Let’s first examine the question about those who are disfellowshipped..
Paul stated: “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20). The Church of God in Corinth experienced just such a situation when one among them committed incest, and the sinning person was put out:
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).
Carefully note that while the punishment was public and forceful, Paul’s objective was to protect the Church and to save the individual (compare 2 Corinthians 13:10). That is what happened, for, we find that later on, Paul told the members to restore him to fellowship because of his repentance:
“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. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:6-11).
The key to understanding this example is the fact that the man repented of his sin. His sorrow was deeply felt. He did not become bitter and resentful against God to the point of rejecting Him in his life.
Another example is found in the Old Testament. In this case David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and then arranged his murder. When Nathan the prophet confronted him with God’s judgment, David immediately admitted his sin:
“So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Samuel 12:13).
David repented of his sins. In Psalm 32:1, 5 and in Psalm 51, David pours out his heart in praise to God for forgiving and restoring him. Quoting from some of what David wrote reveals the kind of attitude that God will accept from those whose sins have separated them from the Church of God:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:10-11).
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
God’s fervent desire is for those who are sinning to repent:
“‘But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:21-23).
Those who have been called into the Church of God and then choose to leave, for any number of reasons, must wake up—before it is too late! Jesus taught in a parable known as “The Prodigal Son” about the willingness of the father to have his son return:
“‘And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry’” (Luke 15:20-24).
This parable reflects the attitude of God, Himself, as we can also note in verses 7 and 10 of Luke 15:
“‘I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance… Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’”
In His messages to the Church of God, from its beginning to the time of His return, Jesus Christ sternly warned many in generation after generation to repent! (Compare Revelation 2 and 3.) Why? For a whole multitude of reasons—which could ultimately lead to some having their names blotted out of the Book of Life! (Compare Revelation 3:5.)
Those who remain faithful to God and Jesus Christ also bear a responsibility to fellow members who stumble in their calling:
“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).
The ominous truth for the Church of God during the coming years is that a falling away will continue and become even worse! In recent years we have witnessed the wholesale departure of long-standing members and ministers—often embracing the very doctrines they had once rejected as false and inspired by Satan—the spiritual ruler of this world. God’s commandments, statutes and judgments—all laws of life—were cast off as burdens, and membership within the true body of believers was summarily rejected.
Coming to the irretrievable state of having committed the unpardonable sin is a process of hardening of one’s heart and spiritually searing the conscience, so that a person no longer cares or even wants to repent. Judgment is then self-imposed—the second death and eternal destruction.
God—through Jesus Christ—will judge all of us according to our ways. That judgment is now on the household of God—the Church (compare 1 Peter 4:17). The beginning point for anyone who has left the Church is to repent! The ministry is very willing to counsel anyone who seeks restoration in the Church!
And unless some might erroneously believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin by being out of the Church, consider what Daniel wrote:
“‘And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, UNTIL THE TIME OF THE END; because it is still for the appointed time’” (Daniel 11:35).
If you are among those who have become separate from the Church of God, NOW is the time to turn back to God!
Lead Writer: Dave Harris