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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Church Discipline – Hypocrisy, Apostasy and the General Offense

The term “general offense”, as is the case with the term “Church discipline”, is not a scriptural term but is often used to describe an offense that is not personal but rather tends to bring reproach on the body of Christ through association. It is a clear and repetitive violation of one of the doctrines laid out by Christ and the Apostles that is commonly known by the community and committed by a professed believer. Were the Church truly being governed by the Word and the Spirit my thoughts on this topic could easily end with the above definition but I do not find that to be the case. If in your heart you are satisfied with this understanding then you might do well to leave off reading here. If on the other hand you find yourself summarizing the numerous articles of conformity that must be adhered to in order to maintain fellowship or you believe there is no such thing that can bring reproach on the Church then by all means, please continue to read.

For those who are unable to find cause for such an offense and subsequent action I offer Galatians 6:1, 1st Corinthians 5 and 6 and Romans 1:18-32 for a start. It should be clear from these texts that we are not to overlook or condone sin in the body of Christ yet given this understanding I still find that if there is a single argument for the total depravity of man it can be found in the fact that we, the Church have divided, persecuted and destroyed others and ourselves for righteousness sake. A wise young friend confided to me his belief that the Church is in apostasy. To my sadness I am hard pressed to find an argument against his conviction. Even before the Crusades and the dark ages we, who hold the word of Truth have twisted it and used it to promote our own political and social agendas. Our theological clarity and denominational necessities, which are the very source of our “Christian” pride, have always gone before our fall into apostasy. We, with our immoral moral codes and our unethical ethics are never content to be governed by the Word and the Spirit of God and instead have fallen into the error of the Israelites having established kingdoms and rulers of religion to govern us in all things. Of all the terrible tools of torture and warfare used by these wolves to terrorize and intimidate the flock none has been more effective than that of Church discipline by reason of a general offense. My own discouragement over the abuse of this doctrine and my lack of confidence in most assemblies would almost lead me to join with others who would avoid this instruction altogether but my devotions won’t allow that. There are violations that are clearly set forth in the scripture and far too many are happy to overlook them. Still though I’m usually content to define a thing by what it is but given the abuse of this doctrine I think it wise to consider what it is not.

A general offense is not a disagreement in theology. In my opinion one of the most important doctrines set forth by the early Church fathers is that of the Trinity yet even this doctrine is a theological construct. Even the denial of this doctrine does not constitute a general offense. One of the precepts that form it must be clearly denied before this could be considered a general offense. This would mean that either the offender denies that the man Jesus is the Son of God and claims He is not the Christ, or states there is no God or claims that the testimony of the Holy Spirit is untrue and God is a liar. The understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity is something to be learned but many expect the babe in Christ to have a full understanding on this. To these I would say be warned and do not call your brother a fool!

A general offense is not a difference of opinion concerning appearance. 1st Peter 3:3 is a widely misunderstood scripture that is normally used to browbeat women into some form of conformity.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;”
Most read this to say, “do not style your hair or wear jewelry or dress up” but is that really the message here? To the contrary verse 4 makes it clear that these things have no bearing on the adorning of a women but rather the adorning is inward. How ironic it is that when we use this verse to enforce a dress code we are actually teaching contrary to the very instructions in the text! I mean no disrespect to anyone and their choice of dress, I am only saying this; that it is a matter between you and your husband and your Lord and no person, or group of persons in the Church was given authority concerning this matter. While I would encourage a reasonable sense of modesty in appearance for all people it is certainly true that some of our sisters would appear voluptuous in sackcloth and ashes. Men, our weakness does not make them a stumbling block. If a sister has been blessed with such beauty then her inward adorning will quickly turn a straying mind. If we look on our own sisters in such a way then the problems are ours and not theirs.

Concerning conduct let Romans 14:4 always be foremost in our mind when considering a general offense. Who are we to tell a servant of our Lord what he can eat and drink or when and where he may do so? Show me the chains that Christ left for us to use to constrain those He has set at liberty! While I am persuaded there are places and things that a child of God should avoid I am equally convinced that the Holy Spirit will guide my brother’s conscience in those things just as He does my own.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Kristi said...

Kc, I'm glad you posted that explanation of how passages like I Peter 3:3 should correctly be used. So many people try to make up strict rules based on those passages, causing us to miss the whole point!

4/20/2006 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Kristi but I'm afraid that's only one of many that are used in a similar fashion. The vast majority are carefully selected from the OT.

4/20/2006 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Some excellent points.

But I do not like seeing women wearing pants.

God Bless

Matthew

4/20/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Matthew and I can appreciate your preference. Would you consider that an individual choice or a matter to be addressed by the Church?

4/20/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

It is a matter for individual consciences.

4/20/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks for your understanding Matthew.

4/20/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

We are a people who love rules, even when we hate them. It is very difficult for us to comprehend that Christianity is not a "religion of rules." (Check out Colossians 2.)

I think dependance on the Holy Spirit is a matter of trust...trusting that He knows what's right for us better than we do, ourselves.

Good post!

4/21/2006 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Amen Joe. I think we need to learn to trust in Him to guide our brethren too but doesn't it just seem like we know best? ;-)

4/21/2006 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I agree with Matthew. I also like to look at women's legs.

4/21/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

I bet Mrs. Dorsey can't take you anywhere! ;-)

4/21/2006 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...

I like to look at (some) men's legs, but only before or after worship service, never during. It helps if they're wearing shorts.

4/21/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

You guys are awful! (hehe)

4/21/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Great post kc!

I really liked your explanation of Peter 3:3. We, man/girls, are so good at taking the word and adding to it or taking verses out of context and twisting their true intentions.


I can't help myself, well I can but I usually don't........ does Peter mean in verse 4 that I can braid my hair and put on dresses if the hidden person in me really wants to do this? And is there a "point" that address's this in dorseyism?

Seriously though (can you believe I can be serious?) I really appreciate your time and the comments everyone has made concerning this subject.

It's been quite an eye opener, especially after the beam is gone. hehehe

4/21/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kris, thanks brother for your consistent support and encouragement. You’ve done a great job of keeping the scripture in context with your current post on reaping. I love it when an article challenges my understanding and makes me reevaluate my position like that one did.

As I said how you dress is between you and your spouse and God so if your wife is okay with the braids and the dress I will still love you, just from a little more distance (hehe).

4/22/2006 07:16:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

(BTW Kris I'm more than a little disappointed you didn't call me Jodie!) hahaha

4/22/2006 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

For the record, Dorseism is largely silent on the topic of crossdressing.

When you live in a glass house, you can't exactly throw stones.

4/22/2006 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Point WELL made! (hehe)

4/22/2006 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

ROTFL @ Dorsey!

4/24/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan S. said...

Contemporary problems concerning discipline in church

Problem #1: Church discipline is rarely used in churches.

Problem #2: When it is used, it is utilized sometimes in arbitrary, capricious manner, in absence of due process, procedural safeguards, and Biblical mode pertaining to witnesses and is often based on heresay.

4/20/2007 09:51:00 PM  

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