Should apostates and sinners be disfellowshipped from the congregation?
“Apostate” is a term used by the governing body and JW organization, but let’s look at the Bible list of unacceptable behavior.
SINS PREVENTING INHERITANCE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Various sins prevent people from inheriting the Kingdom of God.
Gal 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication (4202 pornea – sexual immorality), uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJ) (see also 1 Cor 6:9-11 & Eph 5:5)
Notice that this list includes such sins as idolatry, hatred, contentions, jealousies, selfish ambitions & envy. Are we ever contentious, jealous or envious? Do we commit any of these other sins? How easy it is to set Apostasy (heresies) up on a pedestal as if it is the most horrendous sin a New Creature can commit and then to happily go along with our own lives as if we have no sins of our own.
The governing body identifies what Apostasy is, but do you trust their conclusions?
Let’s remember Jesus’ words in Matt 7:4, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? (NKJ)
Nevertheless, according to Gal 5:21, those who practice these types of sins and who do not repent, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. They cannot inherit the office of kings and priests who will reign over and bless all mankind. (1 Cor 15:50 & Heb 6:12-20).
THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN
John 8:3-11 talks about the adulterous woman that the Pharisees brought before Jesus to test him. Although, some consider this passage to be spurious, such a conclusion is uncertain.
C.T. Russell had this to say about the passage in Watchtower Reprint 3434, “Our Lord “entered into sympathy with the meek… in all their weaknesses… Note the case of the woman taken in sin, and our Lord’s failure to make any pharisaical tirade against her. Mark his reproof to those who stood by: ‘He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.’ Mark how, when they were all thus convicted of imperfection in some particular themselves, our Lord said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin not more.’ (John 8:3-11).”
WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THE SINNER?
We suggest our response to the sinner should be an act of love. If we love our brother, we will not ignore a sin that places his relationship with Jesus as a New Creature in jeopardy.
Let’s take a look at in example from 1 Cor 5 of one in the Church who committed sexual immorality.
1 Cor 5:1-13
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality [Strongs 4202 porneia] among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles– that a man has his father’s wife!
2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.
4 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,
5 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.
6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. People [Strongs 4205 pornos]
10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.
12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (NKJ)
Our expression of love for the adulterous brother involves a withdrawing of fellowship. We can not help the brother by continuing in full fellowship as always. To ignore the matter will be to his injury as well as to the injury of others in the Church who would thereby be encourage to lower their moral standards.
There are consequences to allowing sin in the congregation.
1 Cor 5:6-7 says, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. (NKJ)
By not dealing with the matter, others will feel it is okay and more brethren will sin.
Jesus gave us the step by step procedures for dealing with sin in the Church. The sinner is not to be immediately embarrassed and exposed before all, but is to be given an opportunity to explain themselves and to repent if necessary.
In Matt 18:15-17, Jesus says, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. [Like anyone who walks into the congregation from off the street.] (NKJ)
C.T. Russell give the following advice in Watchtower Reprint 5954: “In any event they would seem to have no ground for forbidding attendance at meeting. The very most they might vote would be to withdraw fellowship and include in this a refusal to visit at their home or to invite them to the homes of the class – the class declining also to appoint the brother to any office, such as deacon or elder. As for refusing them the privilege of attending public meetings, that would be very inconsistent; for surely all kinds of people living in all kinds of sin come occasionally to meeting, and we hope that by coming they may be benefited and recovered.”
REPENTANCE AND RESTORATION
Once a brother or sister becomes an adulterer, is there anyway to undo the sin or to correct the problem and bring them back to the heavenly father’s approval? Let’s see what answers are provided by the Bible.
Gal 6:1 – “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.” (NKJ)
James 5:19-20 – “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.” (NKJ)
Jude 1:23 – “but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (NKJ)
It is the brethren’s privilege to minister to the sinner in love, helping to bring him or her towards repentance and recovery.
Rom 15:1-3 – “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME.” NASV
THE PUNISHMENT WENT TOO FAR!
The Corinthian brethren punished the sinner committing sexual immorality, but Paul tells us that they went to far.
2 Cor 2:6-11 say,
6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,
7 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.
8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.
9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.
10 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,
11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (NKJ)
Withdrawing fellowship for a time served a purpose. It helped bring the sinning brother to repentance. . Upon full repentance, God will fully forgive, and so should we. Notice that Paul speaks of this “punishment which was inflicted by the majority.” Paul does not advise that the majority split away from the minority who did not participate in this punishment (withdrawing of fellowship). Apparently then, this is not a matter for a congregation to divide over.
FULL REPENTANCE BRINGS FULL RECOVERY & RESTORATION
* Though God punished a repentant David, he forgave him his adultery and did not remove him as king. In accepting David’s repentance, God did not ask David to divorce Bathsheeba.
* In John 8, Jesus told the adulterous woman to “sin no more” and sent her away uncondemned.
* As Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul murdered and imprisoned brethren, but later repented and became the greatest Apostle of all.
* In 1 Cor 6:11, Paul says of the sinners who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, “such were some of you.”
Click here to find out WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DISFELLOWSHIP?