(Steve Gallagher of Purelife Ministries)
The Method of Our Counsel
Who could ever forget November 11, 2000, when the entire presidential election came down to the state of Florida? George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner of that state—and of the presidential race. However, Al Gore’s attorneys appealed to the liberal Florida Supreme Court, coaxing them to write new laws in their favor that would give them the election. In the meantime, Democratic “spin-doctors” made the rounds on television talk shows attempting to incite a public outcry over the “terrible injustice” that had occurred. They created such a cloud of confusion that the average American completely lost sight of the fact that there are existing laws in place to deal with such matters.
Eventually, the United States Supreme Court stepped into the brouhaha and in essence said, “Wait a minute. You cannot just make new laws for the sake of convenience. It does not matter what is the current public opinion. Polls have no relevance in such matters. Dan Rather’s opinion does not make a difference. The only determining factor in this is what is written in the Constitution.” Thank God we have an immovable legal charter that establishes rock-solid guidelines about how to run our nation! If it weren’t for the Constitution, every decision lawmakers faced would be continually subject to the whims of the current pop culture.
In the same way, when it comes to determining the best course of action for a believer struggling with sin, it is imperative that the counselor uses the Word of God—not simply as the ultimate authority on such matters—but also as an actual handbook of solutions.
The Formation of an Addiction
There are many teachings abounding today regarding sexual addiction. As the field of psychology has evolved over the past century, a great deal of speculation has taken place regarding childhood development and its involvement in the formation of emotional problems. In my book, Irresistible to God, I wrote about how pride develops in a child.
Humans are born with a deeply felt need to be loved and respected. This desire runs so deep that the lack of noticeable appreciation by others—especially immediate family members—can actually be emotionally damaging to a young child. A child’s dependence upon the approval of others or his need for affirmation often creates an overwhelming sense of insecurity…
This so-called “inferiority complex” is reinforced each time he experiences rejection or is emotionally hurt in some way. The more inferior the child is made to feel by the rejection of others, the more he will attempt to compensate for that lack of security by exalting himself above others and protecting himself from their put-downs. The child will often seek something—anything—to distinguish himself from others.
Consequently as a child develops, several things begin to happen. Certain forms of pride begin to surface within him in conjunction with his individuality: his strengths, abilities, looks, etc. If he is a sensitive person by nature, he will display self-protective pride to ward off any pain or rejection by others. If he is naturally cocky, on the other hand, he will tend to be conceited and arrogant. The level of his insecurity—his thwarted desire to be highly thought of—usually determines the strength of his pride. Like sin of any kind, pride creates a downward spiral of soul degradation. The more one gives over to pride, the more that pride demands. In other words, it strengthens itself.
The child—who is only doing what comes naturally—gradually develops defense mechanisms to cope with being hurt in life. Unfortunately, these defense mechanisms are the embryos of pride that begin in childhood, are developed in the teen years, and are perfected in adulthood.
In the meantime, the youngster is completely unaware that he is a prime target of demonic spirits. These devils are very familiar with his family tree and all the different personality traits, secret sins, areas of selfishness, and so on. In fact, these agents of darkness have been nurturing sin and pride in members of his family long before he was even born. As the child grows and suffers the inevitable pains of childhood, undoubtedly demons are present to show him how to respond to this pain. Pride is the devil’s solution to emotional pain. In a fallen, sin-cursed world in which the pride of man is exalted, this ungodly attitude is carefully cultivated as the young person grows into adulthood.1
Although this segment refers to pride—that self-exalting attitude that afflicts every human—the same principles often apply to the formation of other sinful habits. Undoubtedly, childhood pain can set a young person on a course of seeking acceptance through sexual experiences, but this does not negate responsibility for his actions. Anywhere along the way he can turn to the Lord, rather than to sin. Furthermore, although the lack of emotional nurturing can play a part in the young person turning to sexual sin, let’s not forget that illicit sex is a form of extreme pleasure. Ultimately and primarily, a person becomes addicted to sex because he has chosen to live a carnal life and yields to the cravings of his demanding flesh.
Getting to the Heart of the Problem
In an attempt to provide compassionate help to those who suffer from addictions, the secular field of psychotherapy has provided a plethora of answers to this dilemma. Nearly every teacher from the world of psychology views sexual addiction as an emotionally based problem. As such, a person’s feelings and emotions become the focal point of all treatment. By and large, Christian psychologists take the same stance, adding the spiritual dynamic as a secondary issue. Although the counselee is taught to follow biblical teachings, he is told that his primary help will come as a result of his damaged emotions being treated by a professional.
Unquestionably, damaged emotions can play a part in the formation of a sexual addiction. However, it should never be forgotten that people sin because they have a fallen nature that is bent toward sin. The Bible never deals with such subjects from an emotional level. Actually, Scripture always approaches sin as a heart issue. Jeremiah summed up the problem when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) This statement exposes the human heart as the true culprit of sin.
Scripture also teaches that the heart is the center of man’s being. Springing forth from that central location are one’s attitudes, motives, feelings and emotions. One way to illustrate this is to think of the inner man as an underground spring, the heart being the source. David said, “…the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep.” (Psalms 64:6) Solomon wrote, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
If a dead carcass lying at the bottom has poisoned the water in that spring, it will not solve the problem to skim the foul scum off the top. The corpse must be withdrawn, and the spring must be flushed out.
As mankind’s Creator (Colossians 1:16), Jesus is the ultimate authority on man’s problems. He clearly laid out the source of sin when He said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20–23)
God’s Method of Dealing With Sin
Undoubtedly, childhood trauma plays a part in the development of habitual
sin. However, spending months wallowing in the quagmire of a man’s past will not help him find freedom. As biblical counselors, our main concern is to lead the individual into a life of victory and godliness. Our primary question should not be, “How did this come about?” Rather, our main question is: “What does the Bible show us about how God deals with it?” An examination of Scripture reveals that the Lord has established a clear and predictable means of addressing human problems.
Throughout the entire breadth of Scripture, the Lord has consistently handled sin in the same manner. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, God immediately admonished them. When the children of Israel sinned in the wilderness, Moses rebuked them. When King Saul rebelled, the prophet Samuel confronted him. When David fell with Bathsheba, Nathan challenged him. Throughout the rest of the history of Israel, one sees God consistently respond to sin and rebellion by reproving the people through the prophets.
When Christ came to earth, He confronted nearly everybody He encountered. In fact, Jesus told His disciples, “If your brother sins, go and reprove him.” (Matthew 18:15) Even the apostle Paul—the great champion of grace—continually confronted the sin of those to whom he ministered.
The inescapable fact is that the Lord never coddles sin. In a misguided sense of compassion, many often blameshift, minimize or explain away sin in the lives of counselees. Although God is exceedingly patient and full of grace, He is very unambiguous about His hatred of sin. Indeed, He has such an abhorrence of it that He sent His Son to die on the cross so that people could be freed from its tyranny. God is ruthless in His dealings with sin because it destroys the lives of those whom He greatly loves.
Counseling the Sinner
As Paul was giving his farewell to the Ephesian elders, he said, “Remember that night and day for a period of three years, I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” (Acts 20:31) This statement is very enlightening because it gives insight into how he helped people during his stay in Ephesus.
The Greek word for admonish (noutheteo) which Paul employed here is defined as: “The verb means to impart understanding, to set right, to lay on the heart. The stress is on influencing not merely the intellect, but the will and disposition. The word thus acquires such senses as ‘to admonish, to warn, to remind, and to correct.’ ”2
This term has become the flagstone of biblical counseling (sometimes referred to as nouthetic counseling). Although the problems people face can often be very complex, the biblical counselor’s approach is to systematically work through and resolve the different issues people are confronted with. Most emotional problems people encounter are caused either as a direct result of sin in their lives or as an unbiblical response to the sin of others. In another work I told a story that highlights the way biblical counseling works:
The life of James Kenworth* is a classic example of someone whose problems were exacerbated by psychotherapeutic treatments. Plagued from childhood with social awkwardness, James became increasingly more detached from those around him as he grew into his teen years. His deep-seated fears limited his ability to interact with the other children at school. As he grew older he began dabbling in pornography, which caused him to withdraw even more. During his early twenties, he went regularly for counseling and attended twelve-step groups. After two years of this, his problems became so overwhelming his parents sent him to a Christian treatment center where anti-depressants were tried as a cure. Five weeks after leaving that facility he attempted suicide. His parents rushed him to the leading sexual addiction treatment center in the world. When they came to visit him several weeks later, they were shocked to find him curled up in a ball, holding a teddy bear. With his medical insurance about to run out, the staff began looking for another place to send him. Someone mentioned Pure Life Ministries.
The first day at Pure Life’s live-in facility, he abruptly left the church service and ran down the street. Nevertheless, the biblical counselors at Pure Life brought him back and began working with him. He had always been told that he was a victim, but for the first time in his life, he accepted responsibility for his actions. The counselors required him to maintain a daily regimen of Bible study and prayer and to treat others with kindness. They told him, “You must live out in your daily life what the Bible teaches you should do.” James faced tremendous battles with his flesh and with his thinking, but his counselors always provided encouragement and showed him patience and love. He began to respond almost immediately. Within weeks, he was a new person. Jesus Christ had come into his dark inner world and completely transformed him. It took a couple of years for him to work through some of his issues, but the fact is that he owes his soundness of mind to Jesus Christ alone.
His story is a case in point, which illustrates the difference between psychotherapy and biblical counseling. The one pampered him, using futile techniques and human pity which encouraged victim mentality and large-scale blameshifting. The other confronted him in a loving way about the selfishness of his sin. When he had viewed himself as a victim, he felt hopeless. When he saw that the problem was of his own making and that he needed to repent, immediately he saw also the way out. In other words, instead of being furnished with excuses for his behavior, he was required to take responsibility for his actions. He was pointed to Jesus Christ who is the only answer to the problems we have created for ourselves, even if others contributed to those problems. James discovered that Jesus never disappoints the seeking heart. His testimony is an irrefutable testimony to what God can do in a person’s life who is willing to obey.”3
True biblical counseling rests upon the standards Scripture imposes upon the life of the believer. A godly, loving counselor will patiently work with a man and help him to live up to the model of Christian life prescribed by the Bible. There is nothing mysterious about it. As the person begins to obey the Word of God, ungodly attitudes, perspectives and even desires all begin to change. Not only does the Bible supply the answers to man’s problems, but it is also the very instrument the counselor uses as he works with him.
The Tool of Our Counsel
The Bible predicts that the last days will be a time of great lawlessness. This lack of respect for God’s Word creates a moral atmosphere where sin can flourish. What happened in New York City during the 1980s is a good illustration of this. Violent crime was at epidemic levels when Mayor Guilianni came into office. He sized up the situation and quickly realized that there was a prevailing lack of respect for authority that had to be rectified before the crime rate could be substantially reduced. He ordered the NYPD to begin enforcing all of the laws—even minor violations such as jaywalking. He also cleaned out all of the adult bookstores, strip clubs and massage parlors from the Times Square section of Manhattan. Considering how overloaded the police department was already in handling major crimes, many ridiculed his strategy.
However, to the astonishment of supporters and critics alike, the crime rate immediately dropped! The truth he tapped into is that when a lawless attitude is prevalent within the general population, the amount of major crime will increase. Likewise, when people are taught to respect the law, the number of felonies committed will diminish.
This principle holds true for spiritual
laws as well. Why is sexual sin running rampant within the Church? It is because we have lost our respect for the authority of God’s Word in our lives. So, one of the first things the biblical counselor must establish in his own life is a love and respect for Scripture. As he himself learns to live what is taught in the Bible, he will be more equipped to instruct others to do the same. The effectiveness of his counsel to others will be directly proportioned to the reality of the Word of God in his own life.
The Word of God has much to say to the person caught in habitual sin. This divinely inspired tool has been furnished, but the Lord also needs “the workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15) Paul shared with Timothy, his young protégé, the different ways Scripture might be used to help others:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work… For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. (II Timothy 3:16–4:4)
Let us look at these four vital principles and how they apply in a practical sense to helping men bound in habitual sin.
Teaching the Word
Imagine your typical counseling session. On the desk in front of you is God’s Holy Word. Sitting across the desk from you is a man whose life has been ravaged by disobedience to that Word. You must convey to him the importance of explicitly following God’s instructions for life that are contained therein.
Most likely your first challenge will be that this man has a much exaggerated opinion of his level of spirituality. In other words, although he has accumulated a lot of information about Christianity (i.e. head knowledge), he is actually living out only a very small percentage of what he has learned. Thus, you must lovingly help him to come into reality concerning his true spiritual state. Having him write out a testimony about what his Christian experience has been and a complete accounting of his current struggles will give you plenty of “ammunition” at your disposal as you begin showing him where he really is as a believer.
The truth is that—although he may have been a Christian for many years and possibly can quote Scripture ad infinitum—he is a baby believer and must be taken back to the basics of Christianity. He must be taught how—in a practical way—to live what is written in Scripture. What does it mean to his life to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth? How will it look in his life to actually learn to love others as he loves himself? How can he begin to see the faults in the lives of others through eyes of love, instead of through “haughty eyes?”
He must also be taught how to live in victory over sin. Teaching this man biblical principles will help to establish within him a mindset that will guide him as you work with him in the coming weeks. He will see the path to freedom from sexual sin laid before him in my book At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, which gives a systematic accounting of what the Bible teaches on this subject.
Scripture establishes the parameters of a believer’s life, and it is important to educate one’s sheep about those restrictions. However, “Christian” sex addicts have established a pattern of picking and choosing when they will obey the Word. The man across from you clearly needs something stronger than a teaching from a book or sermon. He needs personal help.
Jesus spoke of the narrow path, which is simply a course of life delineated by biblical guidelines. Occasionally, believers veer off course for a variety of reasons. Indeed, this tendency is one of the very reasons Jesus had to go to the Cross: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:5) Left unchecked, many will continue to stray until they have completely fallen away from God in their hearts. Solomon said, “The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways…” (Proverbs 14:14)
As spiritual mentors, one of our tasks is to do everything within our power to keep this from happening to those to whom we minister. This drifting off-course occurs in many different ways. Even those who truly walk with God will have those times that they inwardly get away from the Lord.
I remember a time several years ago when Jeff Colon, the director of the Pure Life Ministries residential program, was struggling spiritually. This is certainly understandable. Living on site with 50 men seeking freedom from sexual sin is extremely draining. It’s easy to get worn out and off-track. I could see that Jeff was in trouble, but I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the situation. One morning the Lord laid it on my heart to confront him. I told him that it was obvious that he was sliding away from God in his heart. I strongly warned him that he needed to get himself back on track spiritually. It was a sobering wake-up call. He told me later, “I didn’t even realize it at the time, but looking back, I can see that if I would have kept going in the direction I was headed, I very easily could have fallen into sin. Thank you so much!” His response was just what Solomon said it would be: “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8)
Another situation in which men need to be confronted is when they begin to pursue sin. In one’s spiritual journey occasionally there will be strong temptations that will crop up along the way. Solomon paints a vivid picture of the young man who runs into a beautiful prostitute in the street: “With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter…” (Proverbs 7:21–22) This is a picture of a man being baited into sexual sin.* Every step he takes leads him further into the insanity that accompanies sexual sin.
When the man of God sees his counselee going astray, he steps between him and the source of his temptation and in passionate, godly love says, “No! You can’t do that!” He is, in essence, stopping this man from going over a spiritual cliff. This is biblical reproof. “…if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path…”
God has inspired Scripture for this very purpose. The counselor has been given the authority to reprove this man by the guidelines and mandates it has established. This is very important for the “Christian” sex addict who has a pattern of selective obedience. The counselor who uses this tool sparingly and lovingly will find it to be absolutely lifesaving for some. A timely rebuke will spare some people from a lifetime of suffering. “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray.” (Proverbs 10:17)
The corrupting effects of sin upon the human mind should never be underestimated. Sin has the power to alter a person’s perspectives, values and attitudes. One of the reasons it is imperative that a believer maintains a vibrant devotional life is because he so desperately needs the constant influence of God’s perspectives upon his mind.
When the biblical counselor starts working with a man in habitual sin, he soon discovers that there are many areas of his life that do not line up with Scripture. Correction is there for the purpose of helping to guide the counselee back into biblical thinking and living. Teaching establishes the boundaries established by Scripture. Reproof is occasionally used when a man veers off track. Correction contains elements of both of these. It is setting th
e “broken bones” of the man’s soul. It is helping him to get his thinking untwisted.
Our final term (Gk. paideia) is used only four other times in Scripture—three in the same chapter. I will provide these verses to give a better comprehension for what this word means:
• And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline (paideia) and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
• …My son, do not regard lightly the discipline (paideia) of the Lord… (Hebrews 12:5)
• It is for discipline (paideia) that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline (paideuo)? (Hebrews 12:7)
• All discipline (paideia) for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
The verb form of this word used in Hebrews 12:7 (paideuo) is the same word Pilate employed when speaking of Jesus: “I will therefore punish Him and release Him.” (Luke 22:16) Translators were correct to apply the term “training” here, but it must be understood that it contains within it a stronger sense than one would typically think. There is an element of authority that is connected to this word: father-son, God-believer and even Pilate-criminal (Jesus).
Training involves one person building into the life of another. Teaching tends to be impersonal and vague, such as preaching on a particular subject to an entire congregation or even giving a counselee a book to read. Training, on the other hand, is very personal and specific.
I must include in here a word of caution to pastors. While the pulpit is the perfect vehicle for teaching important truths to the entire congregation from the Word of God, it will only accomplish so much in their lives. There is a reason God has provided ministers with four ways to use Scripture. If a pastor only teaches and neglects the other three tools at his disposal, his ministry will only be operating at one-fourth its power! Can you imagine a four-cylinder engine firing on a single cylinder? It would struggle along, “spitting and coughing.” If people are to be effectively helped through their struggles, someone must get his hands dirty! Somebody must be willing to get involved in the lives of individuals.
I am not a Greek scholar, but I don’t think I would be too far off base grammatically to suggest that this last term should be coupled with all four usages of the Bible—not simply the word training. In other words, Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching in righteousness, for reproof in righteousness, for correction in righteousness, and for training in righteousness.
The term righteousness primarily has to do with the way believers treat others: having a concern about the rights of other people. One teacher called it “the other guy’s bill of rights.” For instance, did you know that six of the Ten Commandments have to do with the way we interact with other people? Even the first four Commandments revolve around the manner we behave toward God.
Rest assured that the man in habitual sexual sin is routinely trouncing upon the rights of God, family members, friends and others. The counselor will help him by teaching him what the Bible says about godly living, reproving him when he strays off course, correcting sinful thinking and training him in how to live a life which pleases God. All of this is designed to help the man learn how to live righteously before God and man. The Bible is “God-breathed” for the purpose of helping people. No wonder David said, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” (Psalm 19:7) It inherently contains all that is needed to bring restoration to the wayward soul.
Using Church Discipline
The Word of God is not only the source of our counsel, but it is also the tool we use to help men escape the insane thinking that sin produces and come into the Lord’s mindset. We have seen the wonderful ways Scripture can be used to help the man bound in habitual sin: teaching, reproof, correction, and training. This all falls under the category of discipleship.
But what happens when a man does not apply biblical teaching? What do you do when he rejects your attempts to reprove or correct him? How do you handle it when he does not respond to your training? If you care about him, you must take the process to the next level.
The Bible is very practical and provides solutions to this sort of dilemma. Jesus said, “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” (Matthew 18:15–17) In these few statements, He wisely laid down a systematic course of action one can take to help the resistant believer. It takes place in four steps:
• Reprove in private
• Reprove with two witnesses
• Bring the sin before the entire church
• Treat the sinner as an unbeliever
The process begins with reproof (Gk. elegcho), the very same term used by Paul in the passage we have examined in this chapter. Jesus later made the statement, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline…” (Revelation 3:19) As we have already observed, reproof is an important aspect of effective ministry. However, in one sense, the way Jesus uses the term in regards to church discipline actually encompasses all four of the tools mentioned earlier.* In other words, the minister has been using the four-fold method of working with the man outlined above. Nevertheless, the man does not seem to be taking his sin seriously.
At this point stronger measures are in order. Jesus says that we must now reprove him with “two witnesses.” This statement refers back to the Old Testament economy when two or three witnesses were required to convict a man of wrongdoing. (Deuteronomy 19:15) In the New Testament context, this should include church elders or pastors.
There is a very good reason for doing this. Bringing more people into the counseling setting tends to intensify the seriousness of the situation in the erring brother’s mind. Having two church elders present will give the man a sense of the gravity of his sin. Countless times over the years I have seen this wake-up call bring a man to true repentance.
Unfortunately, sometimes even this does not accomplish the desired effect. “And if he refuses to listen to them,” Jesus goes on to say, “tell it to the church.” Up to this point, his privacy has been carefully protected, but once the pastor begins to sense that the man is refusing the correction, he is instructed to bring the sin into the light for all to see. Now the situation is treated with even more gravity. This man’s future (and possibly even his eternity) is at stake! He needs to wake up! Perhaps the shame of being exposed before the entire church will be enough to help him repent.
However, Jesus goes on to say, “if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” This is the last step to reach the erring brother. This may seem extreme, but God takes drastic measures whenever there is an unrepentant sinner in the camp. (Joshua 7; Acts 5) Dr. Jay Adams said, “No one should be put out of the church because of his sin (as though some sins require discipline and others do not). No, precisely not that. It is the failure to ‘hear’ that moves discipline to the final stage of putting one ou
t of your midst.”1
We find an example of this in First Corinthians 5 where a man was living in sin with his father’s wife. In this instance the man needed to be brought to the final stage of church discipline quickly: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves,” Paul told the church.
The Goals of Church Discipline
Without a doubt it takes a great deal of courage for a pastor in our day and age to excommunicate an unrepentant sinner. Not only must the pastor face the man’s anger, but the members of his church may misunderstand his intentions. Nevertheless, there are three very important reasons why it must be done.
First, the spiritual integrity of the church must be maintained. Paul said, “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump…” (I Corinthians 5:7) Leaven illustrates the contagious and corrupting power of sin. A church that is tolerant of sin will soon be full of compromise.
Second, when someone in sin is dealt with openly, it causes the other members of the Body to comprehend the seriousness of sin. Paul told Timothy, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.” (I Timothy 5:20) This seems to be a forgotten concept in many of today’s “seeker-friendly” churches.
Third, it is done to save an unrepentant sinner from his sin. Paul told the Corinthians, “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” We must remember that God is more concerned about a person’s eternal destiny than He is about his temporary comfort. If a person refuses to repent, the time will come when God will “give them over” to their sin. (Romans 1:24, 26) This happened to the man in Corinth, and we find out later that he repented of his sin. (II Corinthians 2:6–8) The complete restoration of an erring believer is the ultimate goal of church discipline.
Is there a place in 21st century Christianity for church discipline? Absolutely! Our loving Savior has been in the business of correcting wayward souls for a long time. In spite of the fact that we may not understand what the Lord is doing, we may rest assured in the knowledge that He has a definite purpose in mind for all His dealings with His children. It is the Word of God that provides the authority to teach, counsel and discipline.
1 Steve Gallagher, Irresistible to God, Pure Life Ministries, 2003.
2 Geoffrey W. Bromley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1985, p.645.
* A pseudonym.
3 Steve Gallagher, Break Free from the Lusts of This World.
* There was a time when we used to raise and butcher our own cattle at the PLM facility. We would lay down a trail of corn on the ground, which would lead the young steer to the spot we had chosen to slaughter him. It was an amazing picture of how Satan tantalizes a man toward the place where he can spring his trap on him.
* The primary usage of reproof used here by Jesus refers to rebuking a man over an offensive pattern of sin.
1 Dr. Jay Adams, Christian Counselor’s Commentary on I & II Corinthians, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, p.34.
Steve Gallagher, A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addict (Dry Ridge, KY: Pure Life Ministries, 2004), 40.
© 2010, Matt. All rights reserved.