John’s Command to Divorce Remarriages

Understanding that we live in a high divorce rate society, this article merely scratches the surface on a potentially life-altering topic for many. If time permits, please listen to a fuller and more comprehensive 30 minute audio lecture of Dr. Kim detailing this topic by clicking HERE.

by Dr. Stephen Kim

For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18)

As a pastor, I am aware of my culture’s current social milieu regarding marriage. Yet, if the greatest of all prophets was willing to lose his head over this issue, then I think I can risk losing some church members. After all, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10).

Marriages are permanent for as long as either spouse is alive. Hence, Scripture plainly teaches us that all unlawful marriages must be promptly divorced. Repentance should not wait another day. Just because a person said a vow at the remarriage altar does not mean that the vow and the remarriage are accepted by God (remember, homosexuals say vows at their marriages as well). According to Christ, a remarriage following a divorce constitutes an unlawful marriage. More pointedly, Jesus identified such a remarriage as adultery (e.g., Mt 19:9). Adultery, as we all know, is absolutely prohibited in the seventh commandment found in Exodus 20:14.

Presently, pastors in Bible-believing churches will not officiate gay marriages. Most ministers will also not officiate remarriages. Since the Bible plainly instructs its readers (multiple times) that homosexuality is a sin (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9); therefore, no Christian pastor will ever officiate a gay marriage. And since Jesus plainly instructs us that remarriage after a divorce is adultery; therefore, no Christian pastor will ever officiate a remarriage (cf. Mt 5:32, Mt 19:9, Mk 10:11, and Lk 16:18). [A man or woman is free to remarry only after the death of his or her spouse (1 Cor 7:39).]

According to Scripture, gay marriage is the sin of sodomy; and remarriage is the sin of adultery. Those who continue to practice either of the two sins shall not enter into heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10). Let no one deceive you. Yes, we are saved by faith alone, but true saving faith produces genuine repentance. Christians have always lovingly, but firmly, called for the divorce of all unlawful marriages (e.g., remarriages, gay marriages). We love you, so we want you to stop hurting yourself by continuing to live in sin. As Augustine once so aptly put it:

You must not have wives whose former husbands are living; nor may you, women, have husbands whose former wives are living. Such marriages are adulterous, not by the law of the courts, but by the law of Heaven. Nor may a woman who by divorce has withdrawn from her husband become your wife while her husband lives. Only because of fornication may one dismiss an adulterous wife; but in her lifetime you may not marry another. Neither to you, O women, is it granted to find husbands in those men whose wives have quitted them by divorce: such are adulterous, not marriages. (Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. Sermon 392, c. 2.)

THE PASTOR’S CALL FOR DIVORCE

Christians currently live in an America where divine law clashes with earthly law. Today, both homosexual marriages and remarriages are permitted in our nation. Thus, in the course of gospel ministry, pastors might encounter a recently converted Christian man who is either remarried or is in a gay marriage. In such cases, the pastor rightfully instructs the man to divorce his illegitimate marriage. When the Bible states that God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), it is referring to the fact that God hates the divorce of any true marriage. Both gay marriage and remarriage are not true marriages in the sight of God. To not divorce the illegitimate marriage is to remain either a sodomite or an adulterer–neither will inherit the kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor 6:9-10).

GOD’S CALL FOR DIVORCE

Yes, God wants gay men to divorce their gay marriages. God also wants adulterers to divorce their remarriages. (Remember, such marriages are not true marriages in the first place!) God would never instruct a new believer who is in a gay marriage to “remain as he is” by maintaining the gay marriage. Instead, God would expect the immediate termination of all unlawful marriages. Whether a man marries his mother, a beast, a man, or another man’s wife (which, according to Christ, is what a remarriage truly is)–all unlawful marriages must be divorced as soon as possible.

A pastor could easily (and rightfully) state that Exodus 20:14 calls for the divorce of remarriages, and that Romans 1:27 calls for the divorce of gay marriages. Yet, in this article, I wish to simply point you to John the Baptist. Mark 6:18 is a standalone verse which powerfully prescribes the divorce of all unlawful marriages. 

Herodias left her husband in order to remarry Herod. The Bible (in Mark 6:17) definitively states that a remarriage between Herod and Herodias had occurred. However, the remarriage was an unlawful marriage in the sight of God because it either violated Leviticus 20:21, or Leviticus 20:10.

Since Herodias was certainly remarried to Herod (Mk 6:17); therefore, John the Baptist was certainly calling for the divorce of Herod’s remarriage when he said, “It is not lawful for you to have [notice the present tense] your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). In light of Mark 6:17, there is no other way to read Mark 6:18. In other words, John was saying, “Herod, get a divorce from Herodias! It is a sin for you to remain married to her!” Here is the biblical text:

For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:17-18)

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE

My point in this article is quite straight-forward: If John demanded the termination of Herodias’s remarriage, then God demands the divorce of all unlawful marriages. Whether it’s gay marriage or remarriage, as Christians, we must do what is right before God. We must not tell gay men to divorce their gay marriages while simultaneously instructing remarried divorcees to stay in their remarriages. We must not call for the cessation of sodomy but allow for the continuation of adultery.

John’s willingness to die for this issue demonstrates to all of us that the sanctity of marriage is a first-tier “Gospel” issue. May we all have such courage to stand up for marital righteousness. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

Postscript: Extra-biblical history confirms the biblical account of Herodias’s remarriage to Herod:

Herodias was married to Herod, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamme the daughter of Simon the high priest. They had a daughter Salome, after whose birth Herodias, taking it into her head to flout the way of our fathers, married Herod the Tetrarch, her husband’s brother by the same father, who was tetrarch of Galilee; to do this she parted from a living husband. (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.3 136)

A More Comprehensive Article: Remarriage is Adultery

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Teaching Boys to Kill

by Dr. Stephen Kim

“The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)

Three days ago, the White House announced that the president’s first budget will call for a historic $54 billion increase in military spending as the fight against ISIS and the global war against Islamic terrorists continue. As we speak, there are some 4,000 civilians fleeing Mosul each day amid the fighting. As they escape, they witness bodies of children and body parts strewn all over the ground. My brother is a surgeon who just finished a medical deployment in Mosul with Franklin Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse. According to my brother, Islamic fighters intentionally target young children and women. It is unspeakable evil.

Two nights ago, I watched the much acclaimed movie, Hacksaw Ridge, with my wife. The movie is based off the true story of Private Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who served as a conscientious objector during World War II. Private Doss saved 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa without lifting a weapon. For his actions, Doss was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.

The actions of Doss were unequivocally praiseworthy. When an American risks his own life to save the lives of his fellow Americans (with or without a gun), the act is worthy of our deepest gratitude. Desmond Doss deserved the Medal of Honor for what he did that day on “Hacksaw Ridge.” No question about that.

Yet, one could easily ask: “What if everyone during World War II objected to bearing arms because Christ told us to turn the other cheek?” Where would we be as a nation? Where would we be as a world? I am sure that both Japan and Nazi Germany would have loved such ruminations. As Edmund Burke rightly observed, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Both President Trump’s first budget and the life of Private Doss remind me of the importance of sound theology. Truth is, Desmond Doss was dead wrong in objecting to kill as an American soldier during World War II. Without bogging you down with the particulars of Augustinian “Just War” theory, let us be clear that the bearing arms to protect the people you love from an evil aggressor is not prohibited anywhere in Scripture. Executing a murderer is not murder (Gen 9:6, Acts 25:11). And a president’s (or king’s) ordering of soldiers to destroy an evil enemy is actually part of the leader’s divinely appointed responsibilities (Rom 13:4).

No question, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9), but we must never take such verses out of context. The bloody cross of Jesus Christ is the clarion historical case study which shows us that both God’s justice and God’s love exist conjunctively. We would be wise to remember that peace is never free in a fallen world. Strangely, Desmond Doss erroneously continued to observe the Saturday Sabbath while refusing to fight on behalf of his nation. Biblically, Doss had the prohibitions reversed: Christians are to no longer keep the Saturday Sabbath, and Christian soldiers are to fight heartily for peace.

TEACHING OUR SONS

Jesus did not command the centurion to resign his post; instead, He commended the military leader’s faith (Lk 7:9). God, Himself, is a “man of war” (Ex 15:3), and King Jesus’s return to earth and subsequent ascent to His throne will be the bloodiest ascent in the history of mankind (Rev 14:20). While we must teach our sons to be men of peace, we must also teach them that it is honorable to serve as godly soldiers or law enforcement officers. Since such professions act on behalf of God as His “avengers” bearing the sword (Rom 13:4), Christian men ought to serve joyfully, not dubiously, in such professions. Soldiers ought to know that their line of work is honorable before men and honored by God. They ought to have the full support and gratitude of the American people.

Peace is never free in a fallen world, and the harsh reality is that a conscientious objector is only free to object because his brother has not objected. Pacifism, in the face of appalling evil, is not just bad theology–it’s a sin.

[This article was originally posted on Raising Godly Children.]

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After-birth Abortion: An Evaluation and Critique

This post is my evaluation and critique of the following work:

Giubilini, Alberto and Francesca Minerva. “After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” Journal of Medical Ethics, February 23, 2012.

Context and Purpose

          With Roe v. Wade nearly four decades old, the Journal of Medical Ethics, in February of 2012, decided to publish a controversial article entitled, “After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” After more than thirty five years of legalized abortions, this article probably did not create the type of national stir that it should have. Furthermore, its arguments were not entirely novel. Men like Peter Singer from Princeton University, and Michael Tooley (who earned his PhD from Princeton) have made similar arguments in the past. Yet, because it did appear in the Journal of Medical Ethics, it was substantive in that, it gave us a look into the potential future of bioethics.

Both authors hail from Australia. Alberto Giubilini was with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva served at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne. At the outset, the authors of the article established the fact that, “Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health.” Upon establishing the reality that abortions are legal in many Western nations, the authors then proposed the legalization of infanticide. The aim of their paper was to persuade the scientific community that infanticide ought to be legal on three primary grounds. First, the authors claim that, “Both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons.” Second, the authors believe that, “The fact that both [newborns and fetuses] are potential persons is morally irrelevant.” And third, the authors attempt to persuade readers that, “Adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people” and that, “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” For all of the reasons why abortion is legal, the authors propose that infanticide ought to also be legalized.

Evaluation and Critique

          “Satanic, but logically consistent.” Although those words might not be the most suitable words for an academic paper, nevertheless, those are the words that continued to course through my mind during the reading of this paper. It was satanic because proposing the legalization of infanticide stems only from the mind of Satan, the ultimate murderer (Jn 8:44). Perhaps nothing could be more satanic than the murders of those that are most tender, young, and vulnerable within our society. Yet, as satanic as the proposal for infanticide is, the authors are sadly, highly logically consistent. Politicians and women who support abortion, but recoil with horror at the thought of killing a newborn, ought to carefully consider their own logical inconsistencies. A newborn child and a fetus within the mother’s womb are essentially of the same value in every way. As heinous as the proposal within this article is, it is nevertheless, logically consistent to allow for infanticide if the nation already permits abortion. My hope is that the authors of this article will awaken some into action against legalized abortion as they begin to see the harsh reality that abortion is really tantamount to infanticide.

Reasons for Abortion

          The authors begin their piece by giving us two frequently offered reasons for abortion: “Severe abnormalities of the fetus and risks for the physical and/or psychological health of the woman are often cited as valid reasons for abortion.” As a result of living in a culture that accepts those reasons as valid reasons for abortion, the authors begin by using those reasons as foundations for creating ethically strange situations where a newborn should be killed. Regarding the psychological health of the woman, the authors put forth a case where, “… a woman who loses her partner after she finds out that she is pregnant and therefore feels she will not be able to take care of the possible child by herself.” According to the authors (and the general public) unforeseen economic duress is a good reason for abortion. If this is indeed a valid reason for abortion, then the authors would argue that likewise, if a spouse unexpectedly dies shortly after childbirth, or perhaps even during childbirth, then the remaining spouse ought to have the right to kill the newborn. They would argue that being out of the womb is of no real substantive difference when considering the life of the child.

The authors also see that many women choose to have an abortion if severe abnormalities are detected in the fetus during their pregnancies. Many within our society do believe that the presence of such abnormalities is a justified reason for killing a child in the womb. Yet, the authors of this article push us to think further. They write, “A serious philosophical problem arises when the same conditions that would have justified abortion become known after birth. In such cases, we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human.” The authors conclude that the same arguments do apply to killing a newborn human. The authors give us various abortion-like scenarios that might justify the killing of a newborn; scenarios such as complications during childbirth, or undetected genetic disorders that escape prenatal screening. The authors write, “Perinatal asphyxia, for instance, may cause severe brain damage and result in severe mental and/or physical impairments comparable with those for which a woman could request an abortion. Moreover, abnormalities are not always, or cannot always be, diagnosed through prenatal screening even if they have a genetic origin.” Essentially, the authors make the case that the reasons given to validate abortions also exist for newborns. Therefore, they would argue that if the reasons are valid, then infanticide, like abortion, should also be legalized.

Logically, of course, the authors are consistent. If indeed, those are valid reasons for abortion, then they are also valid reasons for infanticide. A baby is a baby no matter where he is situated. However, underneath a biblical perspective, those two reasons are not valid reasons for murder. Human beings are made in the image of God, and Scripture does not give individuals the right to arbitrarily take the life of another human being. A handicap or a deformity should not cause a parent to eliminate her child. On the contrary, the genetic deformity or physical handicap requires greater love and care—not the elimination of the individual! We are not the ones to decide that life is not worth living if a person possesses a certain deformity. The fact is, we are all deformed—it is only a matter of degrees. Even the authors of the article reported that, “It might be maintained that ‘even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down’s syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child’. But, in fact, people with Down’s syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.”

Furthermore, the psychological health of the woman is certainly not a valid reason for abortion (or infanticide). If this was ever to become a valid reason, then every teacher, pastor, or police officer would have the right to kill the very individuals they are called to serve. We are all (to some degree) a psychological drain on someone else—especially on those who care for us. It is, after all, part of being a fallen human. Yet, this interdependence calls for virtues such as patience and love. Murder should never be a valid coping strategy for stress caused by caring for someone. Finally, although rearing a child is stressful at times, the woman who opts to kill her child painfully ignores the fact that the joys of parenthood far outweigh its tolls.

Terminology

          Very often, the devil is in the details. Words matter, and when it comes to ethical issues, words often matter heavily. On this heated issue, the authors argue that, “In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” Yet, the authors fail to realize that changing the term does not alter the sinfulness of the act. The authors keenly observe that the term “after-birth abortion” is indeed an oxymoron (killing someone outside the womb is not an abortion), yet for the sake of consumer palatability, they coin it as such.

What is truly sick in all this is the virtually “given” perspective that it is okay to kill a fetus. If we follow the natural flow of arguments, then, a fetus is not a child; a newborn is not a child; and soon, a child will no longer be a child. Why the fuddling with terminology? Evidently, because it is still wrong to kill a child. Biblically speaking however, a child is a child at conception (Ps 51:5). Yet, for a society that does not believe that a child in the womb is truly a child, the conclusion made by the authors of this article will soon begin making sense. It is only a matter time before, they too, like the authors of this article, will begin to say: “Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be.” On that day, heads will simply nod along in agreement because of logical consistency that is based on a terribly flawed premise.

Personhood

The crux of this entire paper resides in the argument that a fetus (and by extension, a newborn) is not a “person.” The authors of this article argue that, “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.” Throughout the article, the authors identify the newborn and fetus as “potential” persons, but not “actual” persons. The authors write, “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

This differentiation between “person” and “potential person” is key for their argumentation. Due to the fact that the authors do not view the newborn and fetus as having personhood, they therefore, believe that it is perfectly fine to kill them. In fact, they believe that there is no real “harm” inflicted upon newborns when they are killed by their mothers. The authors write, “The reason is that, by virtue of our definition of the concept of ‘harm’ in the previous section, in order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm.” In other words, the authors are arguing that actual harm is only something that could be inflicted on actual persons. However, the authors do not believe that the newborn nor the fetus is an actual person. Hence, they write, “If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all.”

What is tragic about this sort of argumentation is that it actually makes sense to some. Rather than cogent argumentation, this is merely the rationalization of sin. It is also as nonsensical as it is unscriptural. For the authors, animals are categorized as “persons” deserving the right to life, whereas infants and newborns are not. They write, “This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.” The height of nonsense is found in that quote. When we begin differentiating between “human” and “person,” then we are certainly headed for imbecilic self-destruction as a society.

The Bible informs us that humans are “persons” at conception. Scripture states, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5).[1] Thus, the sacred text reveals a harsh reality within a blessed truth. The blessed truth is that we are human “persons” at conception. The harsh reality is that we are, therefore, also sinners at conception. At conception, the child is truly a person, and because the child is a person, the psalmist reveals that God holds the him accountable for sin. All human persons are inherently sinners due to Adam’s sin. Scripture reveals that we are held accountable for this inherited sin at the moment of conception. This of course, is the doctrine of “original sin.” Although bioethicists may argue about when “personhood” actually begins for the human being, the Christian on the other hand, is clearly informed by Scripture that personhood begins at conception. Non-persons cannot sin. Authentic human persons, on the other hand, are sinners. The Bible informs us that we are sinners at the moment of conception. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the freshly conceived child is indeed a “person.” The child in the womb is a sinful person, but nevertheless, he is a real person. In fact, he is a sinful person because he is a real person. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Conclusions

          Although the authors of this article attempt to make a distinction between terms such as “human” and “person,” the Bible incontrovertibly states that all humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), and therefore, all humans are inherently valuable. Thus, all humans have the right to life. This is not a right given to humanity by the United States Constitution, but rather, the right comes from Almighty God Himself. “Personhood” and life begins at conception and therefore, both abortion and infanticide are sins against God. More specifically, they are the sins of murder. The terms we use make a difference. There is no such thing as “after-birth abortion.” Instead, it is really the murder of an infant child. There is no such thing as “the abortion of a fetus.” Instead, it is really the murder of a child within the womb. Both the fetus and the newborn are children made in the image of God and are therefore, no one but God has the right to take their lives.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quotations of Scripture are from the New American Standard Bible.

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6 KEYS TO RAISING GODLY MEN

by Dr. Stephen Kim

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)

There is a profound shortage of “real men” in our nation. When I read verses like the one above, I can’t help but feel the very high expectations that God specifically has for Christian boys.

1 Corinthians 6:13 was not addressed to women for it would be wrong for women to “act like men.” Surely, the Bible was written for both men and women, and the souls of men and women have equal salvific value in the sight of God (Gal 3:28). However, a person cannot deny the fact that in virtually every Pauline epistle, the apostle is specifically writing to and addressing the “brothers” of the church (e.g., Rom 1:13, 1 Cor 1:10, 2 Cor 1: 8, Gal 6:1, Eph 6:23, etc.). Furthermore, verses like the one above heavily testify to the fact that when Paul wrote the word brothers, he was specifically referring to the men of the church. The men, upon reading Paul’s letter, were to then teach the rest of the church–including the women.

Despite what our egalitarian culture/society tries to tell us, there is a divine perspective to the gender narrative and it goes something like this:

“For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor 11:7).

Satan is well aware of this truth and that is why he is working so hard to demote our men. Why? Because the glory of God is at stake. Apparently, nothing reminds him more of his archenemy than the human male–the one who bears the image and glory of God. Hence, the pervasive nature of emasculation within our society, within our churches, and within our family units.

“O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths.” (Isaiah 3:12)

We, as a nation, stand at the precipice of the nation’s first female president (i.e., Hillary Clinton). Hanna Rosin, in her 2010 book, The End of Men (and in subsequent articles), has argued for the obsolescence of men. She says that the minimization of men playing “major roles” within society is a good thing.

While I ardently disagree, the data she cites is alarming. Consider these realities:

-In the U.S., 1/5th of able-bodied men are not working; and in 2009, the U.S. workforce became majority women.
-In the West, including the U.S., roughly 60% of college graduates are women. Women also earn 60% of all master’s degrees.
-Educationally, boys lag behind girls essentially from the crib onward.
-Of the 15 job categories marked for growth in the decade ahead, men will dominate only two: janitorial work and computer engineering.

My goodness! With such a context, Christians must pray and work hard at attempting to raise godly sons.

6 KEYS TO RAISING GODLY MEN

1. Pray. If you have sons, pray for them. Pray for them in the womb. Pray for them in the crib. Pray for them before you drop them off at school. Pray, pray, pray! You cannot ensure your son’s masculinity–but God can! Remember the prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2? A praying parent makes a huge difference in the lives of boys!

2. Ensure Scripture Reading. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). The best way for a young man to become a man of character and integrity is by storing up God’s Word. God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword. God is the ultimate Father and His words are the best to follow if a young man is to become a “man.”

3. Expose Him to Powerful Preaching. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). Powerful preaching creates powerful men. Weak preaching creates weak men. God spoke the universe into existence. There is power in the preached Word of God. And please, don’t even think about going to a church with a female pastor–it’s actually prohibited by God (1 Tim 2:12).

4. Surround Him With Godly Men. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Kids naturally imitate (which is why boys usually want to grow up and do exactly the same jobs as their dads). Hence, it’s important that we surround them with good models. Dads, of course, are the best examples for boys. Fathers therefore, ought to strive to be godly men. If you don’t have a father at home, then encourage some of the godly men at church to be involved in your son’s life. Most men would love to mentor! Additionally give him biographies of Christian men who gave their all for Christ.

5. Stress the Importance of Education. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Prov 4:7). The first and greatest commandment informs us that God expects us to love Him with “all our minds.” If unbelievers have reasons to study, we have the ultimate! Encourage boys to study hard. Evolution, naturalism, and secular humanism are all atheistic “superstructures” that require engagement from the most potent Christian minds. Contrary to being “anti-intellectualism,” Christianity has always been the cause of intellectual progress. Oxford and Cambridge were started by Christians. In the United States, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were all started by Christians. (In fact, Princeton’s crest still reads, “Dei sub numine viget,” which is Latin for “Under God she flourishes.”)

Without an education, boys will never lead. God gave them talents and a mind, and He expects a return on investment!

6. Teach Him to Respect Authority. “Give to everyone what you owe them: if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Rom 13:7). There is one common theme among fatherless boys: the inability to respect authority. Sadly, though they see it as a mark of brash independence, it is nothing more than the means to their own destruction. Boys who grow up in settings where older males do not respect their parents, teachers, bosses, police officers, pastors, and other authority figures rarely do well in life. Teach your son to respect authority. Why? Because authority flows out of authority.

I have 2 girls and 2 boys of my own. No question, my girls are precious–both in my eyes and in God’s! But make no mistake about this: God has a very unique role for each of my boys–a role that my girls were never intended by God to fulfill. God knows this, but so does Satan.

But boys don’t simply “become” men. They need fathers, mentors, pastors, and guides. They need examples–someone to imitate. Ultimately, they need God–the quintessential Father; and Christ–the quintessential man. As Christian men, we must therefore, do all that is in our power to develop our boys into men. The “glory” of our country, our schools, our churches, and our families depend on it!

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Imprecatory Psalms

by Dr. Stephen Kim

As Christians, when we read of the atrocities committed by ISIS, there is a part of us that desires to pray imprecatory prayers. Imprecatory psalms are those psalms within the Bible that call God’s judgment, curses, and even death upon the enemies of psalmist. Take a look at this passage from Psalm 139:

19 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
20 For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Modern sensibilities are often riled when such passages of Holy Scripture are read. First of all, we see that it is not a sin to have legitimate enemies. And of course, the great difficulty is reconciling such passages with passages such as Jesus’ words found in Matthew 5:44:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Questions begin to swirl: Do we love our enemies or do we hate them? Do we pray for them or do we pray for their destruction? Is God a vindictive Being? Can we pray imprecatory prayers?

POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS

Modern Christians often try to employ one of three explanations when it comes to the imprecatory prayers of David:

  1. Progressive Revelation. Some Christians believe these passages reflect a lower standard of ethics than that espoused by Christ. They allege that this sub-Christian ethic was characteristic of Old Testament times, and that such texts are not meant to teach us anything except some historical context. Supposedly, they were included in the Bible because of “progressive revelation.” We’ve all outgrown that stuff now.
  2. God Disapproves. Lastly, another group of scholars believe that the imprecatory psalms are an accurate record of what the psalmists were emotionally experiencing, but there is no approval from God for the sentiments. In fact, God disapproves the hatred of the psalmist and instead, God would have us to love our enemies.
  3. Indicative Tense. Some Christians claim that the writers of these psalms speak in the indicative mood (the “explanatory” mood), and not in the “imperative mood” (the mood of command or firm request). In other words, they merely were stating what would happen to the wicked if they did not repent. In this view, the writers were not actually requesting God to destroy the wicked.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE EXPLANATIONS

Alexander McClaren once said, “Perhaps, it would do modern tenderheartedness no harm to have a little more iron infused into its gentleness, and to lay to heart that the King of Peace must first be King of Righteousness” (McClaren, Alexander. 1892. The Psalms. Vol. 3. New York, NY: George Doran Company, 375). If we put off our modern, politically-correct, sensitivities aside for a moment, we will find much truth in McClaren’s words–particularly as relating to the imprecatory psalms.

Option one clearly does not work for those of us who believe in the divine inspiration of the Holy Bible. The God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. God does not change. In fact, immutability is a divine attribute that effectively differentiates us fickle humans from the divine. God instructed us to love our neighbors in the Old Testament (cf. Lev 19:18). Things have not changed much. Furthermore, although revelation is progressive, progressive revelation is not the belief that wrongdoing is later rectified into proper teaching. Rather, progressive revelation is simply the belief that theological truths that were once obscure are now more clear (e.g., the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Holy Spirit’s work).

Option two seems as if it might work–but there’s one major problem: the imprecatory psalms were written by men who were underneath the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yes, sometimes the Bible merely records words as part of an account without giving theological support for the statements (cf. Jephthah’s words, Judas’ words, or even the denials of Simon Peter). However, these psalmists are clearly said to be “in the Spirit” when writing these Psalms. Hence, we can definitively and conclusively know that God, Himself, has the same perspective as the psalmist.

Option three works for some passages, but it doesn’t work for all. Some passages clearly have the psalmist actually calling for the deaths of his enemies (cf. verse 19 above).

CONCLUSION AND SOLUTION

So where do we go from here? Is the God of the Old Testament some sort of monster? Do we just throw out the entire Bible for its apparent contradictions?

Before we rush to judgment, let’s get one thing clear: Jesus said some harsh things Himself. Take for example, a scenario where due to a seemingly haphazard accident, eighteen people died. What was Jesus’ response? You’d be surprised: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).

Too often, we have a higher view of man’s morality than what is truly warranted. Hence, in our minds, no sin ever warrants the divine punishment meted out. In our minds, Sodom was bad–but it didn’t deserve fire and sulfur. In our minds, Korah was bad–but he didn’t deserve to be eaten alive by the earth. In our minds, all Uzzah did was touch the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from falling–he didn’t deserve to be struck dead on the spot. We have the same perspective of every catastrophe that occurs in our contemporary era. We are indeed an entitled bunch. A. F. Kirkpatrick admonishes us saying, “Men have need to beware lest in pity for the sinner they condone the sin, or relax the struggle against evil” (Kirkpatrick, A. F. 1906. The Book of Psalms. Cambridge, England: University Press, xciii).

So what of those imprecatory psalms?

They prove that our God is as righteous as He is loving. They prove that the sin and the sinner are inextricable. They prove that we all have an internal craving for divine justice. They prove that God is in control, that hell and heaven are real, and that God is burning bright with holiness. In a sense, they are theodicies.

The scholarly and benign, C. S. Lewis, once wrote: “[T]he ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that . . . is hateful to God” (Lewis, C. S. 1958. Reflections on the Psalms. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 33). That much is very true. Evil is objective and God objectively hates it.

And quite frankly, it should be hateful to us as well. Have such prayers ceased for the elect? Au contraire, Scripture reveals quite the opposite. It reveals a future where our brethren in glory will still pray that way–even after death:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:9-10)

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1 Timothy 2:8-3:3

by Dr. Stephen Kim

[8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

Paul addresses each sex uniquely. He begins by addressing men. The “place” is describing the church—the gathered assembly of believers, the ἐκκλησία—as seen by 1 Timothy 3:15: “If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Additional evidence that demonstrates this to be instructions for the context of the church is seen by the fact that the word ἄνδρας (men) is in the plural.

Both men and women are susceptible to anger, but it is far more the “sin of choice” among men. It is a dastardly exhibition of the flesh and one that if continually practiced, will bar one from entering the kingdom of God (cf. Gal 5:20). In lieu of anger is supposed to be the peaceful lifting up of hands in prayer—which the men are advised to do in churches. Woe to the church that is full of angry men fighting one another!

[9] likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

“Likewise” denotes that an instruction will run the same vein as the preceding exhortation. Just as men were told how to behave in church, so now, the women are likewise instructed. The sin that is more acutely commonplace among women is the sin of vanity and outward adornment. Hence, the apostle warns them to wear respectable apparel—garments that will not draw the attentions of others within the church off of God and upon them. The Greek word for “respectable” is the word κοσμίῳ and it carries the sense of “respectability” and “seemly.” The prohibition is not a complete ban on the braiding of hair, gold, or pearls; for if we apply the same hermeneutic to the similar command given in 1 Peter 3:3, then we must conclude that there is to be a ban on clothing! Rather, Paul is simply instructing the women not to dress seductively or ostentatiously. Braided hair, gold, and pearls were worn by first-century women to draw attention to their statuses, their wealth, and beauty. This would be a self-glorifying distraction during worship.

[10] but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Instead of those outward and ostentatious practices mentioned in verse nine, Paul instructs women to have a godly heart which is naturally displayed through the doing of good works (cf. Eph 2:10, 1 Tim 5:10).

[11] Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

The Greek verb here (Gk. μανθανέτω) for “let…learn” is in the imperative form. Hence, the apostle is actually commanding that women learn quietly. Speaking to teach denotes authority (cf. verse 12), whereas silence denotes submission. For the Christian woman, the embrace of submission to biblical authority figures is a mark of spiritual maturity (cf. 1 Pet 3:6).

It is also implicit within the command that churches ought to be teaching their women— a great novelty in the Pauline era. Both first-century Greek culture and Judaism did not hold women in high regard. Paul’s instruction to teach women, therefore, was a revolutionary concept that showed a very high regard for women. Claims of Paul’s misogyny are false and misplaced.

[12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

“Permit” is the Greek word ἐπιτρέπω and it carries the meaning of “allowing.” Paul, under divine injunction, does not allow a woman to teach (Gk. διδάσκειν). Implicit within this injunction is the fact that teaching within the church carries authority. This, therefore, certainly prohibits women from becoming elders within the church because the role of elder has both teaching and governance responsibilities (cf. 1 Tim 3:2). The command explicitly prohibits women from any teaching or governing position within the church which exerts authority over men within the church. Thus, this does not simply mean that a woman cannot be a pastor, but it also prohibits her from teaching or leading church-based home Bible study small groups which contain men. Writer and scholar, Wayne Grudem writes,

I would not think it appropriate for a woman to be a permanent leader of a home fellowship group, especially if the group regularly carries out pastoral care of its members and functions as a sort of mini-church within the church. This is because the leader of such a group carries a governing authority that seems to me very similar to the authority over the assembled congregation that Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 2. Given the frequently small nature of churches meeting in homes in the first century, and given the “pastoral” nature of the responsibility of leading a home fellowship group, I think Paul would have thought of this as included in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men.” Furthermore, “she is to remain quiet.” (Grudem, Wayne. 1995. But What Should Women Do In The Church? The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 1, no. 2: 5.)

Grudem’s point is simple: Small group Bible studies which meet in homes feel and function as extensions of the church (this is what he means by “mini-church”). In such settings, there is teaching occurring, the Bible is being expounded, and men are often present alongside women. Therefore, in such cases, women should not be “teaching or exercising authority,” as per the 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibition. Grudem further elaborates and notes that many churches in the New Testament often met in homes—which were a very similar type of gathering to today’s “small group.”

Some have claimed that αὐθεντεῖν, “to exercise authority,” simply means that a woman could preach, but that she should not do so in a domineering way. However, solid scholarship shows that αὐθεντεῖν does not mean “to domineer” or “to flout authority,” but that it means “to have (exercise) authority” (Kostenberger 1995, 103).

“She is to be quiet” is a prohibition against women speaking when the church is assembled. In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul commands the churches that, “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” A woman’s silence within the church, therefore, displays her Christian maturity and submission to the lordship of Christ.

A common objection is, “But what about the fact that Paul acknowledges that women have the ability to prophesy in 1 Corinthians 11:5?” The answer is quite simple: If Scripture does not contradict, then 1 Corinthians 11:5 must simply be referring to women who prophesied outside of the context of the assembled church (cf. Acts 21:9). Philip’s four virgin daughters certainly did prophesy, but they did so at home and never within the context of the assembled church. A woman prophesying in the middle of the gathered church would be considered “shameful” by God (1 Cor 14:35).

[13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

The first of two reasons the apostle gives for prohibiting women from speaking and exercising authority over men. Rather than rooting his prohibition on some temporal, cultural context; Paul instead roots it on a pre-Fall, Creation Ordinance. According to Paul, because God made man first, therefore a woman is to never exercise authority over him. This original chronology in creation by God was evidently done intentionally and with purpose. Hence, Paul’s prohibition stands for all time and is not subject to change based on societal shifts. The church’s embrace of this divinely-ordained authority structure is an acknowledgment of the lordship of Jesus Christ.

[14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Adam (the man) was not deceived by the serpent in Genesis 3. This also implies that Adam was a transgressor by choice—not deception. Nevertheless, the point of this verse is to demonstrate what occurs when a when a woman leaves and disrupts the God-ordained structure of male leadership. Leaving the protection and guidance of her husband, Eve became vulnerable and susceptible to attack and deception. Adam, abdicating his God-given leadership, follows Eve into sinning against God. This was a complete reversal of God-ordained sexual roles—one which is now being restored through complementarian churches. It is important to note that although Eve fell first, God however, held the man principally responsible (Gen 3:9). It is in Adam (not Eve), we all attain Original Sin (Rom 5:19), and it is through the God-man, Jesus Christ, that believers are imputed righteousness (Rom 5:19).

[15] Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

The Greek word for “saved” is in the future, indicative, passive tense. Additionally, Paul uses the plural “they.” Combined, these facts show us that Eve is not the person in view in verse fifteen. Instead, Paul is talking about all future women.

Within the context of Scripture, Paul is clearly not saying that women will attain salvation by bearing children for that would contradict the New Testament gospel of salvation by faith alone. The word for “saved” is the Greek word σωθήσεται and it could mean “preserved,” “healed,” or “rescued.” The word appears numerous times in the New Testament without any reference to salvation (cf. 2 Tim 4:18; Matt 8:25; 9:21, 22; 24:22; 27:40). Consistent with the theme of this epistle, Paul is saying that as a married woman embraces a role that is clearly and uniquely feminine (i.e., childbearing), she testifies to her genuine faith and is thus being “preserved” by God unto eternal life. Childbearing, therefore, is merely a wonderful fruit of a woman who is genuinely saved. Instead of rebelling against God’s design in creation; by bearing children, the woman testifies to the fact that she has lovingly embraced and that she cherishes her God-given identity as a female. This act of obedience brings glory to God and helps assure her of her salvation.  “Love,” “holiness,” and “self-control” are also fruits of a genuinely saved individual.

[3:1] The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.

The pastor’s job is a good work. The first word translated as “aspires” is the Greek word, ὀρέγεται, and it is a reference to an external “desire towards.” The second word translated as “desires” is the Greek word, ἐπιθυμεῖ, and it is a reference to a strong inner desire. Both words could be translated as “desires” but in the Greek, they carry two different meanings. The man of God must possess both desires. He must not only outwardly aspire to the pastorate, but he must also be deeply internally convinced that he is called by God to do the job.

“Overseer” is translated for the Greek word ἐπισκοπῆς, and it refers to the office of pastor, elder, or bishop (most literally, it is the word “bishop”). The New Testament uses these terms often interchangeably to refer to the same office (cf. 1 Pet 5:1, Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5). Overseers were responsible for literally “overseeing” the church. They oversee the flock by teaching and preaching the Word of God, protecting the sheep from error, conducting discipline, praying for the flock, ordaining other elders, and living by example.

[2] Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

“Must” is used in the Greek to show that these traits are absolutely necessary within the man who leads God’s house. Holy living is a mandatory requirement for the pastor. “Above reproach” is another way of saying “blameless” or without flagrant sin. The pastor must be above reproach because the flock is called to imitate his example and way of life (Heb 13:7). Furthermore, the messenger represents the message and as an ambassador of Christ, the pastor must represent Christ well through holy living.

“Husband of one wife” most plainly means that the man must be faithfully married to one woman. This certainly eliminates polygamists from the ministry, but it also eliminates adulterers, homosexuals, and those who have been divorced and are now remarried (cf. Matt 19:9). The term “one woman man” also denotes sexual purity. The pastor is to be the model of sexual purity—in both thought and act. He cherishes his wife and guards himself from all sexual temptations (Gen 39:12). Therefore, a pastor who falls into adultery could be forgiven and reinstated into the church, but forever loses the ability to fill the pastorate. Such a person is disqualified. This text also exposes the Roman Catholic mandate of a celibate clergy as a false teaching.

“Able to teach” is the translation of the Greek word διδακτικόν. The pastor must therefore, not only teach the Word of God, but he must also have the ability to teach it well. The word has the notion of giftedness and capacity. It is not enough for the pastor to know the Word of God for himself, but rather, he must also be able to teach it so that others can clearly understand it. In conjunction with 1 Timothy 2:12, this verse effectively eliminates the possibility for a woman to be a pastor. Pastors must be “able to teach,” whereas women are commanded not to teach (cf. 1 Tim 2:12). Thus, women are prohibited from being pastors. A woman who becomes a pastor is living in disobedience to the Word of God.

[3] not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

The terms here all delineate what it means to “be above reproach” (v. 2). Drinking is not a sin, but getting drunk is. It is wise and favorable, therefore, for pastors to stay away from alcohol altogether for even the impression of drunken dissipation is destructive and not fitting for a man of God. In our age of churches using mixed martial arts to draw crowds into the church, this verse stands in stark opposition by stating that a man of God must be “not violent but gentle.” Pastors are not to do their work because they are driven by a greed for money (cf. 1 Pet 5:2), but instead, they are to do it out of a genuine love for God and people. And although they will reason and contend for the faith, pastors will not be “quarrelsome” and leave such disruptions to the unregenerate.

WORKS CITED:

Baldwin, Scott H., Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, ed. 1995. Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Posted in Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

Book Review: Church Discipline

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Book Reviewed:

Leeman, Jonathan, Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2012. 143 pp. $14.99.

Reviewed by: Dr. Stephen Kim

Churches all around us are folding to a ‘consumer-oriented’ ecclesiology. In our rush to plant churches, grow churches, and attract people; we have eroded our holiness. Jonathan Leeman’s book is an attempt to recover the church’s holiness through the biblical mandate of church discipline. Indeed, the title of the book is most fitting as Leeman strives to “protect the name of Jesus” through a well articulated, thoughtful, and nuanced book on church discipline. The book attempts to not only give the theological underpinnings for church discipline, but it also helpfully attempts to demonstrate how to go about practicing it. Leeman attempts to nail the practical aspects of church discipline through case studies in the latter half of the book. Lastly, another seemingly evident goal of the book is its accessibility. In both its length and language, the book is not bogged down by dense theological jargon or lengthy debates on ancillary issues. Rather, Leeman ostensibly produces a book that is a smooth read and a rather quick one. This goal will likely gain the book a larger readership and thereby help churches become acclimated to what is indeed, a very important topic.

GENERAL STRUCTURE

While most books really begin at the first chapter, Leeman’s book really begins at the preface. Entitled, A Tale of Two Gospels, Leeman begins the book by asking the readers, “Which ‘gospel’ do you believe in?” (p.11). He then gives the readers the following two choices:

Gospel 1: God is holy. We have all sinned, separating us from God. But God sent his Son to die on the cross and rise again so that we might be forgiven. Everyone who believes in Jesus can have eternal life. We’re not justified by works. We’re justified by faith alone. The gospel therefore calls all people to “just believe!” An unconditionally loving God will take you as you are. (p.11)

Gospel 2: God is holy. We have all sinned, separating us from God. But God sent his Son to die on the cross and rise again so that that we might be forgiven and begin to follow the Son as King and Lord. Anyone who repents and believes can have eternal life, a life which begins today and stretches into eternity. We’re not justified by works. We’re justified by faith alone, but the faith which works is never alone. The gospel therefore calls all people to “repent and believe.” A contraconditionally loving God will take you contrary to what you deserve, and then enable you by the power of the Spirit to become holy and obedient like his Son. By reconciling you to himself, God also reconciles you to his family, the church, and enables you as his people to represent together his own holy character and triune glory. (p. 11)

The reason why Leeman starts off the book with the two disparate gospel presentations is because he believes that the gospel we choose will directly shade the way we view church discipline. This is a valid point and a great way to start off the book. While not invalidating the first gospel presentation, Leeman believes that the second presentation is a more robust one that naturally leads a church to seek the implementation of church discipline. From there, Leeman proceeds into the introduction, in which he gives a framework for the rest of the book by essentially asking why and how we ought to discipline. In the introduction, Leeman also includes a list of questions regarding church discipline that he has received as an editor for 9Marks Ministries. The questions are very specific and form the backbone for what will later be presentations of case studies by the author. An essential part of Leeman’s introduction is his rationale for how his work differs from that of other authors on the topic. Leeman writes,

Writers on church discipline from past centuries sometimes made lists from the Bible of which sins warrant church discipline. The idea was to give church leaders a basic guide for checking their own pastoral crises against. (p. 17)

Works on discipline from writers in our own day typically walk readers through the steps Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-20. They explain how to approach the sinner in private, then with two or three, then with the church. They pay less attention to different kinds of sin, and the widening-circle approach of Matthew 18 is treated as the catch-all. (p. 17)

There’s much to commend both of these approaches, but my method is a little different. I hope to establish a theological framework that accounts for the variety of approaches that the scriptural authors themselves take. For instance, Paul has a different approach in 1 Corinthians 5 than Jesus does in Matthew 18. Paul simply tells the church to exclude the sinner with no mention of first giving a warning. Why? Some writers have said that it’s because the sin is “publicly scandalous.” But that would seem to make the church’s decision about who belongs in the kingdom of heaven depend on the evolving moral standards of society, which strikes me as strange. Is there not a theological connection between Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5? I believe that there is, and we find it by considering church discipline in light of the gospel. (p. 18)

From the introduction, Leeman proceeds to structure the book into three parts. In part one, Leeman establishes the framework for discipline. Leeman establishes this framework via five sub-parts. First he tackles the biblical basics of discipline. Essentially, in this chapter, he gives the reader the difference between “formative” discipline and “corrective” discipline, and also gives us the biblical grounds for exercising church discipline. Second, he gives us a gospel framework for understanding discipline. In this chapter, Leeman gives us the gospel and demonstrates how the individual Christian, the gospel, and church membership all intersect. Third, Leeman gives us a sense of when church discipline is needed. Using Scripture, Leeman tries to give the reader a discerning eye as to when church discipline ought to be taken and when there ought to be no action. In this chapter, Leeman also gives a host of situational considerations that we ought to have prior to levying church discipline on an individual; and tackles the thorny issue of disparate approaches to church discipline taken by Jesus and Paul. Fourth, Leeman approaches the question of, “How does a church practice church discipline?” The speed of the process, the persons involved in the process, the involvement of the congregation, and his own church’s approach are all discussed in this chapter. Finally, the first part closes with a chapter on restoration and how it works. Leeman addresses both when and how restoration occurs. He also addresses the controversial question of whether or not churches ought to honor one another’s excommunication decisions.

In part two of the book, Leeman applies the framework that he established in part one to nine different case studies. The case studies were of: the adulterer, the addict, the “hits the news” lawbreaker, the bruised reed, the nonattending member, the faithfully-attending and divisive nonmember, the preemptive resigner, the newly-decided unbeliever, and the family member. Each of these case studies were helpfully presented in a manner that will enable the reader to tackle a similar situation in his home church context.

The last and third part of the book was a section entitled, “Getting Started.” In it, Leeman gives the nuts-and-bolts of church-wide preparation for the implementation of church discipline. Not only was a there a pastoral checklist for church discipline, but there was also an appendix containing common mistakes made by pastors.

KEY ARGUMENTS & CRITICAL EVALUATION

The initial key argument is the author’s assertion that church discipline hinges on the belief in a robust gospel. Leeman writes, “It’s comparatively easy to talk about God’s grace, unconditional love, and faith. It’s harder to talk about God’s holiness, Christ’s lordship, a Spirit-given repentance, and the new covenant reality of the church” (p. 13). Leeman rightly asserts that the new covenant does make demands on a person, and that those demands are realized with accountability within a local church (p. 13). It is the author’s belief that a proper understanding of the gospel leads to, and makes sense of church discipline. A watered-down gospel will create a context where church discipline will not make any sense. This point was both needed and helpful as Leeman started the book for the gospel is indeed foundational to all good works done within the church. If the church is to be “salt and light,” then we must be distinct and holy. These demands are made by Christ and are aided to fruition through the means of church discipline. Leeman writes church discipline is a demonstration of love and that “by abstaining from discipline, on the other hand, we claim that we love better than God loves” (p. 23). Leeman draws this conclusion based on the Scriptural evidence which shows that God disciplines everyone he loves (e.g., Heb 12:6).

Is it all the same thing?

At the outset of this book, Leeman makes a distinction between ‘formative’ discipline and ‘corrective’ discipline. According to Leeman, formative discipline “helps to form the disciple through instruction” (p. 27). Corrective discipline, on the other hand, “helps to correct the disciple through correcting sin” (p. 27). Leeman admits that although both corrective and formative discipline work together, his book focuses on corrective discipline. This was a helpful note for it set the reader on to proper expectations. As for the precise definition of church discipline, Leeman declares:

In more specific and formal terms, church discipline is the act of removing an individual from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Table. It is not an act of forbidding an individual from attending the church’s public gatherings. It is the church’s public statement that it can no longer affirm the person’s profession of faith by calling him or her a Christian. It’s the refusal to give a person the Lord’s Supper. It’s excommunicating, or ex-communion-ing, the person. (p. 27-28)

To be clear, then, I will treat these terms synonymously: “to excommunicate” is “to exclude from fellowship,” which is to “remove from the Lord’s Table,” which is “to formally discipline.” Some people treat one or two of these things as different stages in the process; I do not. (p. 28)

I believe that Leeman errs in treating excommunication, exclusion from fellowship, removal from the Lord’s Table, and formal church discipline as synonymous. Scripture informs us that formal church discipline could occur without the offending person’s exclusion from fellowship. In fact, in the famed eighteenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus instructs us not to exclude the person from fellowship until all other measures of formal discipline are taken by the church. It isn’t until half-way through the seventeenth verse that Jesus calls for exclusion from fellowship. The rebuke by individuals and eventually reprimand by the entire church are all forms of formal discipline that ought to precede exclusion from fellowship. This is an important distinction to make because God, nations, churches and parents all practice discipline at times without fully ‘cutting off’ the offending individual.

Fundamentally, excommunication and discipline should not be viewed synonymously. Although excommunication could be the church’s discipline in a particular situation, the two also could be mutually exclusive. Elsewhere, Leeman rightly believes that, “Excommunication is a church’s declaration that it can no longer affirm that an individual is a Christian” (p. 44). This is essentially a correct definition for the term ‘excommunication’ because church membership is the exact opposite. As Leeman himself declared, church membership is “a declaration of citizenship in Christ’s kingdom….It’s the declaration that a professing individual is an official, licensed, card-carrying, bona fide Jesus representative” (p. 42). Hence, it logically follows that if excommunication is the dismembering of an individual from the church and the public declaration that the individual is not a Christian, then we must carefully note that formal discipline can (at times) occur without excommunication. The two should not, and cannot, be synonymous. Again, texts such as Matthew 18 reveal that formal discipline and reproof clearly often occur prior to excommunication. Furthermore, texts such as 2 Thessalonians 3:15 even reveal a form of formal discipline wherein an individual is not declared an unbeliever: “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer” (2 Thes 3:14-15, NIV). Clearly, formal discipline does indeed occur at times without excommunication.

Should Ex-communicants be Banished from Sunday Worship Gatherings?

There is also a disconnect between Leeman’s definition for excommunication and his view on its practical execution. Leeman writes that to excommunicate is to exclude someone from fellowship (p. 28). He also writes that, “In more specific and formal terms, church discipline is the act of removing an individual from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Table” (p. 27). However, when it comes to executing an excommunication in real time, Leeman writes that, “It is not an act of forbidding an individual from attending the church’s public gatherings” (p. 27). Hence, according to Leeman, a person could continue attending church although he has been formally excommunicated. In practice therefore, in Leeman’s church, there could be a person who has been removed from membership through excommunication and be barred from the Lord’s Table; but is nonetheless, still attending Sunday worship services, speaking with new comers and spiritually younger believers after service, and even eating in the fellowship hall with the rest of the church at the conclusion of the worship service (provided lunch is provided and unbelievers are invited to eat with the church after service). The sad reality is that often, the excommunicated individual has a bitter heart which now looks to cause discomfort to the ones who have meted out the discipline. This sort of bitterness goes back to the time of Cain and is nothing new. But just as God banished Cain, so too, must the excommunicating church completely banish the offender until believable repentance is demonstrated.

From the pages of Scripture, we see that excommunication is the act of completely purging or removing (ἐξάρατε) an offender from the church. Unlike what is purported by Leeman, excommunication always resulted in the complete removal of the offender from the church’s midst. In the early churches, the offender was not permitted to join the church when the church was gathered for worship. Paul’s command to the Corinthian church couldn’t be any clearer: “REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES” (1 Cor 5:13, NASB). This was not merely a command prohibiting lunch or business association. This also was not merely a barring from the Lord’s Table or exclusion from some formal membership log. Instead, this adjudication by the apostle was a call for the literal removal of the sinner from the congregation of the worshiping church. One could literally feel the force of the apostle’s command whenever one reads 1 Corinthians 5:13. This very well prohibits lunch and business interactions with the individual outside of the church as well (2 Jn 1:10), but the primary injunction was for the removal of the individual from the church’s worship service. We must remember that the New Testament church was not a building, but rather, it was the people of God gathered for the worship of God. Hence, a command to remove an individual from among themselves was–at its core–a command to prohibit an individual from attending their worship services. It was a command to “hand him over to Satan” (1 Cor 5:6). Again, the central reason for this is rooted in the theological significance of the church’s corporate Sunday gathering. Yes, the church enjoyed food and fellowship whenever she gathered, but the main reason why the New Testament church gathered was to worship God. Excommunication therefore, was primarily the apostle’s command for the church to remove the offender from the church’s worship service.

The possible reason why Leeman comes to this faulty conclusion is because many people automatically believe that if a person is excommunicated, then he is now to be treated like an unbeliever. Leeman probably reasons that since unbelievers are permitted to join us on Sundays for worship (1 Cor 14:24), therefore, those who have been excommunicated should also be allowed to join us for Sunday worship services. This however, is an error. While it is true that the offender is declared ‘an unbeliever’ by the church, Scripture clearly makes a distinction for the unbeliever who has been excommunicated by the church. Scripture calls for us to cease all interactions with such an individual (a prohibition never issued against an unbeliever who has never been excommunicated): “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 Jn 1:10-11). A key point about John’s injunction in 2 John is the fact that the apostle actually prohibits the believer from permitting the unbeliever of even setting foot in his house. Although exegetically, the 2 John text is likely addressing private homes and private individuals, an extrapolation to the household of God (i.e., the church) could certainly be made–especially because many early New Testament churches met in private homes (e.g., Rom 16:5). It would appear that John is preventing the excommunicated person from even receiving the blessings of a warm welcome that often accompanies the access into a church’s Sunday morning worship gathering.

Finally, one only needs to look to the Old Testament to see the finality of what it meant to ‘cut off’ an individual from God’s covenant community (Lv 18:29). Although such ‘cutting off’ certainly did mean that the person was prohibited from interacting with other Israelites in daily living, the injunction was primarily meant to cut the offender off from the presence and worship of Yahweh. Likewise, whenever a New Testament church excommunicates an individual, that person is not merely no longer permitted to come to the Lord’s Table, but rather, the individual is to be forbidden from even attending the church’s corporate worship gatherings. This seems to be the plain understanding from the apostolic texts which prohibit Christians from even greeting excommunicated individuals (it is virtually impossible to not greet an individual who is sitting next to you in a worship service). It is highly unlikely that the New Testament Church had such a highly nuanced differentiation between participation in the Lord’s Supper, a formal membership roll, and general admission into the church’s weekly corporate gathering. Hence, a person being purged from their midst (1 Cor 5:13) could only mean a complete ban from all church life for that individual–especially a ban from the church’s Sunday corporate worship gatherings. Allowing a wolf to continue to attend church (even if the church’s leadership notifies everyone of the wolf’s presence) is not just a spiritual disaster waiting to explode, but it is also disobedience to the Lord’s plain command (e.g., 1 Cor 5:13).

The Difference Between Jesus’s and Paul’s Approach to Church Discipline

Another key argument Leeman raised was the issue of ‘when’ to discipline. Leeman argues for a “sin-versus-repentance balance” (p. 57). In explaining why Paul’s approach to church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5 looks so different from Jesus’ approach in Matthew 18, Leeman does not go the classical route of saying that the difference is due to the fact that the sin in Paul’s case was both egregious and heinous in nature. Leeman does not go that route because as he explains, “For starters, it makes the decision of whether to excommunicate dependent on the standards of the world, which are not holy and are always changing. One society’s scandal is another society’s badge of honor (think of abortion or homosexuality)” (p. 56-57). So instead, Leeman concludes, “Paul begins with the assumption of unyielding unrepentance. Jesus’s process exists for the purpose of determining whether or not a person is unyieldingly unrepentant–for determining what Paul takes as a given…Again, it [Paul’s passage] begins just short of where Matthew 18 ends” (p. 60).

While it is fine to have a “sin-versus-repentance balance,” due to the highly subjective nature of church discipline however, it is not wise to adopt Leeman’s conclusion regarding the differences between the Matthean and Pauline church discipline passages. Instead, I believe that it is helpful for us to acknowledge the fact that many weightier sins are unanimously agreed to be weightier by the people of God due to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Scripture. It makes sense to say that if God certainly views certain sins as ‘heavier’ than others (e.g., John 19:11), then God would also allow his people to view such sins in like manner. In other words, the wickedness of a sin is objectively discernible by most within the Church. For example, both culture and society might change their views on the wickedness of homosexuality, but God has not changed his view that homosexuality is an extreme abomination. As a result, God graciously expects his people to also view homosexuality in the same manner as attested by the apostle Jude: “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7, ESV). Essentially, Jude is saying that Sodom and Gomorrah serves as an example for all of us to understand just how much God loathes the sins of sexual immorality and homosexuality. As the angels were able to objectively discern whether or not the men of Sodom were “great sinners” (Genesis 13:13), so likewise–for the most part–we too (through God’s Word), can objectively discern the heinous nature of a particular sin.

As the book proceeds, Leeman also naturally begins to see the reality of the fact that certain sins are both clearly and objectively worse than others. Leeman later writes, “There are some sins that we really would not expect a Christian to do. And to do them means one is probably not a Christian, or at least that’s how the church will treat the individual until the church’s trust can once again be earned” (p. 62). That observation, I believe, should serve to truly explain the difference between Jesus’s approach and Paul’s approach to church discipline. Jesus starts off with an offense committed by one individual to another (Mt 18:15). It would seem, therefore, that the sin was not necessarily egregious in nature. Paul, on the other hand, is dealing with a sin that is so bad that even the pagans saw it as a vice (1 Cor 5:1). In Jesus’s case, the sinner is given three opportunities to repent. In Paul’s case, because of the severity of the sin, excommunication is immediately executed.

Knowing when to use Jesus’s method of church discipline versus Paul’s method requires wisdom and discernment. God, however, gave the local church the power to wisely carry out both as needed. It is wise to admit that church discipline is, at times, subjective in nature and carried out at the discernment of a church that is composed of fallible human beings. This admission however, should not weaken or thwart the church’s power to exercise church discipline. Leeman correctly writes, “Will the local church exercise the keys perfectly? No. It will make mistakes, just like any other authority established by Jesus makes mistakes. The local church is an imperfect representation of Christ’s end-time gathering. But the fact that it makes mistakes, just like presidents and parents do, does not mean it is without an authoritative mandate” (p. 41).

Should an Excommunication be Binding on all Churches?

Another argument that Leeman made was that churches do not have to recognize the excommunications of other churches. Leeman writes,

            But it’s not just the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans for whom this is true. Some historical Baptists have argued that, when a church excommunicates an individual, the individual is still under the authority of that church, at least until it lifts the ban. In the meantime, another Baptist church must not usurp the first church’s authority by receiving the individual as a member.

            In my estimation, this argument is mistaken. Churches do have the authority to receive individuals disciplined by another congregation. They may not be wise to do so. And they would certainly be wise to investigate the action of the first church. But in the final analysis Jesus has given every congregation the authority of the keys for binding and loosing, and one congregation’s decisions are not binding on another. (p. 84)

This position however, brings up serious questions about the universal nature of Bride of Christ and the efficacy of church discipline. In effect, I believe this plays right into the hands of the heavily ‘consumer-oriented’ church mentality that exists in North America today. One of the reasons why so many churches do not exercise church discipline is because many churches operate with a business mindset and know full well that one church’s loss will be another church’s gain–no questions asked. Documents such as a church’s “Letter of Transfer” are completely foreign to most churches. This however, was not the way New Testament churches operated. Yes, each church was autonomous, but Paul also often expected unity and uniformity within “all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor 14:33). If a member is biblically excommunicated from a church, then that member should not be able to go down the street to another church and sympathetically obtain membership from them. If excommunication is the formal declaration by a church that person is not a Christian, then allowance for a church to rescind another church’s excommunication actually testifies to differences in soteriology between the churches (which then, is a very big problem). If all the churches of the saints indeed do have one baptism, one body of Scripture, and one Lord; then each local church’s decision to excommunicate should be binding upon all churches. When Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18), one clearly and certainly senses the binding nature of excommunication. The verse loses its force if another church down the block is able to rescind an excommunication. The only time an excommunication ought not be honored is if a church can biblically prove that the excommunication was unbiblical. Sola Scriptura ought to be our guiding light on this matter. If the reasons for excommunication were truly biblical, then every church ought to honor the excommunication. To not do so would be severely detrimental to the excommunicated soul.

Overall

Overall, the author made many cogent arguments for church discipline that were biblically rooted. It was refreshing to read the case studies and discover many conclusions that I would personally agree with. The argument, for example, for excommunicating the preemptive resigner was both compelling and logical. I plan on taking Leeman’s position on this issue in the future. Leeman writes,

            Joe attempted to avoid excommunication by resigning his membership. Was this legitimate? No. Christians are called, as a matter of obedience to Christ, to submit to the affirmation and oversight of local churches. People join churches by the consent of the church, and they resign by the consent of the church. That is to say, a person cannot walk up to a church and say, “I’m a member now.” Churches of every polity have some way of testing and then affirming a person’s profession of faith. Jesus gave the apostolic church the keys of the kingdom for this very purpose. (p. 116)

THE BOOK’S VALUE FOR EXPOSITORY PREACHING

Leeman acutely recognizes the value and need for good preaching prior to the exercising of church discipline. Leeman writes,

            If the idea of church discipline is to make any sense to a church at all, a congregation must have a robust understanding of the gospel and what it means to be a Christian, as we discussed in the preface and chapter 2. Being a Christian is not just about making a one-time decision; it’s about a faith and repentance that yield a whole new pattern of decisions. It’s about submitting to Christ as Lord.

            God intends for his people to look different than the world. He intends for them to live holy lives and to war against sin. That’s what it means to repent. Repentance does not mean that a person has stopped sinning, but it does mean that he has declared war against sin. A congregation must understand these things before one can expect it to understand church discipline.  (p. 126-127)

Expository sermons cultivate a culture of church discipline within the church. Both the New and Old Testaments are rich with passages encouraging God’s covenant community to look out for one another, sharpen one another, and yes, even rebuke one another. Leeman himself writes, “In fact, just about any text in the Bible on holiness, repentance, conversion, lordship, and discipleship, not to mention texts touching on the broad themes of redemptive history such as Israel’s boundary markers or exile, can easily be applied in the direction of discipline” (p. 130).

Finally, expository sermons help us to embrace church discipline because ultimately, the pages of Scripture exude the glory of God and this naturally leads to a church’s pursuit of discipline and holiness. A biblical understanding of the ordinances, the gospel, church membership and discipline, all come through careful and diligent expository preaching. It is critical that prior to exercising church discipline, the church is properly taught the Word–particularly as it pertains to the discipline of the church. As Leeman said, “Pastors need to encourage church members to build relationships with one another in which correction and instruction are normal. They should teach them that a gospel-grounded individual learns how to invite correction, and how to tenderly give it” (p. 128).

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