Church Non-Membership is no Excuse for Not Disciplining an Abuser
1 Cor 5:1-7, 11-13
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
… now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
I have had enough! Still another case of pastors and churches eluding their Christ-commanded duty to put a wicked person who professes to be a Christian out of their church. And the excuse I keep hearing from them is — “but he isn’t a formal member of our church. So we can’t touch him.”
Tell me, where in the entire Bible are we taught such nonsense? I’m waiting…. Think of any verses? No, because there aren’t any. What we are told, and that very clearly, is that if any person is a “so-called brother” or “who bears the name of brother” and yet walks in habitual, unrepentant sin, we are to put him out of our midst. We are not to socialize with him. He is outta here! He wants to live like the devil, then he can go out into the devil’s world.
Is there any mention here of church membership? Did Paul say, “if he is on the formal membership rolls of your church…then…”? No. The test is, does he profess to be a Christian. That’s it. If he does, and if he walks in evil, and if he is fellowshipping in a local church, he is subject to discipline. And for that matter, even a person who makes no profession of Christ but who chooses to attend a local church is still under the civil authority of the local magistrates. He can be told “leave here and don’t come back” if we have a valid reason for telling him so (he is a danger to others, he disrupts the services, etc). Your church building, by the way, is NOT public property. It is private property.
It seems to me then that some denominations have taken church membership waaaaayyyy beyond Scripture. Now, I believe in church membership. I believe that a person should become a member and that in doing so they should be announcing that they agree to uphold the doctrine of the church, to be subject to the authority of the church as long as it is exercised according to Christ’s direction, and so on. We have to have membership. How else can we ever vote on issues like calling a pastor, etc? But nowhere does the Word of God tell us that unless someone is a member according to the constitution of a local church, they cannot be disciplined or put out of the church!
Just last week I had a pastor tell me “well, you know, in our denomination, even if that man is abusing his wife, if he is not a member of a church then that church has no authority to discipline him.” Well, I have news for him. His denomination’s book of church order may say that, but God’s Book of Church Order says otherwise!
For the most part, excuses like this for not disciplining an abuser who claims to be a Christian are just a bunch of ___________ (you fill in the blank). They are all just fronts for cowardice, for refusing to do what Christ commands, and they don’t cut it with Him.