Standing Strong in Faith

Dear Brethren,

What is the Church?  When we say ‘Church’ what do we mean?  Almost all the larger Church groups would concede that the Church Jesus established at Pentecost is a spiritual entity composed of believers who are being led by God’s Spirit.  The Church is not a humanly devised organization or structure but the people with whom God is working.  An organization that exercises authority over local church congregations is most often referred to as a denomination.   We have always understood that God’s Church is non-denominational.  Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18  …I will build my Church.

The word ‘church’ is a translation of the Greek word Ekklesia, meaning “a calling out.”  Ekklesia never refers to a building or corporate organization, but always to the chosen people called out of the world by God into His assembly—the Church of God.

It is very important to understand that when the Bible uses the term ‘church’ it is never referring to the headquarters leadership of some corporate organization.  This fact must be stated clearly because too many ministers continue to call a head office control center “the Church.”  It is not.

Recently, there have been a number of situations in the larger church groups where members in good standing have had punitive measures exacted against them.   Faithful men in good standing have been punished and stripped of speaking assignments because of internal conflicts.  Offences like these should not be taking place among God’s people, but when they do, what is the solution?  The question arises as to how offences like these can be rectified.  Let’s begin here in the Book of Matthew where Jesus Christ is speaking of the utmost importance of not offending anyone.

Matthew 18:7  Woe unto the world because of offences!  For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence comes!

Jesus says, “Do not be the one who causes an offence.”  He acknowledges that there will be offences because the world is at odds against the things of God.   Jesus goes on to explain what great lengths God the Father goes to in order to maintain a reconciled state.

Matthew 18:11  For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

Matthew 18:12  How think ye?  If a man has an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray?

Matthew 18:14  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Ministers must be extremely careful not to offend the brethren because God does not wink at that situation.  The sad thing is that when ministers punish or hound faithful men out of the local fellowship, they think that they have won a victory by maintaining the integrity of their corporate organization’s policies.  Paul spelled it out so that no minister could make the mistake of presuming to take dominion over the brethren’s faith – for by faith ye stand (2Corinthians 1:24).  Jesus tells the offended men that they are to go to the offending minister to gain back his brother.  (Ministers are brethren also – and subject to the teachings of Jesus Christ).

Matthew 18:15  If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

If we are not successful in our first heartfelt approach to gain our brother, we are to persevere with one or two more brethren who truly desire reconciliation.

Matthew 18:16  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

If that second attempt at reconciliation fails, the matter must come before the entire congregation.  Notice where Jesus says: "Tell it unto the Church [Ekklesia]."  He does not say, “Tell it to the ministry.”  The brethren of the congregation are, according to the Scriptures, to possess ownership of the process.  The Scripture does not read as in James 5:14, "call for the elders of the church."  Why?  Because the entire congregation is in this endeavor together, and must learn from it.

Matthew 18:17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church[Ekklesia]: but if he neglect to hear the church [Ekklesia], let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The third step in the reconciliation process that Jesus gives us is not to be adjudicated solely by the ministry in some distant headquarters – but brought before the entire congregation.  When ministers attempt to deal with the matter privately, it violates Christ's instruction to tell it to the Ekklesia – the called out ones.  The brethren will never learn to "heal the breach," when they are left out of the process.  Paul did not make the final determination in the case of the offending sinner at Corinth.  Paul taught that the body of believers, the Ekklesia, not the ministry, was to judge such matters.  Paul asked, Do you not judge them that are within the Church? (1Corinthians 5:12)

In today’s sermon we will examine the statements made by some men in the ministry as to why they do not have to be subject to Christ’s words in Matthew 18:15-17.  We will also explore the division being caused by those who insist that their corporate church organization has God’s authority over the member’s lives.  What does God require of us when, those ministers we look to, have gone astray?  The answer is that we must stand strong in the faith.

Sermon:  "Standing Strong in Faith"