Christianity carries with it certain unpleasant
responsibilities. We have duties that require getting
into the muck of life. They can be emotionally trying. At
times, they call us to stand against loved ones. The muck boils down to
this: it's our responsibility to deal with sin in others.
The term, "responsibility", can be replaced with, "debt of love". This
is the only way it can truly be carried out. The need for Christians to
deal with sin in other people isn't often taught in churches today. In
fact, it's often condemned. I've come across Christians who feel
if they stand against sinning brethren, they might chase them away.
They say, "That wouldn't be good. They wouldn't be around Christians
who would be a better influence than the world." This is human
reasoning. It has no basis or authority from the Word of God. Let's
take a look at the subject through the scriptures.
We'll go through this in a question and answer format. In the first
half, we will look at the theological issues. Following this, we will
cover its application in our daily living.
1. Aren't We Told
Not To Judge In Matthew 7:1?
Let's look at it, but don't end at 7:1. Look at verses 1-5:
1 Judge not, that ye be
not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye
judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall
be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that
is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine
own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the
mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou
hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt
thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Christ's main point was to those continuing in sin themselves. He was
warning them. We know this was the point by verses 2 through 4. In
verse 5, in fact, He says they could judge, but only after they first
dealt with the sin in their own lives.
Those right with God should judge. Paul did in I Corinthians 5:3. We
are to judge fellow Christians that go into sin, as shown in
Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 5:12,13; Galatians 6:1,2. We are to judge
ourselves as shown in I Corinthians 11:31.
Jesus was asked what the greatest law was. His answer was:
29 And Jesus answered
him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear,
O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And
the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Right now, we are looking at the issue of dealing
brother, so we shall focus on that second important commandment.
In going back to the laws, where these are actually mentioned, we find
an expansion that God gave:
17 Thou shalt not hate
thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any
wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt
not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but
thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the
This passage shows us, in God's eyes, to love your
neighbor means to
rebuke for sin.
By looking at a number of verses on the subject and the complete text
of Matthew 7:1, we see we are to judge, but under guidelines.
2. Then, It's All Right To
Pass Judgment On Everyone Who's
Sinning If We Make Sure We're Right With God?
No, not everyone.
12 For what have I to do
to judge them also that are without? do not ye
judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth.
Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked
I Corinthians 5:12,13
This shows we're to judge those in the body of
Christ, not those
in the world; God's the one to judge them. One way God shows His
judgment to the world, is through His body.
23 If therefore the whole
church be come together into one place, and
all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or
unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24 But if all prophesy,
and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is
convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of
his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will
worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
I Corinthians 14:23-25
"He is judged of all", because prophesying, all are speaking the
righteousness of God and His ways, truth and light. When people see the
light of Christ, it condemns them (John 3:19-21); but for us to pick on
their particular sins, to correct, is useless. They must first be shown
to the cross (I Peter 3:21; I Corinthians 1:17-31); otherwise, as
6 . . . . . . neither
cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they
trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend
They might just turn and harm you.
Even though Christians are not to go around judging the world, we still
see many demanding the world to reform. They picket non-Christian rock
concerts and other such things. On the last day, the words that
Christ has spoken will be the world's judge (John 12:48). Beware
of taking upon yourself the authority that belongs to
3. Do We Have A Choice,
About Rendering Judgment And Dealing With Sin,
If We See It In Brethren We Fellowship With?
The scripture speaks pointedly in this area:
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark
them which cause divisions and
offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and
Paul starts off with a plea. He's clear about
separation. Looking at
some other passages:
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those
things which are done of them in secret.
22 Abstain from
all appearance of evil.
These two references say a lot; the first is not a
choice, but a
mandate. The second, also being a mandate for Christians, makes us keep
the first; since, it would be evil to not obey.
Another passage is found in II Thessalonians:
6 Now we command you,
brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that
walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received
of us. 14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that
man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
II Thessalonians 3:6,14
Verse 14 covers all the Christian teachings that
would have been
necessary to adequately establish a church in righteousness. We know
this because of the content found earlier in the epistle in II
Thessalonians 2:15. You'll notice again, this is a mandate.
Purging sin from the body of Christ is a command in I Corinthians
5:1-8. Some passages worthy of contemplation, in regards to this issue,
are Psalms 101:7,8; 141:5; Proverbs 9:8; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18;
15:10,12,31-33; 21:11; I Timothy 6:3-5; II John 9-11.
Finally, Paul said to
10 A man that is
an heretick after the first and second admonition
The definition of the Greek word used here for
heretick is, "one
who is of a faction". In itself a faction is not evil. Any party, group
or system would fall under the Greek definition of this word. The evil
referred to in this passage, lies in making some separation or
grouping apart from the original whole of the body of Christ. In the
body of Christ, the only division to be done is on the basis of
locality: a church in this town and one in that town, etc. (I
Corinthians 1:1,2,10-13; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1,2; I
Thessalonians 1:1). If we would cause divisions in the body of Christ,
then we would be creating heresies from Christ. Only God can set the
terms for belonging to His body, and uniting with His body, no man can.
For a man to do that, is to start a heresy. The word heretick has also
been translated "sectarian" and "factious person".
The Lord has clearly
shown we cannot just sit by when we see sin in a believer; otherwise,
that would be sin in us. This continues to the point, that if we see a
believer that we fellowship with, fellowshipping with another believer
that is walking in sin, we must deal with the one we fellowship with.
This would be sin in his life, unless he was dealing with that other
brother over his sin. This is a sort of check system in the church, to
keep sin from infesting it as stated in I Corinthians 5:6-8.
4. With Those We
Fellowship, Do We Have To Deal With All The Sins We
See Them Practicing?
Now for specifics. Look at Ephesians 5:11, again,
which in short says, ". . .
have NO fellowship with the
unfruitful works of darkness . ." This leaves no stone
5. How's One To Approach
& Deal With A Brother In Sin?
There is a proper process to
15 Moreover if thy
brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him
his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast
gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with
thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every
word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell
it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be
unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
This shows the standard process, but do note the statement, "between
thee and him alone:", for the first confrontation. If he refuses to
repent then more people must be involved as found in 1 Timothy:
20 Them that sin rebuke
before all, that others also may fear.
I Timothy 5:20
Paul did this to Peter. The incident is found in
Galatians 2:11-14. We,
also, are not to accuse someone of sin unless we know they're guilty.
19 Against an elder
receive not an accusation, but before two or three
I Timothy 5:19
22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's
sins: keep thyself pure.
I Timothy 5:22
(The "lay hands suddenly" expression is referring to
accusation, like a policeman would grab the criminal to call to account
for his criminal activities. It's not referring to the church's
tradition of "laying on of hands" in things like prayer for healing or
ordaining for ministry.)
It's very important, for those of us confronting the sinner, to
remember to go in the spirit of meekness. We ourselves could just
as easily have fallen into sin as they:
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. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so
fulfil the law of Christ.
If, later, the sinner repents, he should be welcomed
fellowship. The church at Corinth was told to "confirm" their
love and forgive. They had obeyed Paul's injunctions in 1 Corinthians
chapter 5, and since the sinner repented, Paul appealed to the church.
The one that received the church punishment, and had the sorrow to
repentance, was to be forgiven (II Corinthians 2:5-11; 7:8-11).
I would like to stop for a moment before we continue with the last
half. Prayerfully consider what's been said. So far we've looked at the
issue from a theological view, but
haven't considered the ramifications in practice. Truly legitimate
problems and concerns arise. That's what we'll look at next.
1. We're Not Perfect, We
Make Mistakes. For Every Mistake, Should We
Don't make the error of thinking a mistake is a sin. We might make a
mistake when we're telling someone about the Lord. Instead of looking
as a good ambassador for Christ, we end up looking rather silly for
Him. We might also be off in some doctrine such as water baptism being
by immersion versus sprinkling, or maybe in tongues having ceased or
not ceased. This might be due to incomplete knowledge of scripture. It
may be due to the fear of taking a look at a view in opposition to
those Christians you fellowship with. There are many reasons, but even
this is not sin. Those who have been reproved, clearly from the Word,
yet refuse to accept it, are in sin. As far as "mistakes" are
concerned, we see God has provided for that help:
11 And he gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some,
evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of
the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body
of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure
of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be
no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind
of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby
they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may
grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that
which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the
measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of
itself in love.
"confronting" someone, Ephesians comments on the harshness of dealing
29 Let no corrupt
communication proceed out of your mouth, but
that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace
unto the hearers. 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted,
forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven
The "confrontation" should be done in such a way
that it will build up
in the Lord the one being confronted, if at all possible. It should
also be done in a tenderhearted fashion.
That which we're "to confront" is sin. Sin isn't merely a mistake.
A good definition of sin is found in I John 5:17, "All
unrighteousness is sin:", and Romans 14:23, "for whatsoever is
not of faith is sin".
One other point. We slip to walking in the flesh: and, when we are in
the flesh, we sin. Then, when we are back in the spirit again, we
repent of the sin just committed in the flesh. That sin is then dealt
with, so nobody needs to confront you, unless they don't know that
you've already repented. The sins that need confrontation are the ones
the person lives in, unrepented.
2. I Talk With Brethren In
Sin, & They Don't Repent. Eventually, I
Bring It Before The Church, But They Don't Do What They Should. They
Thereby Sin. What Now?
You deal with the sin which the church itself has committed. Show them
what the scripture requires. If they still refuse to hear you, you're
dealing with a group that, even though they may seem sweet and
nice, refuses God's Word. These should be put in the place of the
individual mentioned in Matthew 18:15-17. That group, which calls
itself a church, should be unto you as an assembly of heathen men and
publicans; like verse 17 says. When this sort of situation occurs, talk
to the entire assembly. If when you leave you haven't even made any
kind of impact, or a lot don't even know what happened to you, you
truly didn't give the rest a chance, did you? Persist as much as is
possible. God desires the chance for repentance be given, before the
line is cut. In Revelation 3:14-22 we find the letter from Christ to
the church of Laodicea. Here we find Christ knocking at the door of the
church after He had been kicked out (verse 20). He gave the last chance
before the judgment would have to be dispensed.
Now the problem exists as to your need for fellowship and exhortation:
24 And let us consider
one another to provoke unto love and to
good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as
the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more,
as ye see the day approaching.
You cannot forsake getting together with fellow Christians. Seek out
the local assembly that you can get together with; that likewise shuns
and deals with sin. If you happen to be in a place where there are not
many Christians, you may not really have a choice as to whether there
is a full assembly with multiple deacons and elders or not. In this
case, your only choice is to fellowship around the Word with the few
you still can:
20 For where two or three
are gathered together in my name, there am I
in the midst of them.
3. What Do You Do If You
Confront Your Christian Spouse Or Parents Over
Sin & They Don't Repent?
There are a variety of factors at play with these two issues. First,
we'll discuss the spouse situation. Matthew 18:15-17 has already been
discussed, so we should all be familiar with it. In the end, it said to
have that person be unto you as an heathen man or a publican. For a
Christian, this would put you in the situation found in I Corinthians
7:12-16. It would be the same as being married to someone who has put
away this faith (I Timothy 1:19). Without faith, he would be
classified as unbelieving:
12 But to the rest speak
I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife
that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not
put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth
not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the
unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children
unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let
him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases:
but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife,
whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man,
whether thou shalt save thy wife?
One cannot have the fellowship with the sinner that
one has with
the saint. As when one is married to someone who has never known the
Lord, you don't have communion with that person since that person
doesn't serve God. The spiritual tie of the relationship has been
broken, since you now serve two different Masters. The extent of the
spiritual relationship goes as far as a Christian trying to win a
heathen or a publican to the Lord. If you continue to have the same
spiritual activities together, how do you show your spouse his or
her disapproval before God and the church, as already stated in
II Thessalonians 3:6,14?
Finally, the situation posed by parents that are disobedient to the
Word, is different. We're told in Ephesians and Exodus:
12 Honour thy father and
thy mother: that thy days may be long
upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is
Parents are a God ordained authority over a child,
so the situation is
akin to the Pharisees with the authority they had:
1 Then spake Jesus to the
multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying,
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore
whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye
after their works: for they say, and do not.
In the Old Testament, there's a picture of how God
special bind between close kin in Ezekiel 44:23-27. The priests were
allowed to be profaned ceremonially in regards to their family, yet
they were to be perfect, a picture of holiness. Spiritually, however,
the situation is the same as that between a
spouse that serves God, and one that doesn't. Any spiritual walk is
broken. In these situations, there is the exception of outward
God in special cases. An example is seen in I Samuel 15:30,31 where
Samuel shows honor before King Saul due to his position of authority,
but not due to fellowship before God. Saul had just received the final
rejection from God.
4. How About Fellowship
With Unbelieving Family, Employers, Business
Associates, Or Other Members: Say In A Club Or Team?
9 I wrote unto you
in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the
covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go
out of the world. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep
company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or
covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an
extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
This passage answers the question. As we go about
the world, we'll have
involvement with non-Christians in areas other than witnessing. Such
areas are: in our businesses, family get-togethers, just being on
the bus, Paul on the boat in Acts 28, in a restaurant, or a class
reunion. Many different things can place you in a situation such as
that listed in I Corinthians 10:27-30. That passage shows we should
always be an example for Christ wherever we are. I Corinthians 5:9-11
does, however, show there's to be a difference between a sinner that
never was a brother, and one that was. There's a difference between
having company and fellowshipping.
Verse 10, quoted above, says "not altogether" which denotes our company
should never the less be limited.
14 Be ye not unequally
yoked together with unbelievers: for what
fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion
hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial?
or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what
agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of
the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in
them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive
II Corinthians 6:14-17
"Having company" can be anything that has
another individual. Fellowshipping is a more specified form of
"having company". It's a joint, mutual, bonding of people with
the same goals and ideals in mind. We, who are holy, cannot have a
bonding with that which is unholy. An exception would be like when,
after a couple is married, one of them gets converted; like discussed
under the previous question and answer.
The matter of involvement with unbelievers, isn't to show disrespect or
to offend them:
14 Follow peace with all
men, and holiness, without which no man shall
see the Lord:
The issue is to show our separation from the ways of the world, unto
the ways of God (James 4:4). We may become like them in position, and
have a common ground upon which to relate to each other, so we can tell
them about Christ. We cannot become like them in their sin, or show a
bonding with them while they remain in sin (I Corinthians 9:19-23).
Finally, there is the issue of teams and clubs . If one belongs to a
team or club with non-Christians, however, and the point of the team is
not business, then it's usually for the purpose of people with a common
interest getting together while pursuing that interest. Remember, the
scriptures teach us to relate to people about Christ from the level
they're at. If it's in a team, that's O.K. As believers, our main
concern is to be a servant to God first and sanctified holy for Him. As
long as our heart is set upon Him and serving Him at any cost, then we
need not fear we will go into unholy alliances and fellowshipping.
5. I Hang Around With This
Non-Christian So I Can Witness To Him.
Christ Ate With Publicans & Sinners, Didn't He?
Let's see what Christ said about it:
27 And after these things
he went forth, and saw a publican, named
Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow
me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 29 And Levi made him
a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of
publicans and of others that sat down with them. 30 But their scribes
and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and
drink with publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto
them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to
In this passage, one can see Christ wasn't eating with them out of
joint fellowship. Levi was just invited after the way of life, and he
probably wanted his friends and associates to take that path too. By
their coming to eat with Jesus, they got to hear the words of life
which he spoke. He was ministering to the sick, so that, if possible,
they might be made whole. The scribes and Pharisees, having nothing to
do with the ungodly, never were able to show them the way.
It's good to seek any opportunity to tell someone about Christ,
but this doesn't justify yoking yourself together with a
non-Christian (as discussed in the last question and answer section).
You certainly cannot join them when they sin, and let me ask you this
question: With your non-Christian friend, out of the times you've
gotten together to do something with him, how many of those times were
your concerns, prayers and efforts set on the goal of being the
physician, so that that sinner would come to repentance? If you live
this example of the Christian, while around him, one of two things will
happen. He will eventually either heed you and turn to Christ, or he
will grow weary of you or maybe even hate you (John 15:19;
17:14). How do those of the world view you?
LIVING IT OUT
This is an issue which stirs a bee's nest. Most people feel it's great
to have a sort of religious brotherhood, but by all means don't try and
deal with someone else's sin! You take care of your own and that's it.
What I've discovered is that those who live that lie, seem to be in
some surrealistic fantasy. To them, sin isn't as bad as it is, or
doesn't have as far reaching effects. They think the issue can go along
with whether or not you wear a suite or jeans in a church. It's up to
you and you may look down on the other, but that's it.
The issue of sin is difficult. It involves others who are, to a good
deal, outside of our control. There's also the issue of mercy to be
balanced with it. Mercy and judgment are not always easy to properly
dispense. We should always strive obey God in dealing with sin and in
loving, gentle aid to a struggling brother or sister.
I find it to be a fine line to balance, and balance is important.
Dealing with sin is a tough job, even done in the Spirit. We need to be
careful to not take everything in life so seriously, while still
discerning and dealing with sin. Relaxing, enjoyment and simple
pleasures in life with praises and rejoicing are a must as well.
Remember to balance. King Solomon said it well:
1 To every thing there is
a season, and a time to every purpose under
the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a
time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to
weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; . . .
. 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a
time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and
a time of peace.
Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible