Restoration of the Fallen BelieverRay Stark--------------------------------------------------------------------------------What does the New Testament teach concerning the restoration of believers who...
What does the New Testament teach concerning the restoration of believers who have been involved in some sort of moral failure? That is the subject of this paper. It will not be a long dissertation because the answer is simple Ė forgiveness.
Our primary text on this subject is found in the writings of Paul
Gal 6:1 ∂ 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.
The Greek terminology Paul uses to describe the manner in which the sinning believer is faced with his wrong doing is extremely pointed.
Overtaken: 4301 prolambano prol-am-baní-o 1) to take before 2) to anticipate, to forestall 3) to take one by forestalling (him i.e. before he can flee or conceal his crime) 3a) surprise, detect
A couple of modern translations bring out Paulís meaning even more clearly than the King James.
Williams: Brothers, if anybody is caught in the very act of doing wrong, you who are spiritual, in the spirit of gentleness, must set him right; each of you continuing to think of yourself, for you may be tempted too
Phillips Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority, but being yourselves on guard against temptation.
This is reminiscent of the words of Jesus when the Pharisees brought before Him the woman caught IN THE ACT of adultery.
John 8: 1 ∂ Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
Jesus, the only person present who was without sin chose to extend forgiveness and restoration to the woman rather than judgment and condemnation. There is no better example in all the universe of a "spiritual" person than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. We need to follow His example when dealing with moral failure in the church and follow the apostle Paulís injunction to watch our own hearts lest we fall into temptation.
Paul gets into more detail concerning a specific case in 2 Corinthians when he encourages them to reaffirm their love to the brother he had proclaimed judgment on for blatant sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5.
2 Cor 2: 1 ∂ But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. 2 For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? 3 And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. 4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 5 ∂ But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. 6 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. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
In this portion of scripture we see the apostle urging in the strongest possible terms that the church would restore the erring brother and he warns them against a judgmental, unforgiving attitude just as he does in Galatians 6. He even goes so far as to assert that an unspiritual, unforgiving attitude can open the door for Satan to wreak havoc against the whole church. According to Paul unforgiveness is in itself one of Satanís devices.
Sin in the church needs to be dealt with. The way it needs to be dealt with is in the spirit of meekness, the goal being restoration of the person(s) involved, and with a conscious knowledge that none of us is above temptation or the possibility of transgression.