Letting Them Back In?


By Dr. Ken Matto


1 Corinthians 5:11 (KJV) But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.  1 Corinthians 5:5 (KJV) To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


2 Corinthians 2:6-7 (KJV) Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.  {7} So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.


Let’s face it, every good church will have a problem with someone who will require to be dealt with by discipline.  A liberal, compromised church will not concern themselves with who joins because they are a false, dead church but when it comes to a good church with saved leadership and good biblical discernment, they will concern themselves because the spiritual well-being of everyone in the congregation could be affected.  If you put one ounce of cyanide in one gallon of water which is 128 ounces, the entire gallon of water becomes deadly poison.  It is the same with one rebellious person in a congregation.  They have the ability to spread their seditious teachings and/or lifestyle to others in the congregation creating a mushrooming effect which before was limited to one person.


It is unfortunate that some people will do things at church they will not do at work.  This is because they would not risk loss of financial income and yet they are willing to risk their loss of spiritual growth, testimony and obedience to God which can bring the chastening hand of God upon them that could include losing their jobs.  God gets the attention of sinning Christians according to their situation and according to God’s plan for their restoration.


In the above verses the Apostle Paul was dealing with a sinful situation in the church at Corinth.  If you recall Corinth was a place of debauchery and sin like the red light district in Amsterdam, Holland today.  So what the Apostle Paul saw as a terrible sin the church at Corinth just saw it as business as usual.  1 Corinthians 5:1 (KJV) It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.  It seems that a man was sleeping with his father’s wife which would probably have been a second marriage and not his birth mother.  The Apostle Paul stated that this type of activity was not even done by the pagan Gentiles and here the church was condoning the activity.  To condone a sinful act does not mean you only encourage it but you can condone a sinful activity by not dealing with it.  A drunkard does not deal with his or her drunkenness and by overlooking it they are, in essence, condoning it.  A person who smokes does not deal with their habit but in overlooking it, they are condoning it.  Non-action is a form of condonation.


When any local church has a member with a rebellious spirit, they are condoning their rebellious spirit.  If the church is a dead, compromising church, then it does not matter to them because dead churches are just that, dead!  When a living church has a person with a rebellious spirit, the Bible lays down some basic principles on how to deal with that person and if that person is a true believer, they will accept the consequences of their actions and restoration back to a useful Christian walk.


Dealing with Unbelievers

Psalm 50:16-17 (KJV)   But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?  {17} Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.


The Christian is a person that has been saved by Christ and placed into the body of Christ and no one is allowed in who is not the Elect of God.  In other words it is God’s choice who is saved and placed in the body of believers.   The body of believers normally meet on Sunday morning in a local assembly known as the church which is a misnomer since it is the church who goes to the building.  If an unbeliever comes into the church they may be welcomed but they must never be given church membership or rule in any capacity.  They are still in the kingdom of Satan and are unregenerate.  They have nothing of a spiritual nature they can teach the Christians simply because the Bible is a closed book to the unbeliever and is only understood when the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and then brings understanding into that Christian.  Acts 2:47 (KJV) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  Here we see a verse where the Lord adds to the church and not us.  The reason that he adds to the church is because he knows the hearts of the people he is bringing in and they would be saved.  Acts 1:24 (KJV) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,  We have no way of really knowing whether a person is saved or not, only the Lord knows and we risk the purity of the church by focusing on numbers.


You can do more with a congregation of 50 true believers than a church of 500 with 400 unbelievers.  Let me give an example.  I was once an Elder in the Hungarian Reformed Church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and we had our normal monthly Elder’s meeting and my friend Bobby who was also a strong believer had ordered $100 worth of Bible Study material for our Sunday morning Bible study which followed the church service.  When the cost of the materials was brought out in the meeting an unbeliever who was an Elder was upset that $100 was spent on Bible study material and so he blurted out, “We don’t want you pissing away our money.”  Do you see what an unbeliever can do to actually curtail the study of the Bible?  Satan’s footprints was all over that unbeliever who did not want to spend money on Bible study materials.  What else is the church’s reason of existence?  This is what happens when unbelievers are made members. Today that same church now offers Bingo.


The unbeliever is spiritually dead and has no spiritual understanding.  This is why in the above verses in Psalm 50:16-17 God deals harshly with the unbelievers because being in the kingdom of Satan, they literally hate God’s instructions from the word and casts his words behind their back which basically means “they despise or abhor the words of God.”  How many unbelievers do you know are living according to the word of God?  Not one because an unbeliever who thinks they are living for the Lord are in essence living for religion which can never save. 


Now if a person in a church is an unbeliever and begins to cause trouble in any fashion, they cannot be subject to Matthew 18 simply because they will not accept it, therefore, they must be asked to leave the church and not come back.  The local assembly is for believers only and not an evangelistic crusade with endless invitations.  It is to encourage and build up the believers in their daily walk.  The unbeliever is a hindrance to the church and must be dealt with accordingly.  This is not to say they cannot be ministered to by people in the church and if they continue to rebel, a line must be drawn and if they cross it, then all fellowship must be broken because they will be like a cancer on the body.  We must also think of the Christians who minister to these people that their spiritual lives may be affected by the actions and words of the unbelievers.  If unbelievers come to the local assembly and are behaving properly, then it would be alright for them to stay, especially if they have many legitimate questions about Christianity.  If they are behaving improperly, then they must be asked to leave because I can guarantee that they would not behave improperly on their jobs.


Dealing with a Rebellious Believer

Let’s face it, as long as we are in the flesh there will be times when even a Christian will sin and become somewhat rebellious in some fashion.  The Lord Jesus Christ gave a three step plan in Matthew 18 to deal with such a situation.  Sometimes a Christian may see a situation wrongly and will act according to what they believe at that moment.  The good news is that normally a Christian will be able to see their wrong and repent of what they were doing to rebel and once again be restored to fellowship.


There is also a prohibition given to Christians who know the sinning believer.  2 Thessalonians 3:6 (KJV) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.  The word “withdraw” carries with it the meaning of “abstain from fellowship or avoid” that person and that is so their rebellion does not infect others.  When someone has the flu or a cold, we stay away from them until they are better so we won’t catch it.  The same principle applies here until that person who is rebelling is restored, then fellowship may be restored.


In our opening verses we saw that in 1 Corinthians 5 we read there was a Christian who was sinning with his stepmother and the church did nothing about it but Paul stepped in and that person was to be dealt with so the church at Corinth finally acted.  Then we read in 2 Corinthians that the church had taken the chastisement too far.  It seems that this man was chastised by many in the congregation and was to the point of repenting and was seeking to be restored but the congregation continued to punish him and then the Apostle Paul had to step in again.  1 Corinthians was written in 54 A.D. and 2 Corinthians was written about 55-56 A.D.  This means that there was approximately 1 or 2 years from the time the man was initially dealt with and his sincere repentance.  Instead of the church restoring the man, they continued to punish him beyond the time needed and Paul told them his punishment was sufficient and that he should be restored to fellowship.  This means that if a man sincerely repents, a year or two would be sufficient to know whether he really repented or if it was a charade.


In the case of Bishop, Pastor, Elder, Deacon or any church leadership position, when they sincerely repent of their sin they should be restored to fellowship.  They must not be restored to their former positions but need to be given a period of time to prove their repentance.  Psalm 109:8 (KJV) Let his days be few; and let another take his office.  Psalm 109:8 is a prophecy of Judas who lost his office by means of his betrayal and death.  The same principle must be carried over when dealing with church leadership.  There must be a penalty for sinning against the Lord in a church setting since it has a definite effect upon others and no one should be restored to a church office instantly.  They needed to be treated as a novice, one who is just recently saved.  1 Timothy 3:6 (KJV) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  If a person is restored to a high office in the church quickly, they too will become puffed up with pride and their subsequent sin may be worse than what put them in this situation.  A two year waiting period is not excessive and if they show themselves upright, then they can once again run for office.


Matthew 18:15

Matthew 18:15 (KJV)   Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.


There is going to come a time or times in the life of a believer that someone is going to sin against us and how we handle it also reveals our spiritual condition. When someone commits a sin against us, we are not to allow things to fester but we are to go to our brother privately and speak to them about their trespass. (Gal 6:1 KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. We are to approach them with the mindset that their fault can become our fault if we do not watch it. We are to go to them and point out what they did wrong in meekness and not arrogantly. If they see the error of their way, then they will confess what they did wrongly and the relationship between the two brethren can be restored and the breach in the body of Christ will be fixed. If a disagreement is not fixed on this level, it can actually mushroom into a church split because sides will be drawn and otherwise innocent parties will be brought into the dispute and that will create a large rift in the body at that location and has the ability to spread beyond one location. That is why it is important to try and work out things on this level.


Matthew 18:16

Matthew 18:16 (KJV)   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.


If you go to your brother and he refuses to listen and is being obstinate, then there is still a matter of privacy but this time to bring one or two more witnesses making it a total of two or three. This way the other one or two are able to hear the situation and to see if there is some type of solution to the problem being offered. If there is some type of agreement offered, then at least the party who brought the witnesses would have them know that he is trying and that an agreement was offered. It would not be some type of hearsay but the offer would be made to stand if it was a good offer of agreement. The witnesses would confirm that the person is trying to make amends with his brother.

Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

Then Jesus states that if the two or three witnesses cannot convince the obstinate brother, then he is to tell the matter to the whole church because if it is not brought out into the open, no matter what it is, it can begin a rift in the church. It may start out small but has the ability to mushroom and cause major problems. If when the church hears the matter and also brings out suggestions and the man still remains stiffnecked, then he is to be removed from that congregation for a time, until he repents. He is to be treated as a heathen or publican, that is, one who is unsaved. He is not to be looked upon at that time as a brother in the Lord but as one who does not know the Lord. Sometimes the threat of telling it to the whole church may bring a state of fear of embarrassment and exposure which may be enough to propel a person to repentance.


Church discipline is necessary because we all get out of line and have the ability to drift. Church discipline is not to create an object of gossip or scorn, but it is designed to bring a Christian back into the fold of obedience. Remember 2 Thessalonians 3:6. (2 Th 3:6 KJV) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. Disorderly people tend to create a following which can adversely affect the lives of any Christian who comes in contact with them.  It will also adversely affect the life of the church.  Many church splits have happened because one person was a catalyst and refused to be brought back into proper fellowship according to the principles of scripture.



In this world we will have tribulation and part of that tribulation is going to be confrontation.  How we handle it is very important and also reveals something about our own spiritual state.  Unbelievers must never be given church membership and/or church leadership just because they may be rich or influential elsewhere.  Christ did not die for a business but for His Elect and since we are all still in the flesh there may be times we protest something which could mushroom into full rebellion.  This is why Christ gave those steps in Matthew 18 to help quell those situations quickly so they do not promote a church civil war.  Believers can be restored but sometimes they must be restored the hard way as the man in the Corinthian church found out.  We must always be on guard that we never countenance the idea that we are the sole truth because that could lead to a cultic mindset which can cause a split in a church.  If you believe in free will and are in a Reformed church then maybe you would be more at home in a free will Baptist Church or if you believe in election and predestination and are in a free will Baptist church, then maybe you would be more at home in a Reformed church.  But if you are a rebellious troublemaker, you will not be at home in any church and the Lord will deal with you if you continue to bring discord among the brethren.  Notice one of the things the LORD hates in the following verses:


Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV)   These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  {17} A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  {18} An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,  {19} A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.