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Monday, January 19, 2015

WELS Documented Blog - Matthew 18 and the Eighth Commandment



Monday, January 19, 2015


Matthew 18 and Rebuking Public Sins

Matthew 18:15-17 - (NIV)
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.



Private Sin

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." – Matthew 18:15

In today’s passage, Jesus is speaking about the personal ministry which we have with and for other Christians.  When we see a Christian slip into sin and continue to live impenitently in that sin, Jesus wants us to do something about it.  Jesus' concern is not that we try to reform a fellow Christian's irritating habits or change his personality quirks.  He is speaking about living impenitently in a particular sin which defies the Word of God.  The word Jesus uses here for sin means "missing the mark."  The erring person has missed the mark of God's Word.  He or she is defying the will of God.  Can we dare to become apathetic about a person who is in danger of eternal separation from God?  Hardly!

Jesus says, “Go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Take the initiative. Don't wait for the person to come to you.  And go alone at first.  Keep the matter as private as possible.  Jesus doesn't want sin spread around.

When you have pointed out someone's sin, and he listens to you and agrees, then assure him that God forgives him and so do you.  Then be sure to leave the sin behind.  If not letting go of someone else's past and forgiven sins is something you struggle with, take this to God in prayer.  Ask your heavenly Father to help you forgive and forget the sin of others just as he has dealt with your sin through Christ.
 - Read the WELS Daily Devotion in it's entirety



Public Sin

Called Workers Who Commit Public Sin
Manitowoc Pastoral Conference, Zion, Morrison, WI, November 18, 1991
by Jonathan L. Rossman

[note: the discussion examples cited were not in the original paper] 

 “Called Workers Who Commit Public Sin” It might seem strange that we should talk about such a topic. Isn’t everything within the ivory towers of the church pure? Aren’t called workers more perfect than other people? Aren’t all their sins at least done only in private? Of course, the answer to all those questions is “no.” I don’t have to remind any of you that called workers do fall into public sin. Perhaps it has become so common that it doesn’t shock us as much as it used to, or as much as it should. Most of you have probably been involved in at least one case of a called worker who committed a public sin.

I have not been out in the ministry all that long. Yet in my short life, I’ve seen how the public sin of a called worker has affected four different congregations in one way or another. Perhaps there was a pastor who had a drinking problem or whose greed tempted him to steal from the church. Maybe there was a lady teacher who got pregnant outside of marriage or one who was not faithful to her calling. Possibly there was a male teacher charged with child abuse or one who promoted false doctrine among the lambs of Jesus’ flock. Called workers do fall into public sin, and it happens all too often.

...The focus of this paper is not on the private sin of called workers. Paul reminds us that “...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” (Rom. 3:23) We aren’t called to peek inside bedroom windows. We aren’t called to turn over every rock in search of sin. We aren’t called to be spies sent on a mission of dredging up dirt on our brothers and sisters who are called into the ministry. God hasn’t called us to be the Reverend Sherlock Holmes. He has called us to preach the Gospel of Christ. Even though he hasn’t called us to search for sin, we aren’t called to ignore it either. 

When a sin is made public, it must be dealt with. For instance, you might know that a fellow pastor is having a marriage problem. This certainly won’t be dealt with in a public way, but when a divorce is filed then the sin becomes public.

[WELS Example: Likewise, if a pastor sexually harasses his secretary in his office, it would be a private sin; but then if HE chooses to file a restraining order against the victim's husband; would that not make it a public sin and open for public rebuke, as stated in the paragraph above? Why or Why Not?] 

A young teacher might sin against the sixth commandment in secret, but it becomes public where God blesses that sinful union with a child.

[WELS Example: If a pastor and a congregation choose to have a male beauty contest where the pastor and elders dress as women it would be a private matter; however if they then choose to post those pictures publicly on the Internet and in their newsletter which apparently caused offense to some; would that not make it a public issue then and open for discussion on the appropriateness of doing that in order to examine if the potential is there to cause offense? Why or Why Not?]

A teacher might have questions and doubts about certain doctrines, but when he publicly and persistently proclaims false doctrine we must deal with it.

[WELS Example: If WELS promotes a publicly advertised conference that contains aspects that some view as veering from God's Word - “Change or die” is not a Scriptural concept - would that not make it a public matter then and open for discussion based on the statement above? Why or Why Not]

When talking about public sin, we should keep in mind that we are not speaking about every time we see a called worker sin in weakness. I’m sure we have all been guilty of doing this. Perhaps we lost our temper with a delinquent. Maybe we said something which should not have been said. Possibly, we treated our family in a way that is not in keeping with the office of the ministry. For these sins, we must humbly go to our Father in heaven, and ask him to forgive us.

We also must remind ourselves of the fact that the life of a Christian reflects on our Savior. He tells us all to “...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) When a public sin is committed, a different light emits, one that reflects poorly upon the true Light of the World. This is true of laymen and especially true of those called workers who are representing him in his work on earth. Yes, God does expect more of called workers. Whether we like it or not, he tells us, “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:47,48

Since he loved us and hates sin, we must also feel that same way. We can’t condone sin, but we must condemn it. We can’t hide it, but we must confess it. We can’t ignore it, but must abhor it. We can’t just let the public sin of a called worker pass by.

Love for our Savior moves us to hate sin like our Savior hates sin. We can’t ignore the very thing which caused our Savior to die. We can’t underestimate that very thing which cost him so much. We must call sin, sin. We can’t just sweep it under the carpet and ignore it any more than God could sweep sin under the carpet and ignore it. When a called worker falls into sin, our love for the Savior will move us to call a spade a spade. Our love for our Savior will move us to condemn sin with the same power that he condemned sin.

[WELS Example: In what manner should a public rebuke be carried out? If the above two paragraphs are true, then is it right that conversations on Facebook discussion groups are discouraged as was this one when Bryan wrote: Admin(s), I must say I'm disappointed. I certainly hope that the admin who took Christian's post and my post down is writing an explanation as I'm typing. What was wrong with the discussion in Christian's thread? Why or Why Not?] 

When dealing with the public sin of a called worker, we must also remember our love for Scripture. Scripture defines sin. We certainly don’t want anyone to think that Scripture doesn’t mean what it says. If the called worker is caught in a sin and we ignore that sin, it could give the impression that the Bible doesn’t really condemn that certain sin, or that the Bible doesn’t condemn any sin at all. It could raise questions like: Did God really say that premarital sex is a sin? Did God really say that a husband and wife should be married until God parts them? Did God really say that drunkenness is a sin? Did God really say that child abuse is wrong? The list could go on and on.

In our day and age Scriptures are being attacked. People are again and again posing the question, “Did God really say?” As his people, we don’t want to add fuel to that fire by ignoring the public sin of a called worker. We don’t want people to think that the Bible has changed. We don’t want people to think that it is outdated. Our love for the truth of Scriptures will move us to be very careful that we don’t cause people to misunderstand the truth.

Great care must be taken that we don’t offer the comfort of the gospel to someone who is still quite comfortable. We must be careful that we don’t give the water of life to someone who is not thirsty. We will have to make greater use of the law on the called worker who is still making excuses for his sin, or for the congregation who is self-righteously breaking the eighth commandment in their condemnation of the called worker, or for the congregation who regards this certain public sin too lightly.

When applying the law and gospel, we must take into account their attitude and their response to our admonition. Just look at the response of Jimmy Swaggart to his alleged public sins. The first time he got up before his congregation, and made a tearful confession and request for forgiveness. The second time he told them that what took place was none of their business. Perhaps there wasn’t a sin in his latest escapade. (Always try to put the best construction on everything.) Even if there wasn’t, it was the congregation’s business because there was an allegedpublic sin. There seems to be some real resentment to the admonition that was given to him. In that case, the gospel was not needed yet, but the cutting edge of the law.

God also reminds us that we should be concerned with the littlest saints, the children. Before Jesus gives us his steps for church discipline, he reminds us of the danger in causing one of his little children to sin. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6) This was brought to my attention very vividly when a fifth grade boy came up to me before catechism class, and asked if it was a sin for two people to live together outside the estate of marriage. He knew two people who were doing this. He wanted the reassurance that this was still a sin. When called workers fall into sin, we do not want one of these little ones to underestimate the seriousness of the sin, especially if it is a public sin. If we as church leaders give the impression that sin is no big deal, it will affect our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews. We want to give them a strong testimony against sins and on behalf of forgiveness.

If the worker has clearly reputed of the sin, should they be asked to resign? Here is where we must look at each individual case. We have no canon laws which state when a person should remain in office or when they should be dismissed. We must be concerned not only about the sinner, but also others. If his or her sin is such that it could bring harm to others in the future, such as child abuse or sexual abuse,surrendering the call might be the only answer even if that person has sincerely repented. The same thing will be true if the sin is one that will cause offense to the saints or discredit the church in the eyes of the world.The pastor or teacher will have to weigh how remaining in office will affect other people. If it is obvious that continuing in the call will hurt others in body or soul, it would be better for all involved to surrender the call.

[WELS Example: If a pastor sexually harasses his secretary and subsequently resigns from the ministry only to be given CRM status a short time later and returns to the ministry in a different district; would that potentially hurt the souls of others who saw that happen, even if he is sincerely repentant? Would it cause offense to the saints and discredit the church in the eyes of the world? Why or Why not?]

If there isn’t a resignation, then at least there should be a public rebuke for the public sin. Notice what Paul told Timothy in 1 Tim. 5:19-21. “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

[WELS Example: It has been suggested on some Facebook discussion groups that the synod leadership plays favorites based on someone's last name which would be contrary to the statement above; would the same criteria be used for rebuking a Called Worker if his last name wasn't as popular in the synod? Why or Why not?]

-  Read "Called Workers Who Commit Public Sin" in its entirety 

*****
Brotherly Admonition
By Lowell Smith
Presented to the Arizona-California District Pastoral Conference,Mesa, Arizona, October 28-30, 1980

Pastors in attendance at a conference hardly need to be told that they have a human nature inclined to sin. None of us would question this truth. But perhaps when we are personally involved and have become the object of an admonition, the clarity of consciousness about our own sin becomes blurred. Just at such a time as this it must be remembered that the church is not some kind of mutual insurance company whose object is to protect its pastors in every situation. Rather, it is a fellowship with a purpose of representing Christ to the world and demonstrating truth and righteousness. Christ’s honor has been committed to the church’s keeping. Therefore the integrity of the pastorate must be kept, even if a personal admonition is required.

[WELS Example: When a layperson in Texas questioned how his pastor, who was also a district president, preached about justification, he was eventually faced with excommunication and told this: "Since we do not believe we have erred on any of these issues that you have sited, we cannot acknowledge that we are still in doctrinal agreement with you. Therefore, we should not commune together. In keeping with a consistent practice of the doctrine of fellowship you should mark and avoid us as persistent errorists and we are marking and avoiding you as persistent errorists as well. (Romans 16:17-18)." Would a criticism such as this by a layperson cause a pastor to immediately be on the defensive and therefore not look objectively at what the lay person was trying to say? Why or Why not?]

Pastors, because they are human, are influenced and tempted by the immoral posture of society. They have TV’s in their homes. They too hear of the types of movies, magazines and entertainment available “out there.” Some in our American culture today are dedicated to turning human beings upside down by making the cerebral subordinate to the visceral or to the genital. Often what they describe asavant-garde, bold, daring, or creative is simply turning the human being upside down. Pastors can become tainted by this thinking.

Perhaps one of the “biggest” temptations to the clergy is the “numbers” game. The desires to have the fastest growing church, more members than another, more confirmations or baptisms or raising more funds than a neighboring church are a few of the temptations of pride that lurk in us all.To attain these higher numbers it will require some shortcuts or deceptive practices. It is truly amazing how the human mind can rationalize the need for deception to gain an advantage “for the Lord.” One such example comes to mind concerning a certain evangelist who hired students to come forward for the altar call to “prime the pump.” Another is about the cleric who asked his audience to bow in prayer and then invited those present who wanted to “receive Christ” to raise their hand. Then he said “Thank you, I see your hand, I see your hand,” when in fact no one had yet responded. Of course, eventually a few hands went up, but only after some manipulation for the Lord. Have you ever wondered if the Lord would approve of all the numbers reported in the Statistical Report?

How about this metric, Stroh?
You and the Jeske mob have reduced WELS to a starving, broke synod
clawing for funds from Thrivent and a dead adulterer.
You are a disgrace to polyester suits, ugly ties,
and dumb presentations everywhere.


[WELS Example: At the Christian Leadership Experience Conference that recently took place in Arizona, there was a workshop titled "Do Metrics Belong In The Church?". One of the presentation slides said - The question is not...“Should we use metrics?” but...“What metrics should we use, how, and why?”; do classes like this help create that temptation described above therefore making it easier for pastors to fall into public sin? Why or Why not?]

- Read "Brotherly Admonition" in its entirety

Links for further reading on the examples cited:

1 comment:

  1. Good questions. It will be interesting to see what comments they bring. It would be even more interesting if some comments would come from those in positions of leadership in the synod. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say that I doubt very much if that will be the case. Of course, it will not be out of any fear that the leaders do not speak to these matters, but that doing so on this forum might give legitimacy to this site, and encourage even more open discussion and even more questioning of their actions, and those are things up with which they cannot and will not put, at least not in a forum such as this, where they would be open to anonymous attacks. More's the pity. Still, good luck!