Dealing with Sin in the Church
Sin committed by a believer in Christ not only affects his/her relationship with God the Father, but it harms the body of Christ. One of our roles as a believer is to hold each other accountable and to keep the body of Christ in perfect unity, meaning sin is not allowed in the Church. Today, many churches have allowed the devil to reign in their congregation and leadership and have not only allowed sin in the church but are removing God's word regarding sin and adjusting it to meet their perversions. The Bible tells us in Revelation 22:18-19, "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." We are only to tell of God's Word, it is not to be edited, rearranged, revised, or removed!
How do we deal with sin in the church?
God gives us a clear outline of the process by which we are to carry out church discipline. This goes for a sister or brother who is sinning and has not repented of her/his sin, it is only for those who are saved or profess to be saved. Church discipline is mandatory and a necessary part of church life and is the responsibility of each church as it affects the Church of God. Church discipline is to be handled and done exactly as God lays out and with a loving and grieved heart by those carrying it out.
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. - Matthew 18:10-14
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. - 1 Peter 5:1-4
Church discipline is part of agape love, it has the power to deliver the sinner from the power of Satan if the sinner repents and returns to God. However, if the sinner continues and does not repent, then he/she is delivered into the power of Satan since sin cannot be near God. The goal of church discipline is for the sinner's repentance and salvation, it is not a final judgement or something that condemns the person to an eternal hell.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 5:5-11
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” - 1 Corinthians 5:9-13*
*this passage is talking about those who claim to be in Christ but continue to live in sin. We are to address sin and if not repented, we are to deal with it according to God's word. We are to examine those inside the church and keep each other accountable. This is how we determine if someone is being true or false. God is the only Judge, but we are to examine others.
Go to the person directly by yourself. "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. - Matthew 18:15
Take one or two more people and address the person again. The people you are to bring with you must be believers, blameless, and have a love for the sister or brother, not being malicious or wanting to gossip. "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.'" - Matthew 18:16
Address the leaders of the church and together with the leaders address the individual again. "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church." - Matthew 18:17a
The member is to be removed from the church, lovingly, but directly. "But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:17b
What happens after the church discipline process is completed?
If He/She is Unrepentant
If the person does not repent then, as the Bible states, they are to be removed from the church because his/her sinful life will affect others and cause weaker or new Christians to stumble, or be a deterrent to unbelievers. We are to be set apart from the world and to strive to be more like Christ daily, when we accept the world and live like it we are disobeying God and not following Jesus. When the sister or brother is removed from the church we are to pray for them, as we should be doing already. The Holy Spirit will deal with his/her sin and it is no longer the churches duty to deal with the sinner, but it is solely between him/her and God.
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. - 1 Timothy 1:18-20
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:14-26
If He/She Repents
If the sister or brother repents and asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive. Just as Christ forgives us for our sins, which are many, we are to forgive others.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” - Matthew 18:21-35
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 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 3:1-15