4) being prisoners together if necessary, (5) working together, (6) preferring the presence of Christians over any others on the planet, and (7) joyfully expecting that closeness to only increase in heaven, without interruption forever. True Christianity is supposed to be a whole, new way of life where we being many members become one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5).

Consequently, fellowship is supposed to pervade the entire Christian experience. Hermits, introverts, shy folks, private people and such like (with whom I personally empathize) need to work at embracing Christian fellowship in the fullest sense.Image

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