Treat as a Gentile and a tax collector: NEW IDEA ?

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Dan Miller's picture
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Treat as a Gentile and a tax collector: NEW IDEA ?

In Matthew 18, Jesus teaches about how to deal with a brother who has sinned against us. The end of the process, if it fails to restore, is: "And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." [ESV]

I am wondering if this is a new idea? Or if it was part of the Old Covenant as well. Where people expelled from the community of believers in the Old Testament?

Aaron Blumer's picture
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"cut off"?

I don't know the answer, but I suspect the oft-repeated phrase "cut off" (in response to covenant violations) is a good place to dig.
Seems like I've seen the phrase described in Keil & Delitzsch or somewhere as "removed from the community," though I've always figured it meant death penalty.

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"cut off"

Exodus 31:14 suggests it means the death penalty, but....

The usual word is karath. In Leviticus 17:10 and 20:3-6, God is the one doing the cutting off, which might suggest the civil death penalty isn't necessarily implied. The use of the word in Numbers 4:18 doesn't seem consistent with the death penalty. Numbers 19:20 might suggest it is not the death penalty -- it says he is unclean. On the other hand, Deut. 12:29 would fit with the death penalty.

The word is used in Joshua 3:16 of the Jordan River.

I would be inclined to see it as simply meaning "separated" from the congregation, a broad word, which may or may not imply the death penalty. Certainly, God did not hesitate to specify the death penalty very exactly, sometimes in conjunction with karath and other times not. I've always understood "cut off" to mean excluded from the congregation, which may or may not have an accompanying death penalty. I'm not sure it can be proved either way.

Certainly, the NT church, unlike OT Israel, does not have recourse to the death penalty to deal with sin. Church discipline is sort of the spiritual equivalent of the civil death penalty, with the glorious blessing that restoration is possible.

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expel?

is it even talking about expelling? jesus ate with tax collectors and paul was the apostle to the gentiles. neither of these groups were expelled. they were called to come in. the "last" step in matthew 18 is really just about starting over at the beginning. someone who called themselves a brother, but refused to respond as one, needed to be invited to properly join the brotherhood.

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Mt. 18

My interpretation of that particular verse is that you excommunicate a believer because of their continuing resistance to correction and failure to repent. You have, at this point, confronted them privately, confronted them with witnesses to the confrontation, and put them out of the church. At this point, acknowledge and treat them like you would any unbeliever, because at this point they have not demonstrated either 1. conviction of sin despite being confronted by 'the church' or 2. any chastening by God for their sin (Hebrews 12:4-11).

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Mike Durning's picture
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Merger

ChrisC wrote:
is it even talking about expelling? jesus ate with tax collectors and paul was the apostle to the gentiles. neither of these groups were expelled. they were called to come in. the "last" step in matthew 18 is really just about starting over at the beginning. someone who called themselves a brother, but refused to respond as one, needed to be invited to properly join the brotherhood.

Chris makes a great point. I suggest that the first step in church discipline is that the church is admitting that the person probably does not know Christ, and every contact thereafter is as you would deal with someone "outside" -- with a call to repentance and faith in Christ.

Properly, this includes both ideas.
I am "expelling" in the sense that we know longer include them in the category "believer".
I am pleading with them to surrender to Christ.

The Jews considered tax collectors and sinners as "outsiders", and shunned them.
Jesus reached out to them.

Shunning in clearly an inadequate interpretation of this passage, though it is certainly at some level authorized by I Cor. 5:11

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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I think definitions are

I think definitions are necessary here. We do expel from the body, but not necessarily from public meetings. While a person under discipline can generally still attend, they would not be included in membership rolls and all the responsibilities and privileges associated with membership. Furthermore, the relationship between them and the body is limited in the same way that believers are limited with all unbelievers. They are no longer to be treated as part of the family.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Huh?

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I suggest that the first step in church discipline is that the church is admitting that the person probably does not know Christ, and every contact thereafter is as you would deal with someone "outside" -- with a call to repentance and faith in Christ.

I think you meant 'final step', Mike...right?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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Excommunication is a

Excommunication is a commentary about one's fitness as a member of a local assembly and not a commentary on their salvation and was never intended as such. The text always keeps the disciplined member in view as a family member. If we declare they are unsaved and if the text did, especially, then the remedy is not repenting of a sin but getting saved but the text only requires repenting of that sin to rejoin.

Mike Durning's picture
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Thanks

Jay C. wrote:
Quote:
I suggest that the first step in church discipline is that the church is admitting that the person probably does not know Christ, and every contact thereafter is as you would deal with someone "outside" -- with a call to repentance and faith in Christ.

I think you meant 'final step', Mike...right?

Thanks for the correction, Jay. You are correct. Though "first step" would streamline the process greatly, it would not be faithful to the Scripture or fair to those accused of wandering.

Mike

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I agree with Alex on this one

While Matthew 18 could be understood as making a judgment that the person is not saved, or likely not saved, the text only tells us to treat them in such a way.

I Corinthians 5 is very problematic for viewing church discipline as making a judgment about salvation. First, a contrast is drawn between how we treat unbelievers and how we treat the disciplined person. Second, the last two verses of the chapter tell us to put them outside the church where God is the Judge. If they are in the church, we must judge them, and people who behave in these ways are to be placed outside that so that we don't have to judge them.

II Thessalonians 3 tells us not to count them as enemies, but admonish as brothers.

There are differences between these three passages that should cause us to be careful about assuming they are all talking about equivalent cases. But in none of them are we told to make a determination that a person is not saved, or is likely not saved. That is not the role of the church.

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Last step

Quote:
the "last" step in matthew 18 is really just about starting over at the beginning.

I'm in the "change in identification = last step" camp. 2 Thess. describes part of the process that leads to that last step. I do think that there is some murkiness in the middle, so to speak, but the pattern is consistent that we begin with a confrontation and end with someone we interact with as though he/she is not a Christian.
And I agree, too, with the idea someone mentioned--that we are not necessarily saying "this person is not/probably is not a Christian"... not exactly. We're saying "We have to relate to this person as though he/she is not a Christian."

At that point, they are welcome as those who don't know Christ are welcome to hear the gospel... but not welcome as members of the body. The difference is pretty important and is not "starting over at the beginning" (unless "the beginning"=before conversion... which is not in view in Matt.18 as far as I can tell)

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Missed the Question

I missed the thrust of Dan's question:

Quote:
I am wondering if this is a new idea? Or if it was part of the Old Covenant as well. Where people expelled from the community of believers in the Old Testament?

Yes, I think so. I re-read Numbers a couple of weeks ago, and I seem to recall a couple of times where people were supposed to be put out of the camp for specific instances. Of course, death by stoning was the punishment that is prescribed for a lot of moral offenses, but I do think that it existed.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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The Same

My thoughts: If we are to treat an unrepentant brother as an heathen, then in what way are the unrepentant brother and the heathen exactly the same? Neither wants to be free of their sin! They choose to ignore it, be bound by it, or revel in it. So, Jesus commands, we must imitate heaven and hold them bound in their sin because that is their desire. When they repent, we are to loose them as heaven will have already loosed them. As I write in my upcoming book, "Unraveling the Myths of Forgiveness: Why Jesus never said to forgive your enemy and why the whole world thinks He did!" - "Love holds people accountable. Forgiveness is the end of accountability."

James Scott Berry

www.cleartruthministries.com

Aaron Blumer's picture
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Interesting

Book sounds interesting, Scott. Forgiveness has been a topic of special interest to me for some time (Filings post this AM is an interesting case that kind of shows why.) It probably all started for me when seeing some TV newscast where a loved one of a murder victim was publicly forgiving the killer and claiming he should not be punished.
I was young, but some kind of dissonance started.... it was great that the Christian wanted to extend love and forgiveness to the killer, but what did that have to do with the court case?

Forgiveness is one of those topics that is very easy to pontificate about from pulpits in very general terms... but when you start applying the things we say to particular cases, we start to realize something doesn't add up in the way we're describing it.

Mike Durning's picture
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Book

Scott's book does sound interesting. I was surprised at the content at his website, and a bit skeptical. But to be fair, he's been studying this topic for years. It's now on my list of things to do to poke the Hebrew and Greek on all the "forgiveness" words in the Scriptures. Then, I'll give his book a read.