Ecclesiology 51, Romans 16:17
Father, we’re thankful for today and I just pray You will be with us as we seek to get into Your Word today; be with Sunday School and the main service that follows. And I just pray that everything will be glorifying and honoring to You. And we’re just going to pause, Father, for just a few seconds to confess any personal sin that we may have committed against You and exercise 1 John 1:9 so that we can be taught the Word of God by Your Spirit today.
Father, we’re grateful for the sixty-six books of the competed Canon that You’ve given us and how they promise to equip us for everything Lord. There are many things you want to do in and through us and I pray that You would use Your Word amongst Your people today to equip us for that task, those tasks. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Just to show you the power of our internet outreach Dale and Carolyn are visiting today all the way from Iowa, and so that’s kind of neat. They even wanted to know who the famous Ron was [laughter] because I always say Ron will give you a handout, so Ron, you’re now a celebrity. That’s neat. Welcome, I hope you have a great worship experience with us.
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Romans, chapter 16, verse 17. A lot of people have been asking when am I going to get finished with Ecclesiology so we can get on to something more interesting, like the doctrine of angels. And I’m going to try as God allows me today to try to finish Ecclesiology today (of course I’ve been making that promise for the last month haven’t I).
We’re sort of at the end of this outline here. Maybe the reason the series is going a little longer than most on ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, is because most people leave out number twelve here, the purity of the church because it’s sort of politically incorrect what the Lord says, but He’s given us basically two tools; if exercised consistently and in balance it keeps the church pure in a fallen world, practically pure. And we’ve been talking about ecclesiastical separation is one such tool. And the second one I’m hoping will get into, if not complete today, is church discipline.
But ecclesiastical separation is necessary because if you don’t separate from people or institutions or groups that are no longer biblically faithful then essentially happens is the church is emptied of its power. I mean, the church can only speak with authority to the culture when it’s different than the culture. And if the church becomes just like the culture, just like in the story of Lot, it loses its voice to the culture. So that’s really why separation is sometimes needed.
Is there a biblical basis for separation? You’d be shocked at how many verses talk about this; we worked our way through all of these epistolary type injunctions, commanding separation under certain circumstances. Probably the most well-known is 2 John 1-11, which says do not receive a false teacher into your house, because if you participate with him you participate in is evil deeds. [2 John 1:11, “for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. “]
And then from there we were talking about what do we separate from exactly and first and foremost you have to separate from groups that are teaching false doctrine. So you say well what is false doctrine? How can you recognize false doctrine? Here’s a list of at least ten things, I like to call it the essentials of the faith, or the fundamentals of the faith. And if someone is compromising on one or more of these ten things then that forms… I think that they’re basics for ecclesiastical separation.
The second entity or groups of people that you separate from are those that are what I would call divisive persons. And that’s why I had you open up to Romans 16:17 where Paul says, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances” now look what it says, “contrary to the teaching which you learned, [and turn away from them].” So there are many people that want to come into a church and they basically want to teach doctrines that you really don’t find in the Bible or really they’re not well supported in the Bible. And Paul specifically says keep your eye on such persons because what they’re going to do is cause dissentions. Dissentions from what? Dissentions related to the truth that you’ve already received.
So if someone wants to teach something different or at odds with or out of sorts with the truth you’ve already received, that automatically causes a dissention and it causes a hindrance. And so Paul says very clearly at the end of that verse, from such people “turn away.” And I find that what a lot of people try to do is they want to debate you all the time. For example, we teach doctrines here that are very spelled out in our doctrinal statement, there’s no real secret as to where this church comes from and how we interpret the Scripture. And what they want to do is they want to go onto your twitter feed or they want to go onto your Facebook page or they want to go onto your You Tube channel or they want to have some kind of private meeting with you and they want to get into some kind of argument or debate with you. And you notice that Paul never tells the church at Rome to go out and get in all these debates with everybody that teaches something contrary than what you’ve learned. What he says is you just mark them and then you turn away from them.
So we’ve had a couple of situations lately where people have come on to the Sugar Land Bible Church Facebook page and they don’t like our position on the rapture, we’re pretribulational here, we believe that the rapture will take place before the tribulation, and they start posting all these long and extended rebuttals to the pretrib rapture. And it gets to a point where we have to tell them, I’m sorry, we’re deleting your comments and we’re probably going to end up blocking you from our page because we’re not a debating society here, we are a church. The church is not in the debating business, the church is in the proclaiming business. We’re here to proclaim what we think the truth is. Now if you want to have a debate my suggestion to such people is go set up some kind of chat room and call it a debating place and invite people to participate in the debate if they have time to do it. But the Facebook page of a church is not the proper place for that because the church is not a debating society; it’s a proclaiming institution.
And I know of somebody, for example, David Hocking, I was just with him in Israel and he basically told me that after decades of ministry (and he’s been in countless debates with people over this issue or that issue, he says all of it has yielded zero fruit because debates have a tendency to shed heat more than they shed light and what people get interested in is they’re more interested in winning an argument and pride comes in than they are in getting to the truth. And what you see is people start to factionalize and they say this guy won the debate or this guy lost the debate, etc. etc. etc. etc. And I know people that feel called to get into these debates and that’s fine if you have the time to do it; frankly I don’t know if the practice really yields a lot of fruit at the end of the day. And I’m not sure Paul ever told the church at Rome to get out and debate everybody on every particular point, he just said you take people that want to teach something different and you mark them. You don’t get into a debate with them, you mark them and then you turn away from them.
And I try to with these little electronic correspondences that go on, you know, there are people out there with honest questions, and you can sort of tell after two or three exchanges that they’re really wanting an answer and so we try to be longsuffering as much as we can and patient with people. But the fact of the matter is some people are unteachable and they’re unteachable because they want to use your church as a way to proclaim their version of things. And those are the people that you’re to turn away from. How does that saying go, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
And a lot of times things are masquerading as an intellectual query but really it’s a heart problem and it’s a pride problem and so you have a lot of unteachableness out there and with all of this social media stuff that you have today, all of that has accelerated and so people have to understand there’s a place to do the debating. I don’t know if I have a lot of time for it, I’m too busy as it is, if I get into debates with everybody then I’m not going to be very effective at what God has called me to do here. Now other people feel called to do that and then go right ahead. But that’s not what a church is for. A church is not a debating society; a church is a proclaiming institution and therefore the Facebook page of the church is not the place to have a debate. A chat room maybe but not the Facebook page of the church.
So Paul is very clear that you separate from those or you turn away from those who teach aberrant doctrine. And then you’ll notice Titus 3:9-11 teaches the same idea, a pastoral letter, it says, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,  knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”
So there’s a lot of people out there that want to get into big discussions about things that the Bible really is not very clear on. One fellow recently wanted to start an argument with me over the fact that the demons that are mentioned in the New Testament are really not fallen angels but they are the souls of the Nephilim or the spirits of the Nephilim that perished in the flood. Now I mean, talk about an unobscured thing to believe in… and how could you ever prove your point? You know, the fellow was quoting the Book of 1 Enoch and all this kind of stuff which is not even a canonical book. And you try to gently give an answer and then they come back with something else and it goes on and on and on and what are you creating at the end of the day? You’re not creating light, you’re creating heat and you’re getting involved in something that the Bible, in my opinion, is not crystal clear on. And that’s the very thing that Paul told Timothy to avoid, controversies about genealogies and disputes about the Law and then Paul says, “for they are unprofitable and worthless.” [Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”]
So what do you do with such people? Verse 10, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,” so you notice there’s a grace period for people. But after a first and second warning then you just say we’re going to have to separate. It says, verse 11, “knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” So Paul says it’s not an intellectual problem, it’s not related to the fact that they don’t have enough information, it’s a pride problem; they’re perverted, they’re sinning, and consequently it should be evident to all that they are self-condemned.
And it’s interesting, this word factious here, he says, “Reject a factious man,” the word “factious” is aritocus, do you recognize what English word comes from that word aritocus? Heretic, Paul you reject a heretic. Which raises an interesting question, who exactly is a heretic that you reject? Well, it’s the person that wants to come along and challenge, in this case, Pauline doctrine. Paul taught A, they say no, it’s B. And then you give them a warning, first time, second time, and then if they’re basically unteachable, which is what a lot of people are, than you just separate because you’re getting involved in something that’s foolish. It’s a controversy about something that the Bible isn’t very clear on. It isn’t generating edification at all. It’s just generating strife and disputes and at the end of the day there’s not a lot of light shed, there’s a lot of heat involved.
So I’m not afraid of academic debate if needed but to be frankly honest with you I just don’t really consider that to be my primary calling. Another group that really wants to debate people all the time, they want to debate me, they want to debate anybody that holds to this view, the pre-trib rapture, and the people that are very aggressive, in my opinion on this, are the prewrath rapturists which is a very deceptive name because I’m a prewrath rapturist. But they define wrath as something that happens in the final 25% of the tribulation period. So therefore the church is going to be here for three-quarters of the tribulation period. So rather than call them prewrath rapturists I think a better name for them is three-quarters tribulation rapturists.
But these are the people that are very aggressive, they’re always wanting to debate and you see, if someone like myself gets into a debate with them what do I gain? All I do is take the platform God has given me and share it with them and a lot of them want to debate somebody else because they don’t really have much of a platform themselves and the reason they don’t have a platform is they’re telling everybody you’ve got to go through three-quarters of the tribulation. I mean, how are you going to get an audience teaching that kind of thing.
So the debate is sort of a disguise that they use to get your platform. And so that’s basically the problem that I have with people like the three-quarter rapturists wanting to debate. People have always wanted to (when he was alive) to debate Tim LaHaye, all the time. And Tim LaHaye’s point is I’m the author of the bestselling non-fiction series, the Left Behind series and all I would do by debating these people is give them the platform that God has given me. So that’s sort of my mindset on these kind of debates. I mean, there’s a place for apologetics, there’s a place for persuasion, but at some point you have to start using the sermon and recognizing that there’s a lot of people out there that aren’t really interested in the truth. What they’re interested in is using you as some sort of vehicle to promote what they believe. And so that’s the example of a heretic, a person that’s to be rejected, and you separate from such people.
Who else do you separate from? Well, you separate from the immoral, those that practice immorality. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 5, just one book to the right after Romans, 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, notice what Paul writes. “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;” he says,  I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.” Amen to that, right?  “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—“ and look what it says here, “not even to eat with such a one.”
So obviously you have to go to the store, you have to circulate in society, you have to go to the bank, you have the normal activities of life and so you can’t completely isolate yourself from immoral people or else you’d have to leave the world permanently, which is not our calling. But when it comes to this issue of fellowship, when it comes to this issue of partnering in ministry with somebody, when it comes to the issue of doing ministry together how in the world could you do that if someone is talking about and promoting immorality of some kind. And you want to follow Paul, what the Bible teaches.
So this is relative to the whole subject of the incest in 1 Corinthians 5 where there was a man that had his father’s wife and Paul says the pagans don’t even do this (this was happening in Corinth). I mean, the pagans themselves recognize that incest is wrong. And the leaders of the church were kind of just sitting there acting like they didn’t know what was going on when everybody did. And Paul says you should have broken fellowship with this person a long time ago. So you separate from the sexually immoral, in this case those that practice forms of aberrant sexuality such as incest.
And take a look, if you could, over at Ephesians 5:11. It’s amazing the number of Bible passages on the subject of separation when you start to research what the Bible says. Paul says in Ephesians 5:11, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” and you’ll notice the word “participate in” it, it’s sort of a compound word but you’ll see the word koinonia, at least as a noun, koinonia means fellowship and then that prefix is sort of to add intensification. In other words, you’re not to be in fellowship, you’re not to be in partnership with people that are practicing “unfruitful deeds of darkness.” In fact, what you ought to be doing, Paul says, is shining the search light of truth on what they’re doing, not fellowshipping with them.
So that’s Ephesians 5:11, and I believe that this passage is also given in the context of sexual immorality. Notice verses 3-5 come before verse 11. What is he dealing with in verses 3-5. “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;  and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” In other words, why would you partner with a Christian who’s behaving like an unbeliever when we know that unbelievers are headed to a different place entirely than the believers. So two such people you don’t participate with them, rather what you do is you expose them.
Verse 11 comes before verse 12, and I’m just trying to give you the context of Paul’s statement here in Ephesians 5 about not participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness. He says, verse 11, “Do not participate (synkoinōneō) in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Verse 12 says it says, “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” And this sort of fits with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, the unbelievers, the pagans don’t even practice incest and here this was happening at the church at Corinth.
So this is shameful immorality and Paul is very clear that you don’t partner with such people, rather what you ought to do is expose their wicked deeds as immoral. And this is an important teaching for us in the 21st century because the culture has all of us by the throat as Christians. And what is the culture always doing? It’s trying to mainstream sexual immorality. It’s trying to mainstream homosexuality. It’s trying to mainstream, and I can show you the journal articles for some in the legal academic community doing this, it’s trying to mainstream even a situation of pedophilia. It’s taking what is perverse and trying to mainstream it and make it normal and turn it into so a civil rights issue.
So just as we decided a long time ago, in the 1960’s, 1964 the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was a wonderful piece of legislation, that we should not discriminate against people based on something they can’t change about themselves, like their skin color. Now the big push is we’re going to expand the civil rights category to include, not an immutable characteristic, an unchangeable characteristic but a behavior and we’re going to say things like well, the homosexuals are just doing what they’re doing because they’re born that way.
By the way, I never really understood that argument, there’s a lot of desires I was born with that I don’t know were really that good. For example, I was born with a desire to eat every single jelly donut in front of me and I could sit all day and eat jelly donut after jelly donut but I’m not promoting that as some kind of civil rights issue. Maybe I should. [Laughter] But that’s what’s happening is civil rights is being changed into behavior and now they’ve advanced this argument so far that they’ve made people to believe that if you’re against such and such a behavior, homo-sexuality, incest, pedophilia, whatever lifestyle you want to come up with, that you somehow are just as discriminatory as someone who discriminates against a racial minority. So it’s a real “bait and switch” that they’ve done. I call it hijacking the Civil Rights Movement. And what is happened is that mindset has come into the church and what people are doing in the church is they’re trying to mainstream the same lifestyles that the world mainstreamed maybe five, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road.
So what do you do with people that come in with doctrines to mainstream perversions, things that are recorded in the Bible as perversions? You have to expose them; you have to turn away from them. Here’s a quote by liberation theologian Jim Wallace. Liberation theology, of course, is the idea that we’re going to mix Christianity with Marxism, as if the two are compatible at all. To me it’s like trying to mix oil and water together. But that’s a very strong push and a lot of the millennials kind of look at Jesus as sort of a communist revolutionary type of thing because after all, Jesus was for the poor. Right? Well, if you want to create a lot of poor people why don’t you implement communism and socialism? And take a look at what’s going on in Venezuela as I speak, where people are eating out of garbage cans. I mean… you tell me that communism is somehow liberating the poor???? In fact, communism is causing poverty. Anyway, that’s my sidebar for the day.
But Jim Wallace here is making a comment, he’s being interviewed on Moody Christian radio, February 19, 2008, I don’t know if Moody radio is involved with this, I don’t think they are, I just think it’s something Jim Wallace let slip out in an interview. But he was asked about the word abomination in Leviticus 18:22 concerning homosexuality. [Leviticus 18:22, “’You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”] I mean, what is the perspective of God on homosexuality. God says it’s not my opinion, it’s an abomination and He lists a number of other things there in that chapter that are abominations, incest and a whole number of other issues. And in fact, when you go over to Leviticus 20 what you’ll see is under the Mosaic Law such behaviors were penalized by death under the prior dispensation of the Mosaic Law.
So Jim Wallace is out trying to mainstream homosexuality and he’s asked correctly, Leviticus 18:22, why are you trying to mainstream something that God calls an abomination? So what does Jim Wallace say: “Abomination is a pretty strong word,” well, I agree it’s “a pretty strong word” but we ought to accept it as a word that’s strong because who put that word in there? The Holy Spirit put that word in there in Leviticus 18:22.
“Abomination is a pretty strong word . . . there is a debate” see how everybody wants to turn everything into a debate? If you turn it into a debate then you can marginalize this idea of abomination. And this is the problem with accepting challenges from people that want to debate the pre-trib rapture. By accepting the terms of the debate to a large extent you already admitting there is a debate when in my mind there is no debate because God has spoken on the subject and God’s Word is eternally settled. But Jim Wallace says, “Abomination is a pretty strong word … there is a debate and questions over the meaning of the word ‘abomination.” (Referring to Leviticus 18:22; as heard on Moody Christian Radio Network, in Chicago, February19, 2008.”
By the way, notice he’s in Chicago here and one of our Presidents came from Chicago, right. And so what you have to understand is this was… and notice the date, 2008, I mean, this was a big push to get that particular President on the radar screen with the evangelicals and what better way to do it than to teach liberation theology or the idea that the Bible is really in favor of Marxism. “…when asked about government sanctions on civil unions for gays.) [Mary Danielson, The Dangerous Truth About the Social-Justice “Gospel,” n. 21]
Should the government have a sanction on civil unions for gays? How can you believe that based on Leviticus 18:22. Wallace comes back and he says, “Abomination is a pretty strong word . .” and we ought to debate that, as if I have the right to take things in God’s Word and suddenly submit them to a debate and make them subjective. I mean, if you want to dismiss biblical truth about homosexuality or any other lifestyle perversion you might as well try to explain away the Atlantic Ocean because God has spoken.
I used to say this, God says it, I believe it, that settles it! But now I’ve skipped number 2, God said it, that settles it! Whether I believe it or not is irrelevant, I don’t think God really needs my approval for things. If it’s in the Bible that’s the issue. And because of the culture’s push to take lifestyles and turn them into civil rights issues, they’ve become very successful in basically getting people to believe that if you have an opinion about sexual morality or immorality you are no different than the Jim Crowe south that discriminated against blacks in the United States. And that’s the propaganda they push, it’s a lie, but this is what they’ve been very successful in perpetuating.
So my point is this mainstreaming of perversion in the culture is coming into the church and the church has got to figure out really quick if they’re going to separate from people that teach this kind of thing or not. Whole denominations right now are in battle over these kind of things. As for me and my house, if you start teaching that stuff in my church or in my denomination I think you should be shown the door very fast. And if you lose control of the denomination, which is really what’s happening because people don’t want to give up the property and the library and all of these other things, and I understand that, but if you can’t reclaim it, if you can’t turn the ship around it’s time to practice Ecclesiastical separation and go meet in a storefront somewhere because at least in a storefront, you may not have the stained glass windows anymore but your conscience is clear at the end of the day because you’re following the Word of God. And this is what Paul tells us to do regarding sexual perversion. So we separate from false doctrine, divisive persons, immorality and then we separate from those who practice a general disobedience to Scripture.
Take a look at 2 Thessalonians, just keep moving right from Ephesians and you’ll come to the T’s, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, that’s not really a T is it? Let’s see, I may have gone too far, before you get to Timothy after you get out of Colossians, Ephesians, Colossians, then you’ll run into 2 Thessalonians chapter 3. By the way, if I was going to come up with my own study Bible I would not organize it at all like the Protestant New Testament is organized. They’ve got everything organized by topic; I think it ought to be organized chronologically, the order in which the letters were written, which means 2 Thessalonians should be number three because that was Paul’s letter. But anyway, I’m not planning on coming out with my own study Bible, I’m just expressing my dreams!
2 Thessalonians 3, notice verse 6, Paul here is not really dealing with sexual immorality, he’s dealing with people that won’t work. And notice what he says in verse 6, “Now we command you, brethren,” notice this is not a suggestion, this ecclesiastical separation is a command, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away” that’s separation, from who? Unbelievers? No, “…from every brother” this would be a Christian, “who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” Paul says I gave you teaching and if people are living a lifestyle that is in contradiction to that teaching then you turn away from such people.
If you drop down to verse 14 it says, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and” get into a long debate with them… it doesn’t say that, does it? “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” So again it’s another injunction towards ecclesiastical separation and what was happening here? It wasn’t sexual immorality. The issue is given in verse 10, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, it says, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order:” notice this is not a suggestion, it’s a military command, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to” what? “to eat, either.” I mean, it’s pretty simple, if you like to eat (I like to eat) well then go to work, provide for yourself and provide for your family.
You’ll see this going all the way back to Genesis 3:19 where man is to toil by the sweat of his brow to earn his bread. [Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”] And everywhere communism or socialism goes it fails every single time. Have you noticed that? Why does communism or socialism fail everywhere it’s tried? There is no example on planet earth (that I’m aware of) of any country that has moved in the Marxist direction that has ever prospered. Why is that so? Because socialism or communism is the opposite of what the Creator said in Genesis 3:19. God was very clear that each man is to work by his own sweat, or the sweat of his own brow. In other words, I eat because I work. Marxism comes along and hoodwinks people because they make you believe you can get out of the curse, you can escape it by giving you a different doctrine, not you work and you eat; the doctrine is someone else will work and you eat.
Now that’s very attractive to Bernie Sanders, voters, it largely complies to the young people that want to escape the basic responsibilities of life. The problem is, as Margaret Thatcher once stated, you run out of opium, which stands for what? Other people’s money. It always sounds good on paper, communism or socialism, but it never really works in the long run because you eventually run out of other people’s money because it’s a rebellion against what God said at the very beginning.
And you say well, gee, pastor, you’re a pretty hard-hearted person, don’t you believe in a safety net? Well the problem is what happens when the safety net turns into a hammock; that becomes a problem, doesn’t it? And I do believe in charity, I mean, I understand it, I read all the prayer requests. I know that there are people even in this flock that want to work but because of economic circumstances can’t but they’re trying. I believe there is a distinction in the Bible between those that are needy and those that really aren’t. And the problem is when you get into this idea of compassion for everybody, a safety net for everybody, well who’s going to pay for all of it? Someone else is going to pay for it. You just went against what God said at the very beginning of the Bible. God said if you want to eat then you work. That’s how it works. Communism or socialism says I’ll eat if someone else works.
And so Paul is very upset with these people in Thessalonica because a lot of them have just quit their jobs. Why did they quit their jobs? Bad eschatology! When you go back to chapter 2 verses 1-2 you find out that there was a forged letter circulating in Thessalonica telling them that the day of the Lord had begun. [2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,  that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”] In other words, these people were the first post-tribulationalists in the Bible; they believed that they were in the tribulation and they believed that it was just a matter of days, months or years before Jesus comes back and sets up His kingdom and so since we’re in the seven year tribulation period itself I don’t need to save for retirement, I don’t need to put my kids through college, I don’t even need to work at a job, I’m just going to quit and go live out on a hill somewhere. And you’ll find this kind of thing happening over and over again in church history. Do some research on the Millerite movement and you’ll see they fell for the same kind of deception.
And these folks were believing (because of a forged letter) something that Paul had taught them against in the first letter that they would escape the tribulation period via the rapture. And now they’re very confused because they’ve got a fourth letter in their midst and a lot of them are using an imbalanced eschatology to get out of life’s responsibilities. And so Paul has to correct them on this whole subject. And this is why a balanced eschatology matters; if you’re not balanced in your eschatology you’ll start to make life decision that go against the Word of God, such as the very simple injunction, “if a man does not work, neither should he eat.” [2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”]
So Paul here in that whole context says these people aren’t working, they’ve turned the safety net into a hammock, and what you do, verse 6 and verse 14 is you disassociate yourself with them. You warn them, you lead them back to the truth, but if they’re still unteachable then you basically disassociate yourself from them. And so there is a theme here that you separate yourself from those that are in general disobedience to the Word of God. In this case, not following the basic injunction, if a man will not work neither shall he eat.
So what do you separate from? A. Any false doctrine. B. Divisive persons, heretics that want to cause splits and schisms by teaching things contrary to what Paul revealed. Third, you separate yourself from the immoral. And you separate yourself from institutions and groups that want to take lifestyles that are immoral and mainstream them, you separate! And then the fourth group you separate yourself from is those that are in general disobedient to the Scripture. For example, not following the practice if a man shall not work neither shall he eat.
So we’ve gone through ecclesiastical separation; why separate, the biblical basis of separation, and what to separate from. And I would venture to say this, even though this subject is all over the Word of God I would say that very few of you have ever heard a teaching anywhere in your Christian experience about ecclesiastical separation. In fact, can I just see a show of hands, just for my own sake here, how many people this is the very first time they’ve heard from a Christian leader about the topic of ecclesiastical separation. Just put your hands up. Wow, look at that, two-thirds, three-quarters of people are putting their hands up. And yet it’s not an obscure subject, is it? I mean, there’s Scripture after Scripture after Scripture which reveals this doctrine.
So the final way that the church is to keep itself pure is through church discipline. Take a look, if you could, at 1 Corinthians 5:13, let’s see if we can make five simple points about church discipline. Let’s see if we can make five simple points about church discipline. Number 1, church discipline is a biblical command. Putting people out of the church that are unrepentant is a biblical command and you’ll see it there in chapter 5, verse 13 dealing with the whole subject of incest. It says, “But those who are outside, God judges.” In other words, I’m not really all that worried, Paul says, about what they’re doing at city hall. Now I think we ought to be involved in politics and all that kind of thing, praise the Lord we have a chance to do that.
But you’ll notice that Paul is not really all that concerned about what they’re doing at city hall. What he’s really concerned about is what’s going on inside God’s church. So he says in 1 Corinthians 5:13, “But them that are without God judges.” And then he says, “Remove” and that’s a command, “the wicked man from among yourselves.” So you’ll notice that church discipline is not a suggestion but it’s a command. And you say well this is the most unloving thing and unloving Bible study I’ve ever heard. Well I’ll remind you of what the Lord said in Hebrews 12:5-11, “whom the Lord loves the Lord chastens” or disciplines. Discipline actually can be the most loving thing you can do to somebody, church discipline.
[Hebrews 12:5-11, “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;  6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”  It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”]
Number 2, there is a reason why we are commanded to practice church discipline. Notice Galatians 5:9, what does he say? “A little leaven leavens the” what? “whole lump of dough.” Just like leaven, something negative, works its way through a lump of dough, that’s what sin does unchecked. Sin unchecked will contaminate somebody else in terms of their thinking and low and behold, when that happens you have a whole church that’s been corrupted by a wrongful lifestyle and a wrongful way of thinking.
If you go over to 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, the case related to incest, you find Paul the apostle saying the exact same thing. [He says, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.’”]
Now I remember very clearly Dr. John Walvoord, when he was alive, I was working on my Master’s Degree at Dallas Seminary, and at that time he was very old and he really didn’t have the strength to speak long in chapel and so when he spoke in chapel I was always sitting on the front row, wondering what he was going to say. He was known for his defense of the pretrib rapture and things like that so that’s what I thought he was going to talk about. But he didn’t talk about that; what he talked about in the waning moments of his life with the last amount of strength that he had and you know when people are getting down to their last words, they’re getting down to what’s really on their heart. As he started to talk about apostasy in the seminaries, and he says he had done an in depth study historically of why seminaries go liberal, and they all go liberal, don’t they? Harvard, Princeton, Yale started off on a biblical basis, they’re very liberal today. And he said it’s always the same pattern and he was trying to protect Dallas Seminary from this. You start off with a professor that kind of says things that are a little different, a little bit off on an area or two, maybe not a huge area but just kind of off and that person is never really confronted by the leadership. And he said it’s always basically the third president of the school because the third president has sort of forgotten all the sacrifices that the first generation made to start the school, how they all went without pay to get the school off the ground financially, and the third generation comes along and they’ve forgotten about all that and so the President is very weak and he never confronts people concerning wayward doctrine, and this strange belief is coming from one professor, it affects another professor, it affects another professor, it affects another professor and he said that’s how it happens over and over and over again, how seminaries go liberal, how they start to drift.
So what is that saying? Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it. And what Dr. Walvoord was talking about really is “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” So that’s the reason that church discipline has to be implemented and practiced. What do you discipline people for? You don’t like their style of clothing; does that deserve church discipline? I may not be a member of this church if that’s the criteria. No, you discipline people for things that we’ve already talked about, disobedience to the Scripture, blatant immorality, and that’s what’s going on in 1 Corinthians 5. Incest was taking place and Paul says you should have dealt with this guy and this issue and this situation as elders, you should have dealt with this a long time ago!
And then you discipline people that are heretics that want to come in and teach basically wayward type doctrines, Romans 16:17 which we’ve already commented on. So what is the procedure for church discipline. How do you do it? Well, you all know the passage, Matthew 18:15-17, there are steps that the Lord said you carry out and I believe the Lord is hinting at the church that’s coming, it hasn’t been established yet but it’s on the horizon so many of Jesus’ teachings look forward to that coming dispensational transition.
And it says in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private;” so you try to correct the situation through a private meeting, “if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Praise the Lord, problem averted.  “But if he 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.” The concept of two to three witnesses is very prominent in the Bible, or else it becomes a vigilante type of thing where you’re rushing people to judgment without a lot of evidence. So two to three witnesses is very critical. Verse 16, “But if he 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.” Then what do you do?  “If he refuses to listen to them,” then at some point you have to “tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So at some point you make a public announcement, so and so and such and such is involved in this kind of sin and basically they are no longer in good standing with this church. You’re not to fellowship with them, etc. etc. etc. It’s always a hard thing, I’ve been involved with churches where it got to that point and there’s always a lot of tears in the room when that happens. But I believe that there’s a specific manual or procedure. And why in the world you do this to somebody? This is very important—the goal is not punitive, see that? It’s restorative, that’s what you want to get accomplished, that’s why you go through these initial steps before you go public over it. You’re trying to get the person to repent or change their mind about what is happening Song of Solomon it doesn’t get to the point of being something public.
If you’ll notice 1 Corinthians 5:5, Paul is very clear that the goal in doing this is to shame the person into repentance. 1 Corinthians 5:5, you might just in your devotions this week read through 1 Corinthians 5 because it’s all about this subject of church discipline and ecclesiastical separation. You’ll notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:5, he says, if “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his” what? “his flesh,” the “flesh” there, the sarx, is the sin nature. The sin nature is reigning over this person and that’s why they’re involved in all this immoral conduct. And what’s going to get their attention and shame them into repentance and consequently break the power of the flesh is public shaming. “… so that his spirit may be” what? what does it says? “saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
I don’t this person, Paul says, to get before the Bema Seat Judgment of God and have a terrible ruling at the Bema Seat Judgment of God and have no reward. I want to save him from that so Paul’s goal is not punitive but it is to restore. Now the Corinthians weren’t kicking this guy and gal practicing incest out of their midst, they were just kind of acting like nothing was wrong. And I believe that when Paul told them to do this they got busy and they excommunicated this person. But then they went too far because my reading of the Bible was the guy repented and after the guy repented they wouldn’t let him back in.
You say well where are you getting this from? It’s in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 6-8. Many commentators believe that this is the same guy. 2 Corinthians 2:6, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority,  so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”
You’ll notice that the Corinthians would not exercise church discipline when they were supposed to and then when they finally did it they were so unloving in their approach that they turned it into a form of punishment and the fellow, I believe, was in repentance and they should have readmitted him to the church and they didn’t do that. So Paul says you [can’t understand word] but when you do discipline you’re so heavy handed with it that you’re not readmitting the man into the church when he is repentant.
And when Paul is talking about church discipline in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 regarding if a man will not work then neither should he eat, notice what he says there in chapter 3 verses 14 and 15. “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” You see what you’re doing? You’re shaming him into repentance and consequently breaking the power of the sin nature over their lives. Now look at verse 15, very important, “Yet do not regard him as an enemy,” see that, “but admonish him as a brother.” So when you assemble these verses you see very clearly that the goal of church discipline is not punitive but it is to restore.
How do you practice this in the 21st century in the United States. It becomes more difficult, doesn’t it? If someone is kicked out of First Baptist then they just join Second Baptist, then they get kicked out of Second Baptist and they’ll just join Third Baptist, and these are mega churches so people slip in and out and they don’t even know their identity. So you can see how the 21st century evangelicalism has made this a difficult practice to implement. That’s why I think pastors need to not be competing with each other but on the phone with each other, talking. You know that doesn’t happen, right? Pastors don’t talk to each other. Why is that? Because they’re too busy competing with each other. Oh, so and so got kicked out of your church, what kind of tither is he? Maybe he can enhance my budget. You guys laugh but this kind of stuff goes on all the time. And we’re getting away from the New Testament design.
But when you were kicked out of the church at Thessalonica in the first century, when you were kicked out of the church at Corinth in the first century, you were in literally the domain of Satan. There was no Second Baptist of Corinth to join, you were out, and you were in a domain where Satan dwells. And Paul says certain people need to be put there because the power of their sin nature needs to be broken and they need to be shamed into repentance. Well, I totally get it that this was written in the 1st century and the 21st century makes this practice somewhat difficult to implement. But it’s still a biblical command nonetheless.
So church discipline is the command, we have the reason given, we have the offenses meriting discipline, we have the procedure and then we have the goal which is punitive and not restorative and guess what folks, we finished ecclesiology. Can you believe that? [clapping] And because I rushed to finish it’s ten minutes over and I can’t take questions but here’s what I think we should do, if you guys are on board with this: next week let’s just do Q & A the whole time. Is that cool? So we’ll just do a complete… we’ve done that before haven’t we? We’ll do a complete Q & A session because I know you guys have a lot of questions on some of the things we’ve been talking about and I think it’s better to deal with some of those questions than to rush into another subject. On the horizon is angelology, the doctrine of angels, which would include Satan and the demons and the good angels. AND the question you all want to know, what’s going on in Genesis 6? So that’s sort of where we’re headed in Sunday School but before that everybody’s been sort of asking about my trip and things like that; I’ll probably do a week or two or three on Israel, covering the places that we visited. So I’ll be taking you to Israel in this class via slides and things like that. So we’ll do the Q & A next week, a mini-series on Israel, involving my recent trip there and then we’ll start angelology.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your Word and what it reveals concerning the doctrine of the church. You’ve given us a high calling so help us to absorb these truths and practice these truths at Sugar Land Bible Church. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.