Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Teaching: Manner or means? (Continued)

As established in the last post, God’s Word requires us to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ in a gentle way, not a forceful way with the intention to humiliate. Today, we’re gonna look at other New Testament examples where correction is dealt with publicly, after proper time of pointing out the sin and having time to correct it. As I stated in the last post, if the brother or sister continues to sin, then, that person must be dealt with harshly.
The first example of the New Testament we will look at in this second post on teaching will come from 1 Timothy 5:17-20. Paul here is writing about the “elders who rule well,” so he’s referring to the office of elder (not “elderly,” as in someone old in age). In verse 19, Paul zooms in on how to approach a sinning elder: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” Paul here refers to Christ’s words about a brother or sister who sins in Matthew 18:16—“ But if he[sinning brother] does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED” (NASB). Only when there are witnesses to the evil of an elder, should Timothy (or any pastor) receive the accusation as true. Only when there are witnesses can a person be held accountable, because, if there aren’t witnesses, then the news could just be a lie or a rumor. Notice, however, that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to rebuke the elder in public for the sin! The moment the pastor finds out that one of his church officials is sinning, it is not his job to take the person in public and make a mockery out of him! That is not what the pastor is supposed to do; instead, he’s supposed to counsel the elder about the sin issue, whatever it may be. He is to let the elder know that what he is doing is wrong, but keep it between them. After all, there is some legitimacy to the fact that Jesus knew the Samaritan woman’s sin but didn’t air the information to the disciples. Being Christ-like involves situations such as these as well.
However, there is a different tone about verse 20: “THOSE WHO CONTINUE IN SIN, REBUKE IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” Notice that the elders the pastor is supposed to publicly expose are those who CONTINUE to sin, not those who sinned the first time! The purpose for so doing is “so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” When a person sins the first time, they should be “called on the carpet” about it between the elder and the pastor; but after the first time, and the second time, then it’s time for public humiliation. If an elder is allowed to sin repeatedly on a sin issue and nothing is done about it, then why will others NOT sin? After all, who will be afraid to sin if they see that someone else can sin and not be punished for it? Think about children: if one child sees his brother or sister get away with something, he will be tempted to try it to see if he can get away with it as well. That’s how it is with those in the body of Christ: if one gets away with wrong, all will want to get away with something (even if it’s a sin). The one who is punished before the body should serve as an example to the others of just how serious an issue sin is, and just how much God detests such rebellion among His people.
It’s the continuance of sin, not the initial act, that should be severely punished and paraded before the body.
Another such passage involving what to do with continued sin is Titus 1:10-16. The situation on the island of Crete was very much like the situation at Ephesus—false teaching was prevailing among the believers. Paul tells Titus of the situation in Titus 1:10-11—“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” Paul is aware of the current situation at Crete: prophets are teaching things that are wrong because of greed. They know what they are doing, but they are doing it for personal gain. Their motive is selfish and destructive. They are looking out for themselves, at the expense of the unity of the body of Christ. Paul shows us the knowledge of these false prophets: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason REPROVE THEM SEVERELY so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13). Here the prophets prove that they know the truth and possess knowledge of the truth: they actually said something about the Cretans that was true. Because they possess knowledge of the truth about Cretans, they are well aware of their own sin. Because they have knowledge of what they are doing and are aware of their sin, Titus is not to “pamper” them and try to talk gently—he is to “reprove them severely” in order that they change and turn around from their present direction. The problem of the false prophets can be summed up as thus: “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). They can “talk the talk,” but they can’t “walk the walk.” The fact that they demonstrate their knowledge through word-of-mouth stores up judgment for them. If a person can articulate something, then they are responsible for living up to it.
Hebrews 10:26-27 shows the seriousness of continued sin: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.” Once a person possesses knowledge of the truth, they are now able to choose between good and evil. To continue to do evil when one has knowledge of the good is to choose to willfully rebel against God.
The point of the above discussion regarding punishments for disobedient believers is to show that unless there is knowledge involved, a person can’t be punished for something. However, when a person knows something, it then becomes their responsibility to choose that which is right and good.
With Apollos, he didn’t know that there was a baptism greater than John’s. Priscilla and Aquila did what the believer should do—they took him aside and explained the Scriptures to him more. The text, however, has nothing to do with women and what environment(s) they can teach in. Grudem simply tries to find a way to fit this into his 1 Timothy 2 bias, but, instead, he butchers the text and performs “warped” exegesis.

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