Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 19, 1970
NUMBER 41, PAGE 7-8a

The Matter Of Progress And Gaining Objectives

Burl E. Russell

Today many congregations are wondering why they are not growing and enlarging the borders of Zion as they believe they should. While there may be many reasons for a lack of growth, I believe there is one very prominent reason — and that is there is a complete lack of discipline on the agenda. When fear of rebuke for disobedience has been removed from any organized society, it invites contempt for the laws that govern it. A vivid example of this in the temporal realm is that of our own nation which has a sizeable segment of its citizens which is thumbing its collective nose at our laws. This has resulted in our inability to win a brush-war in Viet Nam and to keep our cities from being burned and pillaged. This same principle is true with respect to the church, which will never win its objective without a wholesome respect for God's laws which govern it, that cannot be retained without the fear of rebuke by discipline being ever present.

In Joshua 7, we read of the importance that God places on obedience to His laws, and a church free from sin. This was so important that He suffered the Israelites, who had won many wars against seemingly insurmountable odds, to be defeated in the attempt to take the little city of Ai, because there was sin in their camp. In Joshua 7:11 we read: "Israel hath sinned and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them, for they have taken of the accursed thing.. and they have even put it among their own stuff" In this account, ONE MAN Achan stole the wedge of gold, the Babylonish garment and the 200 shekels of silver — yet God through the inspired writer said:"THEY have taken of the accursed thing — THEY have put it among their own stuff," which clearly indicates that He held all of them accountable for this theft — disobedience to His laws. Today this "guilt" might be called 'guilt by association' or 'guilt by consent,' but in any event, God has made it quite clear that they couldn't collectively get any help from Him until they had first punished the one who had sinned.

`About thirty and six" (verse 5) men died because of the guilt of one man, and the hosts of Israel suffered ignominious defeat at the hands of "only a few." Israel was humbled and concerned about losing face where they had always marched to victory with the help of God, but He reassured them He would again be with them if they sanctified themselves.

While we realize that every congregation has members that sin, but when there are members that deliberately and willfully sin, and refuse to correct it, how can we be sure that every member won't be held accountable, providing they are aware of it and then do nothing to try to get the guilty to repent. In 2 Chron. 19:2 we read: "shouldst thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord, therefore is wrath come upon thee from the Lord." Also we read in Matt. 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." When one realizes that "little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. . . ," how could we have the Lord's interest at heart, and be "for Him" when we know that other members are being "corrupted" by the conduct of this one who is sinning, and do absolutely nothing to get him to correct his sin, or to help in "putting it without the camp" as was done with lepers under the old law? Furthermore in Rev. 21:20 the Lord declares "because thou sufferest the woman Jezebel to teach and seduce my servants. ." He held this against the church at Thyatira. "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

Disobedience to existing laws, whether it is in a divine or civil economy will disintegrate any organized society, corrupt and dissipate it, and finally completely destroy its ability to accomplish anything it attempts; hence disciplinary action for conformance to such laws is absolutely necessary — either self-imposed or enforced, if the society is to remain organized to accomplish anything. God has set these laws in motion, and in the church, if His laws are obeyed, its purpose will succeed, if not it will fail miserably.... It is as simple as that!

Members who love the Lord and the church will do all they can to advance His cause, and this can be done only by all members strictly adhering to divine laws, and helping those who may have a "besetting sin" discipline themselves. The pattern of such help begins in Galatians 6:1 with the admonition: "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. . . " If disobedience is personal, the steps are explained in Matthew 18:15-17 — "tell his fault between thee and him alone.. " and if this fail". . take with thee one or two more that in the mouths of two or three witnesses every word may be established." If this also fails — "tell it to the church, and let him be to you as a heathen and a publican."If the sin is of a public nature, and you are certain of it, after trying to get the sinner to repent and confess, the elders should be the FIRST to be made aware of it, NOT THE LAST, as in too many cases. If all else fails in reconciliation and repentance, the last step MUST be taken — "Now we command thee brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly... " (2 Thess. 3:6)

Even if our nation IS rapidly approaching the brink of anarchy and has lost its ability to gain any of its objectives, because of disobedience and contempt for civil laws, let us not allow the church to fail for the same reasons. Obedience to the command: "Them that sin, rebuke before all that others may fear. . . " (I Tim. 5:20) is the greatest deterrent to sin and God's way of keeping it pure and holy, when members refuse to practice self-discipline, hence it MUST be obeyed if the church is to win souls, and retain God's favor.