Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Judging People to Be Unsaved

The point of church discipline is restoration.  It is.  We want to reclaim a person who has turned away from the truth in some fashion.  When someone has been disciplined from a church, should he be judged to be unsaved?  Yes and No.  Yes, in that Jesus said in Matthew 18, "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."  It doesn't say that we think he's unsaved.  We are to regard him as unsaved.  We don't really know.

Why else would we regard someone as unsaved, who has been disciplined from a church?  Consider 1 John 2:19:  "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."  Here it's a matter of what "were not of us" means.  If a person was "of us," he no doubt would be with us.  "Of us" is expressing salvation, especially as you look at the context (1 John 2:3-4; 2:15-17).  He's not with us.   He's in the world.  He loves the world more than us.  The love of the Father is not in him.  If the love of the Father is not in you, then you aren't saved.  God is love.  No love, no God.

The point of church discipline is not condemnation.  However, we are instructed to regard people as not saved.  It's like this.  We don't know someone is saved just because he professes to be saved.  That is clear from James and 1 John.  Jude says that they creep in unawares.  Creeping in unawares means that we don't know it.  Churches have unsaved people in them, so we're not even sure if everyone in a church is saved.  Remember Judas.  Nobody but Jesus knew he was lost.  And he was nasty.

Here is a list of points to remember.

1.    There is a faith that does not save.

John 2:23-25:  "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."

James 2:17:  "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

2.    So someone who professes faith may not have a faith that saves.

3.    We do not judge whether someone has faith by his profession, but by his lifestyle (that's how he even judges his own faith).

Matthew 7:21:  "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

4.    The ultimate manifestation that someone is saved is that he endures or overcomes to the end, because faith that saves will endure.

James 1:12:  "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."

Revelation 2:7:  " To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."

Matthew 10:22:  "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

5.    People who will not endure shouldn't be regarded as saved people.

We don't help them by regarding them as saved.  We should say like Paul, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5).


Joshua said...

Practical and to the point. I actually really appreciated this post. I know there is much more that could be written. If the mood takes you I know a few other short practical primers on the application do a Bible teaching would be well received here!

God bless,


Jon Gleason said...

Hi, Kent. I'm not sure I would say we are to judge people to be unsaved. Check my logic and tell me what you think.

We have three main passages on church discipline. Matthew 18 you've quoted. II Thess. 3:15 says not to count him an enemy, but admonish as a brother. I Cor. 5 says we judge those in the church, but someone under church discipline is put outside where God judges.

My conclusion is that, in terms of fellowship, we are to treat these as unsaved, in terms of admonishing we speak to them as sinning brothers rather than lost sinners, and in terms of judging we just put them outside where God judges and we don't. They aren't our business anymore.

I would suggest that I Cor. 5 tells us not to judge them either as saved or unsaved. We've been told how to treat them (Mt. 18) and speak to them (II Thess. 3), and we should just stick with that and let God sort out the "saved or not" question.

In context, I'm pretty well convinced that Matthew 7:21 is talking about identifying false teachers. The verses before talk about false teachers, the verses after talk about the kind of claims that false teachers would make.

I strongly agree with your last paragraph, and that the verses you've cited are verses that those who are under church discipline should consider.

I just don't see Scriptural basis for going that extra step to judging someone to be unsaved. In fact, Corinthians makes that very problematic, because it appears from 5:5 that we may be talking about a saved person here (and perhaps II Cor. supports that by telling of his repentance).


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jon.

You've got these two categories that Jesus and then Paul uses: them that are within and them that are without. Those without are not saved and that fits with 1 John 2:19---they went OUT, because they were not OF. Why? They loved this present world. I believe loved is perfect tense, but I'd have to look that up to be sure.

I think that when you've got someone in your church, who professes to be saved, and he is lazy or not following Scripture, you are admonishing as a brother, but once he stops listening, won't hear, and is put out of the church, he is to be unto you as a heathen man. You regard him differently.

I used Mt 7:21-23 because people will say one thing, but the truth is something absolutely different like we see in James and 1 John. Someone may say he knows God, but when he doesn't characteristically keep the commandments, he is a liar. He is a liar about knowing God. He shouldn't be considered to know God.

I think the guy in 1 Cor 5 that came back in 2 Cor would have proven himself to have been a brother, because his faith overcame the world. There is definitely a time in which we are watching to see if a guy is serious about his repentance (2 Cor 7:10-11). The 1 Cor 5 guy cleared himself.

Thanks for commenting.

Bill Hardecker said...

Church discipline is about the Lord Jesus' authority. When people are "churched" if all of God's people would treat them like the outcasts that they choose to be, then maybe they would see the error of their ways and return to God. But we have many who think that church discipline is about politics and personalities and so some don't esteem the excommunication as anything - then the whole process becomes meaningless, and reconciliation can never take place. I think there are several factors involved here:
1. Not weighing in The Lord's authority.
2. A failure in some pastor's teaching ministry and oversight in disciplinary matters. (The church at Corinth was puffed up and thought themselves to be something for tolerating a fornicating member).
3. A failure to understand the ramifications of church discipline. (The obstinate member who would be brought to discipline is probably wondering "so what, if I do get disciplined?" - the discipline, in their minds have no teeth).
I think Pastor Brandenburg is on to something here at least on the level of how we should treat an erring brother when they get to the place where they are to be disciplined off of their membership.

Jon Gleason said...

Kent, I think from what you've said you would have judged the I Cor. 5 guy to be unsaved when you put him out of the church. Yet, he was saved.

Of course you treat someone like that differently. We're told to, and anyway, if we don't it's meaningless to put him out. And of course you don't assume he's saved. He probably isn't -- but doesn't this case demonstrate that we shouldn't be making judgments one way or another?

Perhaps I can demonstrate what I'm getting at this way. What should the pastor in Corinth have been telling this man?
A) "You're saved because you said a prayer once but you're losing your reward" -- this or any variation on it is horrible, of course.
B) "You're not saved, I can tell by your fruit" -- in the Corinthian case, that would have been just wrong because he turned out to be saved after all.
C) "You aren't living like you are saved, so we'll treat you like you aren't and let God deal with you. We don't know your eternal condition, but we can see your sin and God is going to judge that, maybe even kill you" -- isn't this the Biblical thing to say?

Am I missing something obvious?