Local Church Discipline, and the Statement on the Removal of JD Hall from Fellowship Baptist Church

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Confrontation and resolution of private sin of one Christian brother against another should be handled as privately as possible, according to what Christ says in Matthew 18:15-20.

Go privately to your brother first. If he won't listen, take along two or three witnesses and try again. If he still isn't listening, take the offending brother before the elders. If he writes them off too, take the offending brother before the church and regard him as an outsider.

This is reasonably interpreted by most as referring to the local church, but specific examples of rebuke and correction are found throughout the Scripture which the inclusion of itself proves that rebuke and correction of even laymen is not confined to only the knowledge of the local church.

If this were not so, the inclusion of these stories in the Biblical text would be very curious indeed. Therefore, those who object that any attempt to make the larger body of Christ aware of private sins on the part of a Christian brother or sister must reckon with this fact.

So far, I have yet to see this done. But it really needs to be done, and that fact is a primary driver of my work here right now.

The Biblical standard, principle, and command for handling sin and confrontation of church leaders like elders, pastors, and overseers, meanwhile, is different.

Confrontation and resolution of sin by an elder requires the fuller counsel of God than Matthew 18 alone. The testimony of two or three witnesses, according to what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5, establishes any charge which will be admitted.

The reasons for this are not stated explicitly here, but are certainly related to the Biblical qualifications for overseers that they be above reproach.

1 Timothy 3:2 – “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…”

Titus 1:7 – “For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain…”

Above reproach here does not mean incapable of sin or error; it means blameless in the sense of their character being so indisputably high that false charges of impropriety cannot stick.

As we talk about Romans 13 a lot on this podcast, the ideal of the governing authority being God's minister to do justice should not be misconstrued or twisted to mean the one in authority is infallible or perfect in the civil sphere; So also, the ideal of overseers being above reproach should not be misconstrued or twisted to mean they are imbued with infallibility or perfection in the ecclesiastical sphere.

But 1 Timothy 5 says when there is an established charge against an elder, it’s to be leveled in the sight of all. And some want this word “all” here to be narrowed to not mean “all” for reasons which may be sincere. Yet their handling of the truth requires gentle encouragement and correction. They are pure-hearted, perhaps. But they have not studied the relevant passages diligently enough, and need to be shown that.

Others, meanwhile, want this word “all” here to be narrowed to not mean “all” for reasons which are doubtless self-serving and self-protective. God alone knows perfectly the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Yet Jesus tells us to judge trees by the fruit they bear – whether good or evil – and that fruit is not doctrinal statements and verbal professions of faith.

Many in the Reformed tradition - who have Jordan Hall’s back, who defend their not having recognized the warning signs sooner - plead innocence on the basis that his doctrine was sound. These same ones should repent of having neglected judging trees by the fruit of their works and lives.

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