|Vol. 16 No. 8 August 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dear Brother Rushmore, I regretfully write to you with a question concerning church discipline and specifically, what is acceptable contact with one who has been withdrawn from, by members of the local congregation in general and also by Christian family members of the withdrawn? We are unfortunately having to withdraw from a member of our congregation. He has a wife who is a new Christian and is not being withdrawn from. He also has an adult son in the congregation. There has been debate within the congregation on whether the wife and son are still obligated to the man in those family roles. It has been stated by an individual that if the man were to be in a life and death situation (i.e., injured in an accident and bleeding to death) the most that the son or any other Christian should do for the man is perhaps call 911 and then leave the scene. He believes it would be sinful to physically assist him in anyway. Again if he were in a position that he could not provide for his physical needs and was starving to death, he believes it would be sinful to provide him food. Please help me to understand what the Scriptures say in regards to this issue.
Mankind is given to extremes, and this is perhaps the most severe extreme I have ever heard, even regarding the subject of “church discipline.” With extremes, some do not try hard enough, whereas others try too hard in their approaches to Scripture. What we need is something in between, a biblical balance – neither liberal left of biblical center nor ultra conservative right of biblical center.
Respecting a dying, out of fellowship church member, it would not only be biblically incorrect to abandon him, but it would also be legally criminal to flee the scene. Irrespective of the reason for which one is rightfully disfellowshipped, we are yet to maintain compassion toward a fallen child of God. “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NKJV emphasis added).
Congregations seldom practice the church discipline called for by God through the Scriptures. One of the weak links in church discipline is often the refusal of friends and family to participate in it, when especially their involvement in church discipline toward their loved ones may have more impact on the erring than that of all other congregational members combined. Yet, the cross viewpoint portrayed above goes beyond what the New Testament teaches.
The first citation to an article within the Archive of Gospel Gazette Online addresses family obligations respecting one amongst them from whom the church has withdrawn fellowship.
Church Discipline & Spousal Relationship by Louis Rushmore
The following references are to additional articles, among others that can be found through the onsite search engine, that treat the subject. Please resort to them for further insight into church discipline.
Growth, Leadership and Church Discipline by Mark Weaver
The New Testament Church Is Divine in Discipline by Louis Rushmore
How Discipline Will Help by Tommy South
Christ’s Discipline of Withdrawal by Bob Cruse
Church Discipline: The Courage to Stand for Right by Tim Childs
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Two similar questions ask what the dead know about the present: “Are the dead aware of earthly events?” and “Are the saints watching our lives?” We on this side of the threshold of death can only know for certain what is revealed in God’s inspired Word (Deuteronomy 29:29). Everything else is merely speculation.
There is no biblical evidence of which I am aware that indicates that departed spirits are aware of contemporary events, people, etc. in real time. The rich man who died and found himself tormented after death gave no indication in his conversation with Abraham that he was aware of ongoing events in the lives of anyone still living, though he did surmise based on what he knew of his family when he died that they, too, would eventually follow him into torment (Luke 16:19-31).
On another occasion in the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel was permitted to speak from the dead, providing quite a shock to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:12). When Samuel spoke to King Saul, he asked why he had disturbed him, perhaps indicating that he was unaware of contemporary events, people, etc. Samuel, though, did prophesy regarding the demise of Saul, comparable to what he had done while alive as a messenger between God and mankind.
It is a comforting thought, perhaps, that our departed loved ones look down upon us, but if it is so, we cannot discern it from the Scriptures. However, we can be sure that even if our loved ones cannot see us, they certainly desire the best possible outcome for us, which was true regarding the rich man in torment.
Publicly Reading Scripture
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Biblical Worship: Reading of scripture prior to the sermon seems to be of recent origin. Does the one who reads the scripture have to be a baptized believer? Based on the silence of the scripture re this issue I think yes. But this seems to be an argument from the silence of the scriptures.
Certainly there is no doubt whatsoever that even Christian women are forbidden by Scripture (where men are present) to pray aloud, teach or preach in a public assembly of the church for worship (1 Corinthians 14:34). Jesus Christ only authorized apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (elders) and teachers to edify the body of Christ (men and women) in the first century (Ephesians 4:11-12), and hence, the churches of Christ do not permit non-Christians to instruct them in public worship. Furthermore, it is reasonable to conclude from an understanding of the roles of Christian men in public worship that only faithful male Christians may lead in Christian worship assemblies.
A leadership role in public worship occurs when one or more men by course or one at a time speak or conduct some facet of the worship, while everyone else is obligated to be quiet and compliant (1 Corinthians 14:27, 29-31, 40). It would be hard to conceive of it being inappropriate to read Scripture in the assembly, and this definitely was central to any teaching or preaching in assemblies of God’s people under either Judaism or early Christianity (Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:14-16); New Testament assemblies mimicked synagogue assemblies with the addition of the Lord’s Supper.
An unbaptized believer of any age, including a child of a Christian family, does not correspond with biblical information regarding who may share leadership roles in the assembly of the church for public worship on the Lord’s Day. There may well be latitude for training purposes under other circumstances outside of the Lord’s Day assembly for public worship.