Reach OutOne of the most devastating failures of church leadership in my lifetime has been our refusal to judge God’s way. Our lack of understanding, obedience, and diligence has led to a compromised message and produced a hypocritical body of believers. We condemn the world – something we are commanded not to do (Matthew 7:1-2) – while neglecting our responsibility to lovingly help our sister and brother identify and remove the sin in their life.

We will have to answer for our failure at the judgment seat of Christ. I wish I could say with some certainty that we will not be shown the consequences our disobedience has had on God’s kingdom and His children.

These are hard words to write and read. I am just the pen, and just as convicted by the truth. We cannot go back to correct our mistakes. We must trust God’s grace and mercy for those we have betrayed, and commit ourselves to God’s way for judging the brethren.

Even now, I suspect someone reading this will find issue with this matter of judging. Please read our article on Jesus’ “Judge Not” saying, as well as the first part of this one. I believe you will discover that:

  1. Jesus’ “judge not” refers to condemnation: the pronouncement of guilt, sentence and punishment for the sin in our sister or brother. Such condemnation is reserved for God.
  2. Identifying and addressing the sin in a sister or brother is not condemnation. It is an act of love, that they might not face the judgment of God (1Corinthians 5:1-5; James 5:19-20). Conversely, to ignore or accept sin in a sister or brother is failure to love them.
  3. To hold our tongue when God has made us aware of sin makes us guilty of that sin and subject to God’s judgment (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
  4. God’s children are to be His instruments of sanctification for the church.
  5. There is a process for helping our sister and brother – and ourselves – find the grace of God to live a life without sin.

The Part 1 to this article introduced God’s process (aka, way) for restoration from sin. For your convenience, here is a summary of the first five steps:

  1. Ask God to search our hearts, to see if there is any wicked way in us (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. Repentance: to think differently about ourselves and our sin (Luke 5:32).
  3. Confession: to agree with or concede (1John 1:9).
  4. Allow the Holy Spirit to remove anything from us that would inhibit His gentleness (Galatians 6:1).
  5. Focused our minds against the real enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

Now (and only now) are we prepared to meet with our sister or brother. If their sin is against God or someone else, our responsibility is to encourage, to find restoration, and to walk with them as they desire. We must never abandon them in their time of vulnerability to the enemies’ attacks.

For sins directed towards us personally, the following represents the continuance of God’s way for restoration with them.

Moreover if your brother sins against you, (6) go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, (7) take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’. And if he refuses to hear them, (8) tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, (9) let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

This passage is the prescription of our Lord and Master for discipline in the church. Dare we ignore it or invent another? Sadly, we have done so for quite some time now in much of the Western church. We have mistakenly used the “judge not” to avoid the discomfort of God’s way for discipline. In doing so, we have failed to love His church.

Our reluctance as leaders lies largely in the requirement of Jesus’ saying about planks. Selfishly, we would rather allow our brother to suffer in his sin than deal with our own. Christian leadership is not for the immature and faint-hearted.

The four steps identified in this passage (six through nine, in parentheses) are clear and straight forward. There is no need to repeat them here. We simply need to follow directions. It is important however to recognize the specificity of step six (“between you and him alone“) and step seven (“one or two more”). Discretion and loving patience are paramount in the restoration process.

It is also important to note that steps eight and nine require discernment based on the culture and spiritual maturity of the affected fellowship. This is not to say that these steps should be dismissed or ignored. Our responsibility to the unrepentant brother, our church fellowship, and God requires careful attention to prayer and the Holy Spirit’s counsel.

The tenth and last step in the process is as important as the first nine. Paul speaks of it in his second letter to the Corinthians.

This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 1Corinthians 2:6-8

The brother who has sinned – even the one that has been cast from the fellowship – must, in God’s time, be forgiven, comforted, and loved again. If he has not repented, he will not receive this mercy and grace; and that will be a very sad day. However, those restored will be a joy to all who call him brother, and to his Father in heaven.

In closing, let us again confess that this process is challenging – even intimidating. It requires our being strong in the Lord (Ephesians 4:10). Let us also confess that it is worth it, for in it, Jesus Christ is making His church, and the Bride is making herself ready for the return of Her Beloved.

It is time we got back to the business of restoration, beginning with ourselves.

God bless you with courage, wisdom, and love for the restoration of brother and fellowship – to His pleasure and glory.

Humbly yours and forever His,