Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 14, 1961

Sin In The Church

Hoyt H. Houchen, Abilene, Texas

After the conquest of Jericho, three thousand men of Israel went up to take the city of Ai, but the result was that the Israelites fled from the men of Ai, suffering a great loss at their hands. There was one reason why the Israelites were defeated: There was sin in the camp. God had commanded that when his people would make their conquests they were not to covet the silver or the gold, nor to take it unto themselves. (Deut. 7:25) Someone in the camp of Israel had violated God's command and that was the reason God did not allow his people a victory as they had enjoyed before. Achan was found to be the guilty party and he was then punished by the congregation. For a full account of this incident, read Joshua, chapter 7.

The foregoing teaches us a most valuable lesson today and that is that sin in the church will barricade the march of the church toward victory. Sin does not work its way out of the church. Sin works in only one direction and that is in. There is but one way to rid the church of sin and that is by following the directions of the scriptures. The scriptures are plain on how to deal with the offender. First, every effort is to be made to restore him. (Gal. 6:1) As a fruit of repentance, the guilty will penitently confess his wrongs; he will not confess only when forced to do so. He will not arrogantly seek the favor of all whom he can win by sympathy and he will not cry "abuse." John the Baptist preached, "Bring forth fruit therefore worthy of repentance." (Matt. 3:8) It should not be a difficult task to determine whether or not the offender has repented.

When the offender fails to repent, we must do as Paul instructed in 1 Cor. 5:13, "Put away the wicked man from among yourselves." There is no choice left for the church; it must follow out this simple instruction, dealing with disorderly conduct in the way that the Lord has appointed. Personal association with the guilty will only lend encouragement to him. Paul wrote in 2 Thess. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly." To withdraw is to avoid all social contact with the guilty. This action is to be taken with the motive of restoring the offender. It is the Lord's way of keeping the church pure, that it may not have "spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:27) Every member of the church is expected to abide by this teaching.

Elders have a great responsibility. They are the "overseers" of the flock. (Acts 20:28) "They watch in behalf of our souls." (Heb. 13:17) They are to "tend the flock of God." (1 Pet. 5:2) They are to protect the flock from unsound teaching, immorality in living, and from those who would stir up strife.

When the problem of sin is properly met and dealt with, the church will continue to grow. In the fifth chapter of Acts, we have the account of Ananias and Sapphira who tried to deceive the church. When their sin was exposed and they were punished, "great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things." (Acts 5:11)