Dealing With Sin

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.
    Matthew 7:1-5

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.    
Mark 12:29-31

Right now, we are looking at the issue of dealing with our 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 LORD.            
Leviticus 19:17,18

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 person.       
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 Matthew says:

6 . . . . . . neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample  them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.   
Matthew 7:6

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 God.      

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 avoid  them.   
Romans 16:17

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.   
Ephesians 5:11,12

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.   
I Thessalonians 5:22

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 Titus:

10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;   
Titus 3:10

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 unturned.

5. How's One To Approach & Deal With A Brother In Sin?
There is a proper process to follow:
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.   
    Matthew 18:15-17

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 witnesses.   
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 grabbing in  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.   
Galatians 6:1,2

If, later, the sinner repents, he should be welcomed back into  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 Expect Confrontation?
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.   
Ephesians 4:11-16

As far as "confronting" someone, Ephesians comments on the harshness of dealing with someone:

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 you.   
Ephesians 4:29,32

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.   
Hebrews 10:24,25
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.   
Matthew 18:20

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?
     I Corinthians 7:12-16

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.   
Exodus 20:12

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.              
 Ephesians 6:1

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.    
Matthew 23:1-3

In the Old Testament, there's a picture of how God views the  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 formality before 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.    
I Corinthians 5:9-11

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 you,   
II Corinthians 6:14-17

"Having company" can be anything that has involvement with  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: 
  Hebrews 12:14

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 repentance.   
Luke 5:27-32

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?


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.   
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4,7,8

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All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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