A Response to Jack Langford’s Paper Entitled
Church Discipline, the Biblical Principles
Dated November 3, 2009
Jack Langford’s lengthy paper (over 40 pages) was introduced under the assumption that most Christian organizations ignore the biblical concept of church discipline. That may or may not be the case, but it certainly isn’t a lost art among those who for years were associated with the authoritarian leadership of Jack Langford and Robert Grove, et al. Assemblies under their tutorship were well indoctrinated concerning church discipline, both as to its practical necessity and, unfortunately, its frequent harmful abuses.
Among many fundamental, evangelical Christian groups, where the overwhelming authority of men is not felt, corrective discipline is practiced, but it is seldom necessary. Why is that? Authoritative leaders in exclusive, legalistic, separatist sects, find church discipline an indispensable management tool. The sheep are kept in line by “lording” it over them. Servant-leaders, on the other hand, aren’t practitioners of Pharisaical maxims and rules. They endeavor to set the example and teach reliance on the Holy Spirit to patiently guide and convict individual members of the body of Christ.
As stated in the following quote, no subject is more important or more heart-stirring to this man than his affinity for church discipline:
There is no subject that is as important and will stir the heart—either for those who may have experienced perverseness in judgment, or also for those who have experienced godliness in judgment—than this subject. Herein we will have come to learn and value the statutes and laws of God—Exo. 18:16. In addition, the apostle Peter was inspired to warn us “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”—(I Peter 4:17)
Attention must be called to two significant statements in this quote which seriously damage the credibility of his extreme position on the subject, namely, his emphasis on the fact that “perverseness in judgment” does occur in the exercise of church discipline and his professed determination to learn, value, teach and minister the statutes and laws of the Mosaic economy! If there is any doubt about the latter, he is quite adamant about where he stands as evidenced in this email (11/17/09) to a recipient of his paper:
However, you may be interested . . . in this doctrinal Bible study I have prepared on the subject . . .This is what I have attempted to practice and this is where I stand by the grace of God. The testimony of Ezra is what we all should follow -- “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”(Ezra 7:10)
Contrast this with the apostle’s statement that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” (John 1:17) and Paul’s declaration that God “made us competent as ministers of a new covenant -- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (See 2 Cor. 3:6-18!) Grace and truth are expressly set forth in contrast to the law, and in John 8:1-11 we have a striking amplification of that fact by the Lord Jesus. When it is remembered that the law is called “the ministration of death” and the “ministration of condemnation“, it is clear that the contrast is complete.
Paul’s last words to the Ephesian elders before his journey to Jerusalem was the tearful warning about savage wolves entering among them and men from their own number arising and distorting the truth. Predictably, years later, in his first letter to Timothy Paul urged him to stay in Ephesus in order that he may charge certain men not to teach false doctrines (1:3-11). He told Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” But there were men there who, “straying from these things,” had missed the mark. These self-elect teachers of the Law “do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm,” Paul said. Their self-confidence was empty pretense.
Paul went on to explain: “We know that the Law is good if one uses it properly, realizing that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane . . .” Somewhere along the line in Jack’s rise to prominence he adopted an authoritarian, legalistic, Pharisaical demeanor, contrary to the sound teaching that accompanies “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” with which he at one time claimed to have been entrusted. After reviewing his track record and reading some of his more recent studies, one cannot avoid coming to that conclusion. Thus the legalistic tone is set for his exposition on the subject of church discipline. The last words in his introductory paragraph are:
Make no mistake about it, the Scriptures clearly speak of discipline in the assembly of God. One may twist the Scriptures and another may choose to ignore the Scriptures, but no man can eliminate the Scriptures whereby they will be tested.
In regard to twisting the Scriptures, we are immediately presented an example wherein Jack must be tested. 1 Pet. 4:17, which he quoted above, is not talking about church discipline in or of itself, but the judgment of God in association with the persecution and suffering the early Christians were enduring for the name of Christ. The context (verses 12-19) makes this explicitly clear. God allows such fiery ordeals to come upon His children for their testing (vv. 12 & 19). Compare Rom. 8:17-18 and Heb. 12:4-11, remembering that this is God’s righteous and infallible discipline -- not that of mere men -- administered by Him in ways and for reasons we don’t fully understand. The righteous, however, as Peter says, “entrust their souls to a faithful creator in doing what is right.”
[Note: for readability and to avoid the profusion of quotation marks most quotes from Jack‘s paper will be in italics. Where Jack has placed emphasis, the text is underlined. Where I have placed emphasis bold print is used. Church Discipline, the Biblical Principles is available on his website at SeparationTruth.com ]
PART I. The Hebrew Scriptures.
The Foundations of Judgment and Discipline.
In this section we are introduced to some twenty O.T. scriptures in Jack’s effort to lay the basis for the “proper judgment and discipline of disorderly members” in the body of Christ. We will look at each one of the passages, examine Jack’s comments and decide the worth of their applicability. But first, some of his preliminary remarks need exposing. I’ll withhold commenting on the reference to 1 Cor. 5 until we discuss his extended treatment of that passage in the Greek Scriptures section.
While true that the things which befell Israel in the wilderness “happened as examples for us” as revealed in 1 Cor.10 which Jack referenced, it is not true “that the disciplinary actions which followed were ‘our examples’ that we should know how to deal with [such] problems.” In nearly every instance, it was God who smote the people with slaughter or supernatural plagues. These were mostly capital crimes (even murmuring!) involving rebellion or insurrection against the theocracy God had established and the absolute power of its despotic leader. Remember, Moses was as God to them. (The Greek word despotes -- Strong’s 1203 -- means absolute ruler, lord, master). There was no opportunity for repentance or restoration in connection with the sudden catastrophic judgments from God or the violation of capital offenses.
Paul, however, reminds us in 1 Cor.10:13 of God’s grace. Life in the Spirit, under grace -- unlike the law -- provides an escape from the merciless power of sin. God, in His grace, will not allow members of His church to face tests and temptations beyond which they are able to resist, but will always provide a way of escape. That’s why Paul could confidently say to the Corinthians: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” In the church today only the hardened and unrepentant will persist in their sin and thereby subject themselves to severe judgment by their brethren or by God. Ignoring the significance of verse 13, Jack says:
There is one important difference between the nation of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ today. This lies in the matter of capital punishment . . . Instead of being stoned to death for certain crimes, the discipline is usually in the form of avoidance or censure.
Despite the unforgiving nature and the finality of “capital punishment”, Jack equates it with “avoidance or censure” in the church. (I still vividly remember one speaker at Hartland Camp in the fall of ‘85 emotionally proclaim: “We can’t stone them to death today, but we can mark them to be avoided!”) The only thing remotely akin to capital punishment in the early church was the immediate and drastic Divine executions of a man and his wife without any human assistance (Acts 5:1-10). Even Jack will acknowledge that this miraculous display of God’s judgment was one of many “signs” early in the Acts period accompanying the extended offer of the Messianic Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:3; 2:16-21; 3:19-24; Heb. 6:5). Of the five other instances of capital punishment in the early church listed by him (see “The Death Penalty” under his extensive treatment of 1 Cor. 5:1-8) none can be considered legitimate instances of church discipline involving assembly judgments. Three (Acts 8:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20) were “apostolic” judgments, none of which offers proof that capital punishment was actually carried out or even intended. The other two examples (1 Cor. 11:30 & 1 Jn. 5:16,17) are cases of summary judgment and discipline by God, not the church, visited on individuals for reasons unknowable to us apart from divine revelation. The latter passage, especially, is a notorious crux interpretum. The sin of unbelief leads to the second death. John may have had those people in mind (1 Jn. 2:19,22; 4:1-3; 5:1,10-13). He may also have had in mind incidents such as recorded in Acts 5:1-11.
But there is more than “one important difference” between Israel and the church. Israel was a state, a nation, a theocracy. The Mosaic Law consisted of both religious and civil laws, ordinances and precepts, equally enforceable by the civil and religious rulers.
Jack’s last words prefacing his anthology of Old Testament passages on the subject of judgment and discipline are aglow with praise for the Mosaic Law as a rule of life for “God‘s children.” He leaves the door open for us to assume that he has in mind believers in this age also. If so, he is at odds with Paul who says that the Law is no longer our tutor, that is, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are no longer under the Law.” (Gal. 3:25; 5:18)
God’s children, like members of a large family, would look to these directions and instructions with a profound delight, knowing that they were designed for their own protection and encouragement in life’s conflicts. The Law was “holy, just and good” the Apostle Paul said (Rom. 7:12). Therefore the implementation of just and righteous judgment in matters concerning the possible violation of these laws is most necessary and desirable.
Note the context of the verse Jack quotes in Rom. 7:12 (verses 7-11). Paul was speaking about his experience “under the Law”. The Law was “good” but it didn’t produce “profound delight” in him: “and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.” (v. 10) Peter described the Law as “a yoke which neither our fathers or we have been able to bear.” (Acts 15:10) The “profound delight” of the believer today is that he has been set free from the law of Moses and is under the law of Christ (the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus), the teachings of grace! The Mosaic law was given to Israel and Israel only. Furthermore, the law was not for the righteous man, but for the ungodly to point them to Christ (1 Tim. 1:9-10; Gal. 3:19-25). When used this way the law was “holy, just and good.” The law can only condemn; it cannot save; it cannot sanctify; it can only prompt a “have to” motive for doing good. In light of this and previous quotes it’s not really surprising, then, that Jack emphasizes the need for “conformity to the good and orderly” to obtain God’s blessing:
It is that sin-nature that does not want conformity to the good and orderly. The redeemed child of God knows he needs conformity to the blessed character of God’s desire and design. Thus it is, “conformity” to Christ is a blessing—the actual goal of every believer.
“Conformity”, of course, is what the Law demands. Even those dead in trespasses and sin can conform to the outward requirements of a religious system. But Paul calls for a “transformation” in Romans 12:2 “by the renewing of your mind.” Our heavenly Father’s desire is that our minds be so thoroughly renewed that we know in our hearts instinctively what “the good, pleasing and perfect will” of God is in our lives. This does not take place overnight. It is a maturing process by which our way of thinking is to resemble more and more the “mind of Christ.” This comes from within, not without. It’s known as “living in accordance with the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1-14) The Mosaic Law said, “Do in order to be blessed.” Grace says, “Do because you have been blessed.” Jack understands this difference in the two systems. In his study “The Law of Faith” he made it clear in these words:
Now please don’t misunderstand me! I certainly believe Christians should practice good works, but never in order to get saved! A Christian is said to be “created unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). They practice good works because they ARE saved, and not to GET saved! Good works emanate from “Christ-in-him.” Good works are, therefore, the inevitable result of being saved!
But he has an agenda to fulfill in this particular study on church discipline and he is apparently prone to skew the truth to obtain it. This becomes readily apparent in his effort to manufacture “principles” applicable to the subject of discipline in the church. The next 14 pages of his paper is taken up with detailed examination of over 17 passages from the Law of Moses on the subject of judgment and discipline. I will comment only on his summaries of the lessons he gleaned from them. Nine of these passages stress the importance of righteous administration of justice by those responsible among the people of Israel. I will refer to those first.
Now if every person knew this is the kind of a court room he is entering, we would say, ‘let’s go to court every day.’ Yes, indeed, we should all look forward to it.
Verse 21 especially is noted: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.” Jack’s comment is appropriate enough unless, of course, you happen to be a lawbreaker.
You will notice that I emphasized the statement that “the judgment is God’s.” This is important and will be stated again in other Scriptures. It tells us that as originally intended, the proper judgment that is executed under Biblical principles is in reality an extension of the very judgment God would make, and in effect, it is God’s judgment. Now this becomes a very sober responsibility under this realization. No doubt, this same principle is true in Church judgments that are executed within these perimeters.
This is a reiteration of the previous passage. Moses refines the necessary qualifications to include wise, understanding and respected men who are admonished to “judge righteously.” It should be obvious that only proper, fair or righteous judgment will be honored by God. However, in our case, since God is not known to openly intervene when faulty judgments are rendered, the innocent must suffer for Christ’s sake and those who judge unrighteously God will ultimately deal with.
Exodus 23:1-9 & Leviticus 19:15-18
This is an amazing list of considerations which all who enter into judgment should read, understand and cause to be remembered before consideration is given to any matter between brethren. It certainly prepares the heart for proper judgment. And with these is the reminder that the LORD is present and vitally interested!
Indeed, a very interesting checklist which many of us can identify with, including Jack Langford and Robert Grove, neither of whom believe they were judged righteously by those who put them down.
It becomes sadly obvious in Israel’s later history [Jack notes] that the perversion of justice characterized their apostasy, even to the extent of the condemnation of their very own Messiah.
These verses call for “just judgment. You shall not pervert justice.” After the reigns of David and Solomon most of Israel’s kings, priests and appointed judges were corrupt. The perversion of justice extended into the church age.
This, therefore, is another of the several passages that specifically addresses the guilt and penalty of those who will not execute proper judgment against a convicted party. It is proper to call those individuals who refuse to execute proper discipline—“presumptuous people” .
The text has to do with Israel’s judicial system in the occupied land. The lower courts would henceforth be decentralized and located throughout the towns of Israel. The higher tribunal would continue at the central sanctuary and consist of both priests and judges, each group having its individual head, viz., the high priest and a “chief justice.” Any case that proved too difficult for a local or lower court judge or officer would be referred to the higher, central court which would declare the verdict to be rendered. Any failure of the lower court’s judge to comply with the Chief Judge’s decision was considered presumptuous or rebellious and punishable by death. This law protected the integrity of the judicial system in Israel’s theocracy and insured the utmost respect for the role of the Chief Judge who was considered God‘s representative. Jack makes the following totally unwarranted application to church discipline:
Discipline that has been explained in the light of the Word of God by God’s ministers has the stamp of Heaven’s approval upon it. Those who act independently of this are ‘presuming’ their own authority and opinion over God’s!
He “presumptuously” and erroneously is applying to the church a civil and criminal judicial system operative only in local governments. There is no such judicial model in God’s word provided for the church. The closest to it would be that described in Matthew 18, and even it has strong millennial kingdom connotations. The authority Jack argues for is granted only to civil magistrates, judges and courts acting as “ministers” on God’s behalf (see Romans 13:1-7). Such understanding also leads to the heinous crime of wholesale excommunications, sometimes entire assemblies (witness the Plymouth Brethren and Campbellite movements and the short, troubled history of the aberrant, no-name, Christian group claiming (as far as they know) to be “the only viable representation of Christ’s church on earth.” To impute to “ministers” in Christ’s body divine judicial and authoritative powers is alien to God’s word and indicative of a cultic mentality.
Deuteronomy 19:15-21 & Judges 22:10-34
The principle of establishing everything in the mouth of two or three witnesses is repeated in the Scriptures relating to Church judgments—Matthew 18:16; II Corinthians 13:1 & I Timothy 5:19. And the principle of first hearing from the accused is repeated for us in the gospel of John (7:51). Nicodemus stated the principle in a question form before the Council, “does our Law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
If only these principles were obeyed conscientiously and consistently by all.
2 Chronicles 19:5-10
The important fact about this statement of Jehoshaphat is that he recognizes true judgment over God’s people as being the same as God’s judgment . . . I believe this was also the reflection of Christ when He said regarding proper Church judgment, “Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). God, Himself, is pleased to identify with proper, spiritual and truthful judgment among His people.
The emphasis put here on “proper”, “spiritual” and “truthful” judgment is a welcome deviation from some of the past pontifical pronouncements which implied that God had given assembly leaders a carte blanche endorsement of any “binding” or “loosing” they undertook. In regard to my letter of excommunication one Southern California leading elder said, “There’s a letter written, prepared by the assembly in San Luis Obispo. That letter will stand, and anyone who bucks that letter will be under the disciplinary hand of God!” About two months later Jack Langford announced via the air-waves that the “church of Jesus Christ is the supreme court in judgmental matters . . . judgments among their members would be as it were the judgment of Heaven and ratified in Heaven.”
A quick review of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 as discussed in Ed Stevens’ study Gullibility in Religion and Maurice Johnson’s studies The Supreme Court in Religion, The Kingdom of God and The Keys of the Kingdom, verifies the fact that Jack and others have certainly deviated from the “ancient landmarks.” Furthermore, such authority and power could never be committed to sinful men, even though redeemed and members of the body of Christ, without being accompanied and verified by supernatural acts as were displayed during the gospel and early Acts periods. Yes, this authority may have been given to the “church,” but the word of our Lord is very specific: the keys are those “of the kingdom of heaven,” and the authority to bind or loose is not to be exercised in this present age but when the saints reign in the future “on the earth” (Rev. 5:10; 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 6:2-3). The church must be perfected in order to reign with Christ over the nations in the coming Kingdom (Rom. 8:17-23). And such authority won’t be limited only to judgment over “God’s people” as Jack implied.
Exodus 32:26-29 & Deuteronomy 33:8-10
There is a definite parallel between the supernatural preparation for God’s historical kingdom under Moses at the Exodus and the supernatural judgments which shall be poured out upon an ungodly world and a rebellious chosen nation in preparation for the future millennial kingdom of our Lord at His second advent. Notwithstanding this important connection, Jack discovers an applicable “principle” in the Levite’s impartiality in slaying their own kin for rebellion and apostasy. He tells us that:
The death of three thousand Israelites who participated in this idolatry, which took place at the foot of the very mountain where the Law was given, marked God’s holy wrath and disciplinary judgment in that it was directly ordered by God and immediately carried out.
And in spite of the fact that we find no instance of such a “principle” being applied in the body of Christ -- not to mention such an order given by God -- Jack says,
The same God Who ordered the proper honor and respect for fathers and mothers also ordered these principles to be carried out in an assembly when fathers and mothers would pervert the truths of God. Thank God, Jesus Christ introduces us to a new family relationship that endures throughout eternity
For those who believe that “marking and avoiding” should never involve family members, Scriptures like these look them square in the face, and should by all means shut their mouths.
He had to erect straw men to which he could apply “these principles” because the “marking and avoiding” of any believer will always somehow involve and affect family members. What most of us protested against was the ruthless effort by leadership to rip Matt. 10:34-37 out of its context and use it to prompt children to stand against parents, to persuade parents to turn against their sons and daughters, to coax wives into betraying their husbands. And in so doing, they were told that God would bless them. And in so doing Jack introduces us to what he calls “a new family relationship.” Here and in another paper (Division in the Indivisible, 1987) he credit’s the Levites with demonstrating a new “species of love” by the slaying of family members.
It has been said, with some justification, that a man’s life and actions are the surest guide to his actual beliefs. Jack’s faulty perusal of Exodus 32 and Matthew 10 is a sure guide to his actual beliefs. His life and actions provide a window as to the end result of such beliefs. He has no fellowship with any of his seven sons and daughters nor with his own brother and sister. And in actual practice today he is a spiritual recluse in the family of God. And should it be surprising that he has dedicated his website to the promotion of “separation” in the body of Christ rather than the unity which Christ prayed for? What more need be said?
The importance of this passage is to illustrate the principle that failure by a person to execute the initial judgment, actually brings the same condemnation prescribed upon himself. Some in the Church today have mockingly referred to this principle as “dominoes in marking.” They don’t believe that anyone who refuses to implement a marking should themselves be marked to be avoided. Of course, it is very clear from this passage (and the next one, and many others) that God orders the discipline of those who refuse to execute the prescribed discipline on the initial guilty party.
This passage does not teach or illustrate what has been prescribed to it . Molech was a detestable Semitic deity honored by the sacrifice of children. Since it defiled His sanctuary and profaned His holy name, no other form of ancient idolatry was more abhorrent to God. For that reason if the people themselves didn’t put to death the man who sacrificed his offspring to Molech, God Himself would intervene and cut that man off with his family, and anyone else (God adds in verse 5) who joins with that man in prostituting themselves to Molech. (See the NIV, NKJV, RSV, Amplified & Goodspeed versions. The Sept. says, “and all who encourage him to go a-whoring.”) Furthermore, this was an exceptional evil that warranted God’s personal intervention, not a general response to every disciplinary matter or capital crime. This passage is more akin to 1 Cor. 5:1-5 where Paul expressed his perturbation with the Corinthians for not removing that sinful man from their midst. Paul, for his part, though he sought their participation, “decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.” No hint that the Corinthians, whose responsibility it was, were to be “marked to be avoided.”
Numbers 16:24-27 & 41-50
Here the principle of the uniform separation by all the members of the congregation from the party under discipline is made clear. Any who would choose not to separate themselves from the guilty party would automatically be partakers in the very same discipline imposed on the initial party.
In introducing the Hebrew passages to us Jack was careful to point out the importance of remembering that Israel was a “Theocracy.” As a nation Israel was both a civil and a spiritual entity. The church is a “spiritual entity” he said, but its members are subject to secular governing powers. It is surprising, then, that he would appeal to a civil rebellion or uprising in Israel’s history which has no relevancy at all to disciplinary matters in the church, unless, of course, there is a little of Rome still muddling his thinking.
There was no attempt at negotiation in this situation, no trial or hearing, no judges to decide the issue according to Mosaic protocol. The crime of insurrection against the divinely bestowed authority of Moses and the attempt to supplant the Aaronic priesthood was quickly identified and judgment was rendered in a supernatural manner. Since the punishment was to be catastrophic in nature, all the people were warned to stand away from the accused lest they suffer the same death. Likewise the angels had similarly warned Lot and his family to depart from Sodom “lest [they] be swept away in the punishment of the city.” And while teaching in the temple, the Lord warned His listeners to flee the city when they saw the [Roman] armies surrounding Jerusalem. God’s people are also warned to come out of “Babylon the great” because “in one day her plagues will come . . . and she will be burned up with fire.”
For those in certain Christian circles today who bemoan a proper discipline, and refuse to participate by saying, “We don’t believe in Dominoes in Marking,” I would herein respond, by asking, “Is 14,700 ‘dominoes’ enough to convince you otherwise?” I am simply addressing here the principle taught in these Scriptures of the necessity of compliance with the godly judgment or else participate in the penalty. It becomes obvious that the reason God orders and even executes this penalty, upon those who refuse to implement the prescribed discipline upon unruly members, is because those members are themselves unruly and countenance the crime by their refusal to execute judgment. Consequently by this carnal action, in the sight of God, they become guilty of the very sin of the initial guilty party.
In all the cases above it was the Lord God who suddenly carried out the judgments! In not one instance were the people required “to implement the prescribed discipline on unruly members” much less refuse “to execute judgment.” In fact, the whole congregation was in “compliance” with Korah, Dathan and Abiram and God would have consumed them all instantly if it were not for the intervention of Moses and Aaron (16:19-26). Note that God even warned Moses and Aaron to separate from the congregation on that occasion. The next day, after witnessing a rather spectacular execution, all the congregation still stubbornly bemoaned the deaths of the rebellion’s leaders. Again, God, in His wrath, would have consumed the entire congregation if it were not for the intervention of Moses and Aaron. Absolute rulers or dictatorships, among the world’s nations, usually handle civil rebellions likewise with mass executions, albeit without divine authentication.
Is the functioning of the church which is Christ’s body to be compared with such activity? The Vicars of Rome apparently thought so! Compliance and conformity are principles governments depend heavily upon to have their way, and, I might add ,even legalistic, authoritarian Christian leaders . Notice also Jack’s use of the qualifying adjectives godly and proper when referring to judgment and discipline in the church. “Godly judgment” and “proper discipline” in the examples so far given were accompanied by supernatural phenomena. How do we decide in the church today whether the judgments and disciplines being rendered are “proper” and “godly”? That subject and Jack’s unexpected answer will be addressed in the next section under the Greek scriptures.
There is, I believe, a much more glorious principle to be gleaned from the reading of Numbers 16 than Jack’s preoccupation with discipline. As a mediatorial ruler and type of Christ, Moses also represented the people of Israel toward God. Over and over during the long wanderings between Egypt and the promised land, Moses pleaded the mercy of Jehovah on behalf of a people which deserved wrath. In all these crises Moses faithfully interceded for his people -- all, that is, except for Korah and his followers who perished without mercy under the immediate hand of God!
Because the context deserves more attention, three of Jack’s selected passages are here consolidated under one heading. Moses was preparing the children of Israel for entering and conquering the land of the Canaanites. Success in their conquest would depend not on military prowess alone but on their collective commitment to God‘s commandments. Their prosperity in the land would depend on their conduct and their faithfulness to the One True God. They would be blessed or cursed accordingly. To guarantee a thorough consecration to the Lord, the chief mandate of the conquest required the obliteration of all Canaanite cultic centers and idolatrous installations. If not, the Israelites would be in great danger of being ensnared by the Canaanite cults and their false Gods. Over and over again Moses appealed to Israel to fear the Lord, to love Him and to serve Him with all their heart and soul. The three passages depict situations which will sorely test Israel’s existence as a nation by its resistance to the enticement: “Let us go and serve other gods.”
1) Verses 1-5
This passage will illustrate the supremacy of the Word of God over an apparent miracle by a false prophet. The carnal brother or unbelieving person, who is impressed by the performance of such a prophet, will easily deviate from the truth of God.
It’s not certain what Jack has in mind here since the test is “let us go after other gods (which you have not known) and let us serve them.” When he says, “The carnal brother or unbelieving person . . . will easily deviate from the truth of God,” I’m inclined to think, based on personal experience, that in Jack’s application the “false prophet” becomes a deceiving teacher and the “truth of God” is his little sect’s exclusive doctrine which separates it from other Christians. How Jack would apply the “sign or a wonder” is probably anyone’s guess.
2) Verses 6-11
The following passages will illustrate the serious judgment that should be taken when false religious ideologies creep into the communities of Israel. Most noticeably this judgment begins with a person’s own close relatives.
Jack waxes eloquent here because the subject provides him opportunity to zero in on a major source of annoyance to him: “those who with soulish sympathy cry out against inter-family judgment and discipline.” This passage specifically warns about a friend or relative secretly enticing you, saying, “‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known.” It goes on to say, “You shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him.” To accommodate his application Jack conveniently changes the terminology. In place of the blatant enticement to disobey God‘s clear command not to serve other gods, he substitutes “false religious ideologies.” An ideology, of course, is merely the doctrine, opinion, way of thinking or theorizing of an individual or group. But this prepares us for his contrived and rather extraneous application of the passage to the church today:
This would mean today that censure or break of Christian fellowship would be implemented against your own loved ones were they to be guilty of teaching or embracing another Christ, another doctrine, or another church, other than that taught in the word of God.
These are devious words which open up a can of worms. What constitutes “another Christ, another doctrine, or another church” o r something “other than that taught in the word of God” in Jack’s thinking? Well, for examples, Jack “censured” his own brother for disagreeing with him on Romans 16. More recently he “marked to be avoided” his own daughter and son-in-law for attending a “denominational church” rather than meeting with his own little fledgling “separatist” club. This was a convoluted mess because they had just left the same “separatist” cult which had earlier ousted Jack himself. Of seven children, three have “marked” him and he has “marked” the other four. Obviously he displays no “soulish sympathy” regarding “inter-family judgment and discipline.” But in Jack’s application what is parallel with “serving other Gods”? His next statement certainly seems to imply something civil authorities would be interested in:
“Your hand shall be first against him.” This means that the ones closest to the crime and the criminal are the ones to first divulge it and to prosecute it. This command should embarrass any carnal Christians who are family members of those who sin, but choose to sit back and let others do the dirty work of seeking out the information and proposing the punishment. Many of these relatives know good and well what their family members have done, but carnally refuse to move a finger to deal with the problem.
It becomes obvious in reading through these Hebrew Scriptures that God repeatedly commands “all” in a given community to implement the judgments. See the following passages as examples: Lev. 24:13-16 (For blasphemy), Num. 15:32-3 (For breaking the Sabbath), Deut. 13:9 & 11 (For serving other gods), Deut. 17:7 (For serving other gods), Deut. 21:21 (The rebellious son).
All these examples came early in Israel’s birth as a theocratic nation. It was extremely important to establish a distinctive brand new culture apart from other nations if it were to survive. Israel was to be set apart for God’s holy purposes. The most prominent distinctive was to be its absolute allegiance to one God. Israel’s entire society -- its legal system, economic and governmental structure, family life, individual and communal ethics -- was to reflect this allegiance, which was to be enforced by the ultimate sanctions of theocratic religious and civil law. It is this theocratic law system and the weapon of fear that Jack wishes to impose on the body of Christ in this age of grace.
In Israel’s theocratic society the civil government was a manifestation of the nation’s common religion. In fact, all community civil and criminal authority was essentially an extension of the authority of the individual family head. Parental authority, in particular, had been ordained of God to represent divine authority and to be the cornerstone of all human government and societal order. At the family level if misuse of authority by parents produced tyranny, disrespect for proper authority would produce rebellion or anarchy. In a new theocracy this could not be allowed to increase to the communal or national level. Therefore it was necessary to fortify parental authority against the spirit of lawlessness so that “all Israel shall hear of it and fear.” (Dt. 21:20)
3) Verses 12-18
The third portion of this chapter of Scripture is equally strong in showing God’s hatred of religious rebellion . . . This particular commandment will be the basis for later judgment against a whole tribe in the nation of Israel. Certain “perverted men” committed such immorality in one city as would bring the destruction of many thousands of people. Because the inhabitants of that tribe would not execute judgment, that whole tribe was nearly exterminated.
Jack labels the act in this section “religious rebellion.” In ancient Israel it constituted “civil rebellion.” Since we’re not in a church-state situation like the dark ages, we must ask, what constitutes religious rebellion in the body of Christ, especially the little sect that Jack represents? And what principals “herein” are we to glean from the actions commanded in verses 14-16 of this text? I suppose the response would be that we should “mark and avoid” entire assemblies of Christians who have turned to “other Gods” in that they do not agree with us doctrinally. In essence has not Jack already so judged nearly all other Christians? But what about all their “booty” and their “cattle“?
Judges 19 - 21
This reference records the outbreak of a civil war that required military intervention -- hardly a mere matter of individual apostasy or “religious rebellion” as Jack describes it.
In Conclusion From the Hebrew Scriptures
When a Christian gives careful consideration to all the principles taught in the Hebrew Scriptures (and I am sure there are many more to be found) concerning this matter of assembly discipline and judgments, he will have much better preparation and appreciation for understanding and executing Church Discipline within the body of Christ. . . . No one can fail to read the Law and the Prophets without realizing that Almighty God wants, above all else, a sincere holiness among His people—“Be you holy, for I AM HOLY” (Leviticus 11:45; 19:2 & I Peter 1:15,16).
Jack prefaced these concluding remarks with a list of ten Important Lessons from the Law On the Subject of Judgment and Discipline. The first lesson he emphasizes is the occasion for teaching the laws and statutes of God (Ex. 18:13-27). I made reference to 1 Timothy 1:5-14 early in this study. In response to Jack’s “Important Lessons from the Law” I suggest one reread that passage and my comments carefully. Jack has made crystal clear the goal of his instruction: the legislation of holiness through “assembly discipline and judgments.” Somewhere along the line he swerved aside from Paul’s words in verse 5: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In none of the many examples Jack produced from the Old Testament was there forgiveness, restoration, mercy, pardon or reprieve from impending punishment. It was inevitable! Irreversible! Irrevocable! Is that the goal of discipline in the body of Christ?
Several of his suggested lessons depict the necessity of just and righteous judgment, a theme repeatedly stressed throughout his paper. Ironically, in closing his treatise on Old Testament discipline, Jack laments Israel’s abysmal failure in this regard. Concerning discipline in the church, he will remind us in these words:
Let us remember that these beautiful and proper procedures are given to fallible men, who very often fail to implement, in every respect, a perfect execution of these instructions. Nevertheless, the instructions stand as a guideline to which our hearts, as blood-bought members of Christ’s assembly, must be in tune.
In May, 1997, under duress for his objections to a Bible study by Robert Grove on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage, which was endorsed by over 22 men in leadership, Jack concluded his response to it with these words:
Most accept it as being true, not because they can actually prove it, but simply out of admiration and respect for leadership. This respect has been so high that most forget (or don’t want to take the time) to be “nobel [sic] Bereans” and “prove all things”. And finally, the endorsement by numerous brethren in leadership gives it a semblance of solid authenticity so that it can be accepted by all the assemblies.
Needless to say, he was subsequently judged as a divisive person and “marked to be avoided”. Later, in 2006, after a lengthy debate about the incorporation of ministries, he was “marked” again. In an introductory letter on his website that documents this controversy, he writes:
I believe and walk in, right now, precisely what I learned and stood with back in 1961-2. I make no apology whatsoever for these letters. I made public the hypocrisy of one young minister in my area (a son of Robert Grove) who created such an organization. As a result, I paid the ultimate price of being “marked to be avoided.” (This was the first time in my experience and association with these saints that I ever knew of a person being so disciplined for telling the truth!)
This man supposedly has reason to lament the failures of disciplinary judgments even in this church dispensation, but can he really affirm with a clear conscience that he knows of no one else among the saints of his association who was possibly “so disciplined for telling the truth”? To him those whom he judged 25 years ago were “Like those intoxicated on wine and love, they babbled.” Even worse, we were all compared to “a chorus of frogs around a pond on a hot summer night.” (Division in the Indivisible, pp. 9, 10) Looking forward to the millennial reign of Christ, he ironically observes:
THANKFULLY, this is not the end of the story, for the prophets also promised on Israel’s behalf—Jeremiah 23:5, “Behold the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will raise unto David a Righteous Branch; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.”
PART II The New Testament
As a preface to this portion of Jack’s study I make this observation. He seems to be haunted by the fact that the responsibility for disciplinary judgment in the body of Christ rests in the hands of “fallible” men. His coverage of the OT scriptures was saturated with references to the perversion of justice. In his analysis of the first NT passage at least 30 lines were devoted to the “danger” this poses. In his summary comments he gives examples of how the Law of Moses and the Roman government defended the principle of self-defense. Then he remarks: “How much more should this be true in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ! But how surely it has been forgotten.” Both he and Robert Grove claim to be victims of faulty church judgment. Yet these two men refuse to admit that they, themselves, may have encouraged grossly unjust disciplinary actions. Nevertheless, many of us can take solace in the fact that “stoning” was not an option at their disposal.
Jack spends an inordinate amount of space trying to prove a doctrinal point that most of us agree with, namely, that “Israel’s long hoped for Messianic Kingdom is the immediate and direct recipient for any application to be made from this passage.” Confusion is introduced, however, when he asserts that “this does not mean there is no application of these instructions to the Church which is Christ’s body, for there most certainly is.” Part of the problem is that he moves toward application before fully and accurately interpreting the passage, something we encountered in his treatment of Old Testament texts. Direct application of commands and directives found in the Mosaic Law, as Jack was inclined to do, is a serious offense also. Applying a principle inherent in the text and affirmed elsewhere is another matter. Even so caution must be exercised since a principle is a generalized statement or truth deduced or derived from the text. What the text actually says is explicit. That which may be clearly present in the passage, but not stated in so many words, is implicit teaching.
The Church’s Messianic Phase
In the verses before us the Lord’s instructions and the accompanying promises were only applicable to the church during its Messianic phase in the Book of Acts period, never being intended to serve as a permanent norm for the church of the present age. The chief subject of the Lord’s post-resurrection teaching was the “kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) The body of Christ, as a separate entity from Israel and her associated kingdom promises, occupied a wholly subordinate place until the ministry of Paul the Apostle and his subsequent revelation of the “mystery” concerning it (Eph. 3:1-12; Col. 1:25-27). When the church was first established there was a manifestation or “taste” (Heb. 6:4,5) of the kingdom rule of God on earth. This “manifestation” diminished as Israel’s complete rejection of its Messiah became evident. With all this Jack professes to agree.
Verses 15-17 do contain an orderly, judicious procedure that is practical in many situations. But how and where in the church today would we find supernatural confirmation for verses 18 through 20? Jack is aware of this problem because He goes to extraordinary lengths to expound its difficulties. In doing so, He says:
The words “binding” and “loosing” (verse 18) have provoked responses from different sects in Christendom. To the Roman Catholic pontifical authority, it is interpreted as heaven’s certification of their august judgments. But their august, pontifical judgments have nothing whatsoever to do with Biblical reality or the headship of Christ. They have created another “church” for which “Heaven” has nothing but contempt. The same is true for a great variety of the Protestant denominations and the various cults that pronounce their ipse-dixit judgments.
But rarely do we find statements more “pontifical” than those uttered by Jack and other teachers in their sect. Examples are: “The church of Jesus Christ is the supreme court in judgmental matters . . . Their judgments among their members would be, as it were, the judgment of heaven and ratified in heaven.” And “There’s a letter written, prepared by the assembly in San Luis Obispo. That letter will stand, and anyone who bucks that letter will be under the disciplinary hand of God.” This group used the designation “the church of Jesus Christ” very exclusively, considering the fact that most true Christians are probably in “Protestant” sects. Concerning them, Jack says: “Heaven has nothing but contempt.” It should be obvious, as stated before, that only proper, fair and righteous judgment will be honored by God. But, since God has not been known to immediately intervene when faulty judgments are rendered, the innocent must suffer for Christ’s sake. Those who judged them wrongly God will ultimately deal with. Considering the difficulty of interpreting this text under other than messianic kingdom circumstances, we should be prepared to continue enduring the judgments of fallible men, though not necessarily agreeing with them.
Brother’s at Variance
There is, however, a different take on Matthew 18 which deserves consideration and it closely parallels 1 Corinthians 6 where arbitration rather than discipline is called for. The tendency is to generalize this passage, making it applicable to all disciplinary matters, when actually it depicts a personal situation where one brother is wronged by another. The sin apparently is such that it can be and should be resolved between the two of them privately. This is borne out in verse 21 where Peter seeks a clarification by asking, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” In Elizabethan English (KJV) the personal pronouns “thou”, “thy” and “thee”, used in reference to the offended one (the person being spoken to), are all second person singular. In the plural the KJV uses “you” and “ye”. In modern English the declension of “you” is the same in singular or plural, which introduces confusion in verse 17. The pronoun “thee” (you) in verse 17 finds its antecedent in the person being spoken to, the offended man, not the “church.” This is consistent with the grammar of verses 15 & 16.
Matthew Henry’s exhaustive commentary on this passage dwells at length on this scenario where a brother is at variance with another. He ties it in with 1 Cor. 6 where Paul reproves those who go to law before the unjust and not before the saints. In the gospel account the brother who had been trespassed against was free to regard his unrepentant offender as he would “a Gentile and a tax gatherer.” When all brotherly efforts fail, Paul likewise concludes the matter with “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” Both accounts deal with everyday “matters of life” between brethren, not major issues of doctrine, heresy or immorality that usually affect the entire body. In neither case, contrary to the claim of many, is there reference to the necessity of placing the offending brother “outside the fellowship and association of the assembly.” Such disciplinary action may be required if an obstinate brother’s behavior becomes notorious. When his behavior becomes public knowledge, other members of the body are not likely to be victimized also. They will be on guard.
There is something ironic about Jack’s emphasis on the role of assembly decisions and judgments in matters of discipline. He says:
Sometimes an individual or small group of individuals become highly respected by an assembly. It becomes easy and a shortcut to rely upon them for judgment. This has dangers. . . .Sad to say, in many ages, and most certainly this one in which we live, which contains the ultimate times of apostasy, many judgments are allowed and acted upon which are made only by highly respected persons. Though this simple procedure may save a lot of time and relieve the whole assembly of the burdensome ordeal of a hearing, nevertheless, it is not what Christ has ordered.
Such wisdom was not the order of the day 25 years ago when authoritarian leaders reigned unimpeded, being looked upon as “authorized” vicars of Christ!
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
I suppose we should stand in awe of someone who consults lexicons or commentaries only when they want to confirm what they already suspect is the truth. However, I remain extremely dubious about such claims. After all, does Jack expect us to listen to or read his commentaries on Scripture only when we want support for what we already believe? With such an attitude, how can he ever be persuaded that he may be wrong? Are we, I suppose, obliged to examine his alleged axiomatic explanation of this passage with tremulous fear and the uppermost reverence? Some of his statements, however, are too transparently faulty to ignore. For instance, in his opening dissertation on the word “disorderly” he says:
Here in I Thessalonians, and also in II Thess. 3:6, the word seems to be used as a general exhortation without specifying any certain kind of “unruliness,” but only unruliness . . . in general.
. . . some newer translations prefer to render every use of the word in these two letters by that meaning—“idleness.”
“idleness” is only one variation of “disorderly” conduct, and we should not presume that Paul meant this in all cases.
In the immediate case [1 Th. 5:14; 2 Th. 3:6] the apostle Paul will give it a direct application to the disorder of “idleness.”
The Word “Disorderly”
The Greek word ataktos is found only in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. The general context in both letters makes it perfectly clear that when he did use this word and it’s variants the only meaning he could possibly have had in mind in every instance was a kind of “idleness” that was causing disruption. When he first came among these people, he reprimanded them in regard to this improper behavior and determined to set an example for them (I Th. 2:9-12; 4:11,12; II Th. 3:6-10). The problem persisted and in subsequent letters he urges the saints there to take action against these disorderly, unruly, idle busybodies (I Th. 5:14; II Th. 3:6,14).
A word’s meaning is verified by its use. If “ataktos” was just “a general classification that was meant to have many applications” as Jack maintains, there was ample opportunity in the Greek New Testament for its use, but it is found only in this context in association with people who deliberately refused to work for a living. These people were not simply unemployed, they were living in idleness, they were busybodies, burdens to the assembly, thus disorderly. Jack introduces another Greek word at this point:
In addition, there is actually another Greek word that specifically denotes “inactivity or idleness” and that is argos, which word is not used in these texts. Consequently, the more literal rendering as “unruly” or “disorderly” would seem more desirable, because that is its first and literal meaning. It also allows Paul to directly apply it to the specific disorder among the Thessalonians of “idleness.”
Paul could have used argos here, but he didn’t, simply because the elements of truancy from work and undisciplined behavior were both present in the word he chose. Paul did use “argos” in 1 Tim. 5:13 and Titus 1:12. Peter used it in 2 Pet. 1:8 and it is found 4 times in Matthew (12:36; 20:3,6). But in these verses even the more literal NASB frequently deviates from the meaning Jack suggests (“inactivity or idleness”) and substitutes careless, lazy and useless, words obviously having significantly different connotations. Proof of this is the use of “idle” in Matt. 20. Because those men were looking for work, they were not so characterized as careless, lazy or useless.
Jack’s concerted effort to defend the “literalness” of the translation “disorderly” is ill conceived and reveals a deliberate bias on his part to make this passage directly applicable to “any number” of situations that he could describe as disorderly. Consider what he says here:
. . . some newer translations prefer to render every use of the word in these two letters by that meaning—“idleness.” The Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon gives the first definition, but indicates the other translation of “idleness” is permissible, if not preferable is some cases. There seem to be two opinions now among Greek scholars on Paul’s intention, and therefore the proper translation. However, the more literal translations of the Bible (as the New American Standard Bible), and the actual Lexicons that I have quoted do not do this . . .
There may be two opinions among Greek scholars on how to translate the word “ataktos”, but there is no disagreement among them about “Paul’s intention” here. It is interesting that the New American Standard Bible (1971), the Revised Standard Version (1953) and the English Standard Version (2001) all claim to be descended from and based on the American Standard Version (1901), and they all claim to follow the essentially literal translation philosophy. The RSV and ESV use “idle”, “idlers” or “idleness” throughout. The ASV used “disorderly” throughout, but the NASB, which Jack favors, abandons disorderly completely in favor of “unruly” or “undisciplined”. Other translations and lexicons use irresponsible, lazy, slackness, loafers and playing truant. The use of all these synonyms tells us that most scholars don’t regard the English word disorderly (or any English word) an exact match for the Greek word. In fact, for what it’s worth, the primary (first) meaning for “disorderly” in the three different English dictionaries I have is untidy, disarrangement, not orderly, unsystematic or confusion: a disorderly desk is given as an example.
Jack attempts to prove in a rather bizarre way that this passage can “be applied to any other person, other than the one who was idle in this context.” He argues that since the Apostle Paul applies the very same discipline (“do not keep company with”) to “at least six other categories of sinful carnality,” he can rightly make application of this passage to other disorders. We must ask, why use 2 Th. 3:14 as a basis for judging the immoral people listed in 1 Cor. 5 when that very context itself provides all the support, justification and warrant needed to exercise the judgment required?
He, however, proceeds to distort both passages in his effort to universalize the use of disorderly. He first claims the “conditions” in 1 Cor. 5 are “obvious disorders.” Then, waxing bolder without mincing words, he refers to the immoral ones as “those listed as disorderly,” as if Paul actually uses ataktos there. Next, he points out that since the two passages are parallel in several ways, the same discipline is warranted. Although the command “not to associate with” or “do not keep company with” is present in both instances, a more severe judgment is called for in 1 Cor. 5 where the wording “be removed from your midst” (v.2) and “remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (v.13) is used. This is terminology borrowed directly from Deuteronomy (13:5; 17:7,12; 21:21; 22:21), as Jack attests. Under the Law that meant death! Not only that, Paul decided “to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh” (v.5). This appears to be a rather terminal judgment. Jack tries to parry the force of this argument by claiming the “disorders” of verses 9-13 “are not of the same magnitude” as the individual case in verses 1-8.
In other words, when I say the judgment of I Corinthians 5 is the same as that in II Thessalonians 3, I am not talking about I Cor. 5:1-8; that particular judgment stands as a case by itself.
However, by applying verse 13 to the evils of the preceding verses, he introduces confusion. If verse 13 is the summation of the whole chapter, which is debatable, then all those evils merit the same punishment as administered the man in Verse 2. Given similar circumstances, that may ultimately be the case. But in verse 13b Paul most likely is summing up the case against that one individual.
The other four “parallels” in his chart are forced comparisons. “Admonish” and “judge” are hardly synonymous terms, and “withdraw from” and “put away from” are actions obviously diverse in execution and purpose as the respective contexts make clear. And his effort to weave parallels with a play on the words enemy/outside and brother/inside requires distorting the facts. 2 Thess. 3:15 simply says: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” What is meant by “enemy” is not entirely clear. Most likely it means don’t have a hateful, hostile, contemptuous attitude toward him. That’s how Paul used it in Col. 1:21 and likely in Gal. 4:16. Rather, admonish him in a kind, loving way. In 1 Cor. 5 the question is who is to be judged, not how they are to be regarded. The church only has authority to judge those within the body, not outsiders (unbelievers). The rupture which is demanded is obviously not with the unsaved, immoral people in general, but only to those who profess to be Christians. More will be said about that when we discuss 1 Cor. 5 in depth.
Excommunication vs. Withholding Fellowship
Excommunication or complete severance of a brother is not encouraged or implied in this passage. Contrary to what has been the practice in assemblies of our association, no command is given in verses 6 or 14 of 2 Th. 3 to “put away from among yourselves” or “expel” or “remove from your midst” the unruly brothers as is the case in 1 Cor. 5:2&13. Nothing is done to them. They are simply to be left alone while the brethren step back from them. Word study dictionaries such as Zodhiates, Thayer’s, Vine’s and Vincent’s give similar meanings for the rare phrase used in v.6: such as to draw back from somebody, to shrink back, place one’s self away from. Thayer’s adds “to abstain from familiar intercourse with one.” William MacDonald in his Bible Commentary says, “. . . refusing to mingle with him socially. The NIV Study Bible note says, “Not withdrawal of all contact but withholding of close fellowship.” In other words, don’t socialize with them.
In verse 14 the phrase associate with (without the negative command) is from an unusual double compound (sun-with, ana-up, mignumi-to mix or mingle) meaning mix up together with, to mingle together, keep company with or have fellowship with. Thayer’s includes “be intimate with one” and Vincent’s says it denotes “not only close, but habitual, intercourse.” It is used elsewhere only in 1 Cor. 5:9,11. Although the situation in the Corinthian passage is similar, as Jack suggests, there are notable differences. The admonition to not associate with immoral people was given by Paul in a previous letter (5:9) as a general exhortation. Because of a misunderstanding he had to carefully distinguish between those in the world and those professing to be Christians. Since eating, either publicly or privately, with someone was customarily a sign of intimacy, Paul had to specifically warn against that also.
But to the Thessalonians he proposed a modified course of action in regard to the idlers (a distinction blatantly overlooked by group leadership in years past while they were engaged in their house-cleaning, leaven-purging activities). These men were still to be regarded as brothers, not enemies (vv. 14b & 15). They are still within reach of brotherly admonition. A change of heart and reconciliation were still envisaged. Members of the church were to avoid social contacts with these men, but when contacts arose (which would inevitably be the case if these brothers still had freedom to come and go) they were to make use of those occasions for admonition. The offender must not be the object of personal hostility; feelings of anger and annoyance are not to be given free rein against him. Plainly, the process here is not one of excommunication or severance from the assembly. This is not a matter of “redefining” the terminology; it’s merely a case of properly applying a godly solution to the problems inherent with a “disorderly” brother who needs to be repentant and ashamed of his behavior. In a further effort to correlate this situation with a much more horrible sin, Jack says: “In the case of the serious sin recorded in I Corinthians 5, there was evidence of true repentance, for which reason Paul encouraged his restoration.” We’ll consider his evidence for this statement in the next section.
Admitted misuse of verse 14
His concluding statement is an admission that he and others misapplied verse 14:
It is true that some have taken the position in the past that this verse is actually directly applicable to any person that would not execute this discipline upon the unruly brother . . . This was also actually stated at an earlier date by some brethren (myself included), until we found out it was in all probability not accurate.
Somewhere along the line they discovered the fact that “most expositors point out” that v.14 is merely a repeat of the instruction in verse 6 with more detail, the reference being to the persistent and obstinate idlers who may continue to disregard the commands Paul gave. But Jack, et al. were still using v.14 in support of their “domino marking” practice as late as June 1991 (message by Jim Maurer on why the brethren had to be marked in ‘85 and ‘86). That meaning, of course, should have been obvious to the unbiased reader, but if one has an agenda, alternate possibilities are readily adopted. This admission, sadly, comes after much devastation was wrought in the assemblies of California partly because of misapplication of this verse. We can expect no remorse on Jack’s part, however, because he immediately interjects with: “This correction does not change the fact . . . that those who would refuse to implement the discipline, would themselves be in danger of such discipline.” This issue, in reference to the so-called “domino” marking, is encountered again when 1 Cor. 5 is considered. Would to God, Jack and others would have taken the time to consult impartial biblical expositors on the other disciplinary passages, Romans 16 in particular.
1 Corinthians 5:1-8
Jack spends considerable time on this passage of Scripture, introducing many diverse topics. Because of that and his use of 2 Cor., chaps. 2 & 7, (an admittedly difficult portion of Scripture) I feel obligated to devote much time and space to expounding the context. The study has been helpful for me. I hope the reader will benefit from the effort. [In this connection I highly recommend consulting such excellent commentaries as Codet on Romans (1883) and First Corinthians (1889), and Ralph Martin’s (1986) and Murray Harris’s (1976) volumes on 2nd Corinthians.]
Verses 9-13a of 1 Cor.5 probably are parenthetical and explanatory in purpose rather than a “different” section that lists sins of less “magnitude.” If Paul in verse 13b is summing up the case against the immoralities listed, then they are all in essentially the same category as that of the “wicked man,” deserving the same punishment (compare v.2). This will be discussed in more detail later. Jack’s failure, however, to take notice of some seemingly minor facts in the narratives of both First and Second Corinthians leads to faulty reasoning on his part which undermines (a) his supposed “restoration” of the “wicked man” of 1 Cor. 5, (b) his “Dominoes in Marking” theory and (c) the basis of his “whole” versus “majority” disciplinary contention. All his argumentation hinges on one thing: that the passages 2 Cor. 2:5-11 and 7:8-13 refer to the affair of the wicked man of 1 Cor. 5. Though that interpretation of the passage has been around for a while, it is without any factual basis. Following is a more accurate explanation that is consistent with the textual facts.
Alternative Exposition of 2 Cor. 2 & 7
Numerous scattered details in 1st & 2nd Cor. and Acts help in constructing a chronological list of events that actually took place between the writing of the two epistles. What is described in 2 Cor., chaps. 2 and 7, is only one of several serious problems fomenting in Corinth before and after the writing of I Corinthians. In addition to the fleshly walk of the church, Paul’s person, his gospel ministry and his apostleship were all under attack by various factions. While writing 1 Cor. he was fully aware that there were those who were arrogantly accusing him and trying to damage his ministry (1 Cor. 4:18-21; 9:1-3). Not until the last 4 chapters of 2 Cor. would he single out these perpetrators for exposure. Paul sent Timothy to prepare the way for his visit to Corinth, the first since his arrival at Ephesus two years prior on this his third journey. That he expected trouble was evident by the fact that he had to appeal to the Corinthians not to “despise” Timothy or give him “cause to be afraid,” but allow him to return “in peace.” (1 Cor. 4:17 with 16:10,11)
Paul’s travel intentions to Corinth apparently fluctuated from time to time during his stay in Ephesus. This possibly provided his adversaries with ammunition for the charge of “fickleness” or “vacillation” and saying “yes” and “no” in the same breath (see 1 Cor. 4:18,19; 2 Cor. 1:15-18). The itinerary outlined in 1 Cor. 16:3-9 is not entirely definite and gives evidence of being a modification of earlier plans. However, it is the plan he eventually followed as stated in Acts 19:21 & 20:1-3, although a threat to his life required his return back through Macedonia instead of sailing direct to Syria. In 2 Cor. 1:15-17 we are presented with a different itinerary. It required an explanation on Paul’s part and introduces some interpretive difficulties for us to ponder. This itinerary may have been Paul’s original plan before settling on the one announced in 1Cor. 16 for his first visit to Corinth on this his third missionary journey. It may also have been his intended itinerary on the emergency round-trip to Corinth that took place between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians. This hurried trip was followed by a letter from Paul sent from Ephesus. It is that trip and subsequent letter, unrecorded in Acts but alluded to in 2 Cor. 2 & 7, that we will now consider.
The “Painful Visit” and “Tearful Letter”
At some stage after the Corinthians received 1 Cor., conditions within the church deteriorated dramatically. The adverse news Paul received, perhaps from Timothy, was apparently bad enough that he was induced to hurry to Corinth to personally intervene before it got worse. This was his second trip which he later called a “painful visit” (2 Cor. 2:1 NIV). We know this because he announces his coming “third” visit in 12:14 and 13:1,2 where he also refers to the “second time.” He was publicly humiliated by a man with a sizable following whose personal vendetta against Paul had affected nearly the whole church (2 Cor. 2:5; 7:8,11,12). He returned directly to Ephesus in “anguish” and wrote a very severe and “tearful” letter (2 Cor. 2:3,4,9; 7:8,12), which was possibly delivered by Titus who volunteered to make the trip to Corinth (2 Cor.8:16-24; 12:18). This letter, like the one mentioned in 1 Cor. 5:9,11, has not been preserved.
The letter generated much sorrow in the hearts of the Corinthians, producing repentance and a clearing of themselves for their complicity in the wrongful treatment of Paul (2 Cor. 7:8-11). In vindicating themselves their ire was aroused against the man who had caused the problem ( 2 Cor. 7:11,12). Exactly what “punishment” was meted out by “the majority” we are not told, but the offender must have received a rather harsh public reproof and condemnation, effective enough that he was in danger of being swallowed up in despair and needed to be forgiven and comforted (2 Cor. 2:5-8). The word translated “punishment” appears only here in the NT. It means to admonish strongly with urgency, to reprove or rebuke severely. In this case the condemnation he received served as punishment enough since the man was overcome with much sorrow.
This letter should not be mistaken for 1 Corinthians. In actuality it was Paul’s third known letter to Corinth. 2 Cor. would be his 4th. The “test” Jack talks about refers not to the “judgment” in 1 Cor. 5:2-5,13, but to the completely different matter which warranted Paul’s “tearful letter.” A careful reading of 2 Cor. chapters 1, 2, 7 & 13 should clarify the sequence of events. Paul made it clear that he would not come again to them in sorrow (1:23; 2:1-9).
He subsequently departed Ephesus (Acts 20:1) and traveled to Troas to minister the gospel and meet Titus who had remained in Corinth (2 Cor. 2:12,13). Not finding Titus he went on to Macedonia according to the plan described in 1Cor. 16:5,6, and stayed there until Titus came from Corinth with comforting words (2 Cor. 7:5-16). At this time Paul wrote the epistle we know as 2nd Corinthians. In it he rehearses all that has happened and prepares the Corinthians for his coming visit referred to in 2 Cor. 12:14 & 13:1 as his “third time.” Note especially verses 12:20-13:10. The serious issues comprising chapters 10 through 13 undoubtedly kept him fully occupied during his 3 month stay in Corinth (Acts 20:3).
Summation of Attempt to Correlate 1 Cor. 5 with Events in 2 Cor.
The man who wronged Paul cannot be the incestuous man of 1 Cor. 5 for many reasons: (a) That man’s sin was so gross that it wasn’t known even among the Gentiles. It is not likely that the church would side with such a person in an attack and insult against Paul. (b) The issue with the individual in 2 Cor. 2&7 was not one of immorality at all but serious disaffection or altercation between fellow believers. Paul himself was the object of the attack (2 Cor. 2:5; 7:12). There is not the slightest hint in 2 Cor. that the discipline of 1 Cor 5 was still an issue. (c) Paul’s deep interest in and concern for the individual in 2 Cor. does not match his adamant, incontestable, apostolic pronouncement against the wicked man in 1 Cor 5:5, 7,13. (d) Paul was “offended” by the man in 2 Cor. How the man’s sin in 1 Cor. 5 could have been a personal insult against Paul, especially since he had not yet been to Corinth on this journey, is inconceivable. Paul probably didn’t know the man. The immorality was in fact a direct outrage against the whole community, the man’s father, especially, if he was still alive! (e) To imagine that such an evil, immoral man could cause Paul to loose face and not regain his standing until he returned to Ephesus and wrote the “severe letter” is incomprehensible. The man in 2 Cor. must have been a strong character with power to sway a sizable proportion of the congregation to his side, and against Paul.
Jack’s effort to correlate the “punishment” in 2 Cor. 2 with the “discipline” in 1 Cor. 5 is also problematic. He says that in 2 Cor. 2:9 Paul gives:
a more primary reason for this Church discipline, “For to this end [purpose] I also wrote [in the first letter], that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” In other words, one of the most important reasons Paul called upon the Corinthian assembly to execute such judgment was to “TEST” their obedience to his apostleship, and beyond him, to Christ, Who ordered the judgment, as indicated in I Cor. 5:4 above . . . In light of this importance we would ask, “What do you think it would mean to fail this test?” It would mean the apostasy of the assembly, to be sure!
Paul’s appeal in 2 Cor. 2:7-10 had nothing to do with executing judgment but rather everything to do with urging the church to “forgive and comfort” and “reaffirm [their] love for him.” His chief reason for writing the “tearful letter” was his deeply felt love and concern for the church’s good and for the individual offender. He wanted them to see the gravity of the situation and return to his side (verses 4-9 & 7:7-13). In 7:12 he emphasizes this: “For even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong or of the injured party [Paul, himself], but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.” (NIV) It was “to this end” that he put them “to the test.” The letter had accomplished its remedial work in their hearts, and their subsequent rebuke of the man who caused the trouble convicted him of his wrong to the point that he was overwrought with guilt. This is what Titus had reported to Paul when they met in Macedonia (7:7). Paul now appeals to them that they instead should forgive and comfort him (2:7).
In the quote above Jack reads 2 Cor. 2:9, then immediately jumps back to 1 Cor. 5:4-5, applying the “test” to that disciplinary judgment, saying that to fail this test would mean “apostasy!” Had he only read the next two verses of 2 Cor. 2 (10-11) he would have discovered Paul’s purpose clearly stated. By obeying Paul’s urging to reaffirm their love for that man by forgiving him, they would be proving they were on Paul’s side. Paul is saying (if I may paraphrase), “What I have forgiven, I did it for your sakes in the sight of Christ. And I did it in order that Satan may be prevented from taking advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. We can’t allow him to outwit us.” In light of the situation described here, two measures could bring about Satan’s success. On the one hand, if the repentant offender was lost to the church by excessive despair and remorse, then Satan would have won; if, on the other hand, Paul and the church were to withhold their love and acceptance, Satan would be just as pleased. By following Paul and the Lord in this matter, neither extreme would come about.
The “Whole” vs. “Majority” Argument
Jack’s argument revolving around the term “majority” or “the many” or the “more part” is, in the final analysis, a futile attempt to justify lording it over (cf. 2Cor. 1:24) a body of Christians by those who claim they have been “duly appointed by [God] to order our life.” (cf. Harrison’s A.O.& M.) In his interpretation of the passage of scripture under consideration (1 Cor. 5:1-8) Jack implies that God demanded everybody in the whole assembly -- every single person -- to impose the discipline on that evil man. “Why should anyone,” he challenged, “want to contend for the privilege of disobeying the apostle and the Head of the Church?” I suppose Korah, Datham and Abirum have regrets fooling around with Moses, but Jack should know better than ask such a subtly framed question. In a more recent paper he confidently states: “When a minister is giving the truth of Christ, it is as if Christ is speaking, and we should most certainly follow the truth that is given.” And Jack, quick to assert his “reservation to unqualified obedience,” quoted Acts 17:11. [Notes on Authority, p.6, Feb. 23, 2010] Those Berean Jews, by the way, were enjoying “the privilege” of checking up on the apostle Paul “to see whether these things were so.” Do we not have the responsibility today to judge whether “a minister is giving the truth of Christ“? Is that not what we are engaged in doing right now?
Of course 2 Cor. 2:9 was written for the whole assembly. But it is foolish to presume, considering all the factions existing in their midst, that the “whole” assembly repented and was with Paul. The translations which emphasize the majority, the more part or the many are accurate. As we have seen, Jack has fabricated a scenario around 1 Cor. 5:4 and 2 Cor 2:6 that is not justified by the facts of the narrative. The one is not the “perfect compliment” of the other. We have two different situations separated by almost a year in time. Paul has yet to deal with the remaining problem makers who are attacking his ministry and gaining followers. A cursory reading of 1 & 2 Cor. yields an abundance of evidence that there remains one or more groups of dissidents wrongly influencing the church (I Cor. 4:6,19-21; 9:1-3,12; 16:10,11; II Cor. 5:12,13; 6:12-7:3; 10:1-3,7-12,17; 11:3-23; 12:11-13,20,21; 13:1-3,5,10). These verses all deal with Paul’s responses to false charges and innuendos hurled against him by “deceitful workers” who have come among them. Jack’s efforts frequently give evidence of seeking out “proof texts” without careful consideration of the contexts.
The Principle of Leaven a.k.a. The Domino Effect
He next turns his attention to the “domino” theory of church discipline, illustrated, he claims, by the contaminating influences of leaven, leprosy and ritual uncleanness in the OT:
Apparently Paul believed in “Dominoes in Effect.” That is, he believed what happens to one will characterize all, if not caught and arrested. And conversely, we might add, Paul believes in “Dominoes in Discipline.” If one needs to be disciplined, it follows that all who countenance that sin are evilly affected by it, and will need to be disciplined as well. . . .
At this point I should caution against the leaven in Jack’s teaching. In reference to the Passover he says:
Of particular importance in the observance of Passover, “ALL leaven” is to be purged out of the households of the children of Israel. This is what Paul is stressing. The sin of the one has the effect of contaminating the whole household if not extracted. The “little” must be expelled that the “whole” household will not be disqualified from the observance of the feast.
What is Jack saying here? Is that really what Paul stressed? Where is it taught in Scripture that “the ‘little’ must be expelled that the ‘whole’ household will not be disqualified from the observance of the feast”? Only those who were ceremonially unclean at the appointed time of the Passover were prohibited from observing it. But they, and those who were on a distant journey at the time were allowed to observe it in the second month on the 14th day. It was the man who was ritually clean and not on a journey but neglected to observe the Passover who was to be “expelled” (cut off) from the people (Nu. 9:1-14). Furthermore, during the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread only the person who ate what is leavened was to be cut off (Ex. 12:15-20). How would Jack explain the presence of Judas Iscariot reclining with the Lord at the Passover? Was there a purging out of sinners by the Israelites in each household each year in preparation for the Passover?
Paul was stressing exactly what was typified by the removing of all leaven from every Jewish household in preparation for the Passover: the divine consecration of every person that their outward severance from Egypt might be accompanied by an inward spiritual severance from everything of an Egyptian or heathen nature. He was stressing the same spiritual truth that he proclaimed in 1 Cor. 11:26-32, a self-examination and a self-judging or cleansing by every member of that Corinthian assembly. Only then could they “celebrate the feast . . .with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Understanding Verses 6-8
We can now consider the “principle of leaven” as applied by Paul in verses 6-8. He is no longer speaking of the case of incest, but is exhorting the church: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” There are two ways of understanding these words. Many interpreters, including Jack, assume that the leaven is the incestuous man. However, Paul now points his finger at the lack of moral “sincerity and truth” in the Corinthian church. This is the leavened state that must be remedied without delay. Then reaction against the tolerated presence of that sinful man will take care of itself. What has been the conduct of the Corinthians in view of such a scandal? In this instance the pride, the boasting, the indifference to sin in its midst was having its corrupting effect on the Corinthian church. Even this moral debacle didn’t open their eyes to their corrupted condition. Leaven in the Bible is always to be taken in an abstract sense, symbolizing mostly corrosive evil, or as Paul says, “malice and wickedness.” The term is never used directly of a person, either in the O.T. or the N.T. In Matt. 16:6,12 it was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees they were to be aware of. And in Gal. 5:7-10 the preaching of a distorted gospel by hostile Judaizers was corrupting the church (see 1:6-9; 3:1).
In his interpretive remarks, prefacing this passage, Jack calls attention to the condition of the Corinthian church in these words:
There is one thing very clear from Paul’s overall remarks and that is that Paul is as much disturbed by the neglectful conduct of the whole assembly as he is by the particular sin of the individual specified. That the nature of the sin is heinous enough seems to be equaled by the prideful indifference of the assembly. . . . Indeed, when we come to read Paul’s statements in his second letter to the Corinthians, we will see as much joy in Paul concerning the “repentance” of the whole assembly as for the apparent restoration of the individual who was initially guilty. . . . Please keep in mind that this “repentance” spoken of by the apostle Paul is not the individual’s repentance who had sinned, but the assembly’s repentance for indifference to the horrible condition among them.
But he completely ignores its condition in his dissertation on “the Principle of Leaven.” There Jack says, “There is bad ‘leaven‘(serious immorality) in the Corinthian assembly.” But he has in mind only the evil man who needs purging, not the indifferent condition of the church, as if the absence of that one sinner would make the church a “new lump” of dough freshly kneaded. Paul’s reference to the Passover feast confirms the fact that the church, not the evil man, is in mind. As we already noted, the Hebrew family had to rid their house of every scrap of leaven before the Passover feast began. Likewise, the Corinthians spiritually had to clean out the old leaven of prideful indifference and boasting (malice and wickedness) so that they could be a new lump of unleavened bread (sincerity and truth). They were in fact, as Paul asserts, unleavened (new creatures in Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17). Paul’s appeal, therefore, is that they should live like it. Rather than boasting and exhibiting prideful arrogance, they should have been mourning instead.
If leaven represented, according to the particular ceremonial of this feast, the pollutions of the Egyptian life with which Israel had broken, then the unleavened bread represented them as a new people redeemed by God, holy in heart and conduct. Jack has obviously stretched the symbolism of leaven far beyond its meaning in Scripture. Notice how he extrapolates in regard to the Passover Feast:
In compliance with this law, each Israelite characteristically cleansed his whole house in preparation for Passover. They made sure they got “all” the leaven out. This is what Paul is stressing. . . . Applying this to the problem in the Corinthian assembly, we would observe that the sinning brother must be extracted lest the whole assembly, where God dwells, becomes contaminated.
Is that what the preparation for the Passover typified: the characteristic extraction of all evil persons from our houses? Could Paul have possibly gleaned such a “fundamental principle” from that ceremonial feast? Jack leaps ahead again to verse 13 with another perverted extrapolation:
To understand the ramifications of this principle as it relates to matters of Church Discipline and the church’s standing in purity before God is therefore important. In addition, by a second immediate testimony, Paul concludes his instructions to them by a quote from the Hebrew Scriptures—“Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person” (I Cor. 5:13). This quote is taken from a repeated statement made in matters of discipline under the Law—see Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 21:21 & 22:21.
Honestly, although a similarity in terminology, is there any connection between the O.T. purging of Law breakers in national Israel and the typology of the Passover Feast? If Paul had that meaning in mind, the whole Corinthian church would have faced considerable dismemberment (see 2 Cor. 12:21; 13:2)! The moral purity which unleavened bread imaged was to be Israel’s abiding and settled character. It taught in symbol what Paul revealed, that the end for which Christ died was to redeem to Himself a people who are created anew after the image of God, and must put off the old life such as it was before conversion.
Other Examples: Leprosy and Ritual Uncleanness in the O.T.
Jack adds that the same principle applies when the children of Israel were to:
“put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a dead corpse. . . . I don’t know how the principle could be any plainer in light of these Scriptural illustrations from the realm of ritual uncleanness.”
That Jack is distorting the facts in regard to contagious diseases and ritual uncleanness is evident when we consider that immorality or evil or discipline were not issues in either. The one involved necessary laws regarding health problems for the community; the other, as Jack was careful to explain, involved ritual or ceremonial uncleanness, a state unavoidable to all Israelites. In the wilderness over 600,000 people would die in a 38 year period, over 40 deaths a day. Personal sin and consequent punishment only became an issue when the “unclean” individuals did not purify themselves in the prescribed manner (Num. 19:13,20). Jack didn’t mention the fact that special provision was extended to those who were in a state of ritual defilement during the Passover celebration to keep the feast a month later (Num. 9:10,11). Conversely, any “clean” person who neglected to observe the Passover at its appointed time was cut off from Israel (v.13). Furthermore, being “put outside the camp” cannot be equated with being “cut off from Israel.” Those “put outside the camp” still were in good standing and fellow partakers of the Jew’s religion. To be “cut off” in most cases meant death (Exo. 31:14,15).
In Jack’s aberrational account below he obviously deviates from the inspired word. Is he trying to manufacture a principle that can be applied to the church?
If the whole were so defiled then God, Himself, steps “outside the camp.” We actually saw this happen in Exo. 33:7-11 after Israel’s rebellion at the foot of Mount Sinai. After God renewed the Covenant with Israel and the tabernacle was constructed, God returned to the center of the camp.
What Jack said happened, didn’t! Prior to Sinai the angel of God in a pillar of cloud went before the camp of Israel and stood behind them (Exo. 14:19). In the wilderness of Sinai Israel camped in front of the mountain. There God came down on Mt. Sinai in a thick cloud in the sight of all the people, and Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God (19:9,11,17). The glory of the LORD remained there for over 40 days while Moses was given details regarding the law and the sanctuary. (24:18; 25:8). Not until the tabernacle was finished and erected one year after they departed Egypt would the LORD dwell among them and His glory fill the tabernacle (40:17,34). In the interim, while the sanctuary was being made, Moses set up a temporary “tent of meeting” outside the camp (33:7-11).
Illustrations from O.T. , the Death Penalty, and Restoration
All the passages Jack listed from the O.T. regarding the “Dominoes in Marking” doctrine received comments under Part One, including those containing the oft repeated command “all the people.” The N.T. instances he listed where “premature death” was supposedly implemented were considered and dismissed on pages 4 and 5 under the heading “The Foundations of Judgment and Discipline.” We must marvel that Jack even introduced the argument. He, himself, dismisses it by admitting:
We can be quite sure that the miraculous aspect of this type of discipline ceased with the demise of the apostles and the close of the transition period in the early church. However, there is no indication that premature death, as a chastening from God, has ceased to exist.
His concluding remarks regarding the assumed restoration of the incestuous man are simply a case of mistaken identity as we have previously discovered. In calling the man “young” Jack must have access to privileged information. All we can possibly know is that he was younger than his father. In every single case of discipline under the law which Jack produced the punishment was death. Mercy, repentance and forgiveness were not options. According to the quote below Jack wants a little of all to be administered in the church today:
The “sorrow” of this young man is an opportunity for Paul to express a godly love that was the motivation for the discipline, and the conveyance of forgiveness to him . . . .This adds confirmation to the fact that the principle of judgment as used in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is generally exemplified in the Hebrew Scriptures. It also further confirms the fact that such judgment is the final action towards the non-repentant person. As in the Hebrew Scriptures, after this action is done, you don’t go out after this person to further communicate or negotiate with him. This terminates your efforts to help the person.
But this policy and practice leaves out some essential elements which Jack seems to have forgotten: fallible leadership and faulty judgments. I include the following words from his own lips:
. . . .God has NOT ordained that final authority be deposited into the hands of “Human Tradition,” no matter how rich and deep is that tradition; nor into the hands of “the authority of Good Men,” no matter how good those men are, whether they be self-proclaimed apostles, or even an “angel from heaven;” nor into the hands of “the private Revelation” of any individual, no matter what affirmations of proof they may offer. . . . It should always be clear that the final authority that God has ordained, for all the members of the church to look to, in order for proper judgment, and for discretion in doctrine, and in order to know when to follow leadership, is the inspired Word of God. The Scriptures have been completed, deposited and made available for all the congregations to be guided by. The apostle Paul warned that sometimes leadership itself will spawn divisive and erroneous teaching for self-serving interests—Acts 20:28-32. In this text Paul makes it clear that the Word of God is the refuge, for preserving our hearts and minds in the correct truths of God, and the proper action to follow. In addition, the Scriptures are always held out as the governing document to base all conclusions and actions upon in our walk and conduct. [The Kingdom of God, p.18, 2006]
Years ago, when such counsel was not readily forthcoming, a goodly number of us nevertheless found refuge in God’s word for the preservation of our hearts and minds and knowing what action to take -- much to the chagrin of those in leadership. Furthermore, at that time, none of us (to my knowledge) were “marked to be avoided” for immorality of any sort, reviling, drunkenness or even disorderly idleness. All such evils are readily discernible and easily judged. Worldliness, although a major concern for legalistic groups, varies considerably from group to group and culture to culture. But no one was “cast out” for that either. There was, however, differences, disagreement and honest dissension with the policies of leadership, an area which allows for much latitude. Unfortunately, in our case, leadership thought that “final authority” rested in their hands. The rest is history.
I Corinthians 5:9-13
Enough has been said concerning 2 Thes. 3 and 1 Cor. 5, but Jack belabors the discussion of these two accounts by insisting that “they all have the same consequence in judgment—‘have no company with’ (II Thess. 3:14 & I Cor. 5:13).” As was pointed out in our earlier discussion, complete severance or excommunication of a brother is not encouraged or implied in the Thessalonian epistle. Jack confirms that distinction by noting that verse 13 is a quote from Deut. 13:5, etc. and saying that:
. . . such judgment is the final action towards the non-repentant person. As in the Hebrew Scriptures, after this action is done, you don’t go out after this person to further communicate or negotiate with him. This terminates your efforts to help the person.
His reference to 2 Cor. 12:21 & 13:2 only confirms the fact that the church has been negligent in not mourning over and dealing with “many” others guilty of the immoralities listed in 1 Cor. 5:9-12 who have not repented. He warns that this time he “will not spare anyone.”
Romans 16:17 & 18
Also we need to remember that we all may have differences on various subjects in the process of our Christian association, but we should never cause sinful division over them. . . . Sometimes we must let a subject rest until such time as we have more information in order to clarify it. And sometimes we must allow a subject to rest until such time as our brethren recognize the truth on the matter. We must never compromise truth, but at the same time we must spiritually evaluate the consequence of imposing that truth upon those not prepared at a given time to accept it.
There are several problems with Jack’s words of wisdom above: they came 24 years too late; they fail to distinguish between God’s truth and man’s teaching perceived as truth; consequences are certain when men impose the latter on God’s children. Better to let God’s Spirit do the “imposing,” giving brethren the opportunity to “recognize the truth on the matter.”
Differences vs. Sinful Division
Jack devoted considerably less attention to this passage
than its incredible popularity among his former co-workers and followers would
seem to have warranted. In fact, rather than attempt a careful and helpful
exposition of the passage his whole effort was expended primarily for the
purpose of exposing “one individual” who called attention to its horrible
misuse. His polemic against that person is as controversial as his application
of the words in Romans 16. When Paul’s warning produces the very opposite
result of what is intended, there is something definitely wrong with the
application! We can all attest to the incontrovertible fact that this passage,
written for the very purpose of protecting the church from division, has been
the chief instrument in causing it! When wrongly applied, the results inevitably
will be wrong.
Twenty five years ago we were experiencing strong disagreement, difference of opinion and conflict of conviction between brethren over the issues of legalism, authoritarianism and exclusiveness. The rifts, the separation, the division only came when those men functioning as leaders in the California area -- and two highly influential men in particular from without -- ripped Romans 16:17&18 from its context and wielded it as a meat cleaver to first rid the body of those who preferred to remain true to their convictions, and then those who would not stand with leadership in that grossly divisive act (the “domino” theory)! It is incomprehensible that Christian brothers and sisters and entire families, constituting significant portions of entire assemblies, can so callously be classified and branded! Nowhere in the biblical history of the body of Christ do we find reference to or justification for such despicable behavior, not even at Corinth! But we do find it in the historical records of numerous legalistic, authoritarian, separatist Christian movements, especially in the post reformation era. The Mennonite, Brethren and Campbellite sects, especially, have been given over to contention, banning of individuals and wholesale schism between assemblies.
Instead of marking and avoiding those who are divisive, it has become general practice for those who are divisive to do the marking and avoiding, accompanying it with such cutting and slashing as to render whole assemblies torn asunder. It seems that in the eyes of a legalistic and authoritarian leader anyone who differs with him is guilty of causing division and offences. Such are charged with acting "contrary to the doctrine which they learned," or “the faith once delivered to the saints,” both being terms which divisive leaders have plagiarized to stand for the doctrines, teachings and factional interpretations which characterize their particular group of professing Christians. Who wants to be a part of this form of insanity which makes us “bite and devour” the very body of which we are a part?
“Divisions” and “offenses” are clearly internal problems in assembly life. Such problems normally do not originate by false prophets on the outside who want to destroy the Church. . . .“false prophets” are primarily attacking the Church from the outside, whereas “division” in the Church is caused by INTERNAL forces, not EXTERNAL.
This is the thrust or essence of Jack’s interpretive remarks. This approach is understandable, of course, if his sole purpose was to expose the “one individual,” who just happened to be an “internal” force to be dealt with. But aside from that, it is extremely shoddy exegesis of Scripture. In my original, brief study of this passage I systematically surveyed nearly every parallel reference in the N.T. that carried essentially the same warning as we find in Romans 16. Jack has chosen not only to ignore those passages, but to actually deny their explicit statements and obvious relevancy to Romans 16. I suppose by “internal” and “external” forces Jack means those within (believing brethren) and those without (unbelievers) who persist in stirring up trouble for the church. I wonder how he classifies the false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s clothing.” (Mt. 7:15,16) You’ll only recognize them by their fruit. Or the “false brothers” who “had infiltrated” their ranks (Acts 15:1,2; Gal.2:4,5). Or the “savage wolves” who “will come in among you.” (Acts 20:29) Or the “false apostles. . . . Masquerading as apostles of Christ. . . .and servants of righteousness.” (2 Cor. 11:13-15) Or the “false teachers among you” who “secretly introduce destructive heresies. . . .while they feast with you.” (2 Pet. 2:1,13) Or those who “secretly slipped in among you. . . .They are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you. . . .These are the men who divide you.” (Jude 4,12,19) All these “external forces” attack the church from the inside!
To clarify Jack’s confusion as to how this happens, we need only distinguish between the one true universal church and the visible, local manifestations of professing Christian bodies which can be “infiltrated” by false teachers who cause “divisions and offenses.” Paul was warning the Roman church to watch out for these men and stay away from them before they infiltrated their assemblies! Ignoring the above relevant Scriptures, Jack instead lectures us on the sure way to recognize “who is causing the problems,” referring to such verses as Ex. 23:2; 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Th. 5:21; & Jude 3. Adherence to these precepts will certainly increase ones spiritual intuitiveness. However, Ex. 23:2 doesn’t exactly compliment Jack’s demand for “the whole, the more part, or the many,” especially when the many are doing evil. I wonder how many of the “more part” were inclined to prove, test or examine “everything” (1 Th. 5:21) when all the while they were being told to “obey leadership.” And was “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) our “common salvation” or the interpretation of Rom. 16:17,18 by “several ministering brethren” including Jack?
It should not be lost on us that Jack is persistent in his determination to make this passage an internal disciplinary matter. In his concluding attempt to classify and categorize the many passages on church discipline at the end of his study, he qualifies Rom. 16:17,18 as “Dealing with brethren [sic!] who would cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine that has been learned by the church.” In actuality, Paul urges the brethren to watch out for those divisive ones and avoid them, describing who they are and how to recognize them. And under the category “Seven Warnings of Future Divisive Men” Jack fails to list Rom. 16:17,18, as if it was not intended as a warning. He does, however, list seven other passages, among which are found several that I presented as unmistakably parallel to Romans 16. Jack’s evasiveness is obvious. Sometimes I question his forthrightness.
Other Examples of this Passage
Under this sub-heading Jack takes a strange path in his argumentation, one which I shall dub the last chapter analogy. Biblical exegesis is the determination of the meaning of the biblical text in its historical and literary contexts. The goal of exegesis is to determine what the text of Scripture itself says and means, and not to read something into it. In this one paragraph Jack provides us with an excellent example of the old adage, “You can make the Bible mean anything you want it to mean.” I expected Jack to examine “other examples” of parallel passages in the NT that contained similar warnings about false teachers and divisive men. I did just that in my original study, reviewing and comparing at least 16 such passages. Jack referred to not a single one; instead he launched into his “last chapter analogy,” noting the “warnings” concerning the unruly in 1 Th. 5 and 2 Th. 3, and the “very sober warning to expect judgment” in 2 Cor. 13. “Likewise,” Jack says:
. . . when Paul concluded the book of Romans here in the 16th chapter, he gave this very sober admonition concerning the discipline of professed believers who would “cause divisions” and “offences” contrary to the doctrine which they had “learned.”
It is as if Paul is testing the obedience of the Romans and warning them of potential disciplinary action if they fail to heed his “sober admonition.” Not leaving us in doubt, Jack emphasizes that very point:
The very fact that Paul placed these admonitions at the end of his letters is indicative of the fact that he intended the body of material he gave to be obeyed, and consequently warned about disobedience and those who might in any way cause divisions over them.
There is no hint in the text of Rom. 16 that Paul was warning the Romans about disobedience to “the body of material” in his letter. He does, however, warn them to watch out for false teachers who will come among them because word of their obedience to the gospel message has spread abroad (1:5,8; 6:16,17; 16:19). Nor are these divisive persons referred to as “professed believers.” Fresh in Paul’s mind was what happened in Galatia and what he had been experiencing with Corinth for the past two years (2 Cor. 11:1-23; 12:20,21; 13:1-10), and especially at the very time he was writing this letter to Rome from Corinth. A short time later, as Paul headed to Jerusalem, he was to address the Ephesian elders with a similar warning (Acts 20:28-31). A few years later, writing from prison, Paul tells the Philippians about the pernicious activity of evil men already at work in Rome (Phil. 1:15-18). And he portrays them in words indicating first-hand knowledge of who they are (3:2,18,19). Compare these references with those in 2 Cor. above and with the verses in Romans.
Granted, it is the apostle’s custom, when closing most of his letters, to give special and personal salutations, commissions, or warnings. But, honestly, let us treat Paul’s letters as if we were in the shoes of the recipients. In 1 Cor., after a passage of salutations (16:19-21), Paul stops all at once. As was usually his custom he dictated his letters but wrote the salutations with his own hand (see 2 Th. 3:17). But here, after the compassionate words of verse 20 and the signing of his name, a thought seems to have crossed his mind: can he really bless all the readers of his letter? Had he not more than once alluded to the lack of love as the radical cause of the disorders which stained this church (8:1-3; 13:1-13). In verse 22 he may have had in mind some, who claiming to exercise their spiritual gifts, had actually said or taught that “Jesus is accursed.” And in 2 Cor. 11:3,4 he speaks of teachers who have come among the Corinthians and preached another Jesus, a different spirit and another gospel than that which they had received from Paul. So it is in Romans, with this difference, that at Corinth the danger was already present and pressing, whereas at Rome it is still remote, though inevitable. The tone is significantly different in the two cases: at Corinth a threat hurled at those who don’t love the Lord and for Rome, after a lengthy and personal bouquet of epithets, a putting the church on guard in a fatherly, affectionate manner.
The Teaching Learned and Obeyed
Jack and others have also been adamant in stressing this point:
Most certainly, like in all the other letters, “the doctrine they learned” was meant to include the well formulated body of truth they learned in that exact inspired treatise.
The “teaching which you learned” (v.17) is more particularly referring to the instruction they had already received long before Paul penned this letter. The expression is in the past tense. The reference must be to teaching which had reached the Romans, not by Paul, but perhaps by those mentioned in Acts 2:10, and certainly by those of his fellow-workers whom he has just saluted (vs. 1-16). Nothing more is meant than Paul’s words in 6:17 where he gives thanks because the Romans “wholeheartedly obeyed the form of doctrine which was delivered” to them. The teaching the Romans “obeyed” set them “free from sin.” (see also the reference above to 1:8 and 16:19).
Why would Jack and the “several ministering brethren” want this simple statement to refer to “the well formulated body of truth” in Paul’s treatise? Or to all “that the Spirit of God had Paul to write about in his epistles and letters and public spoken ministry?” Or to “doctrine or teachings about Christian beliefs in general?” I submit that in Rom. 16:17,18 they found a text that could be used to subdue every “heretical spirit” which questioned any of the teachings particular to their exclusive little sect. Proof for this statement is found in one attempt to refute my initial study. It first said that “every ‘perverse thing’ spoken about in verse 30 [Acts 20:30] is covered by ‘divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned.’” It then listed 24 “doctrines” or “truths” gleaned from Romans, and said, “Would not the saints at Rome mark all who denied the above?” I reminded the writer in my response to him that “there is considerable difference between denying direct, factual statements in God’s word and the ‘doctrines’ men arrive at as a result of their study!” But the clincher was the remark: “The action Bill Blain and Ron Blain and Jim Gloria and others have taken is ‘contrary to the doctrine which I have learned; and I will avoid them.” He didn’t identify what “perverse” teaching those men were propagating.
An Example of Division
Nor is the basis for determining who is causing division and offenses just listening to leadership. The leadership themselves may be causing division.
One can cause division over any subject or passage of Scripture—even over the interpretation of Romans 16:17 & 18.
Jack was astute enough to recognize the role of “leadership” in causing division. Sheep don’t ipso facto create division. They are motivated by persuasive teachers with an agenda who are clever at using smooth talk and fine words to deceive the unwary. Hence the absolute absurdity of using this passage randomly, ad infinitum. Aside from correcting Jack’s faulty memory and the necessity to infuse some realism into his fantasized account of division caused by a different interpretation of Rom. 16, there is little of substance in his closing paragraph to comment on. Most obvious is the lack of any evidence that this individual’s “interpretation” perpetrated a division -- unless incurring heretic status can be so classified. But why the fuss? What these verses “are talking about” and what Jack wants them to say are two different things. I suspect he and others were very discomfited by the threat that their favorite “marking” tool might be rendered inapplicable. This is not a far-fetched idea considering that nearly all their official writs of excommunication buffer Rom. 16:17 with additional judicial verses.
This individual had many disagreements, but he left in finality over his interpretation of this very passage and actually became a prime example of what this passage is talking about; consequently he was finally “noted to be avoided” by his own assembly in compliance with this passage.
Jack has gone to great effort in his paper to fabricate a case against this writer for causing division over the interpretation of Romans 16. He didn’t mention such a division in a statement he wrote early in 1986 about his dealing with me at the December 1985 camp. Nor did he mention it in his 1987 paper titled “Division in the Indivisible,” which included a detailed account of the 1985-86 debacle. Nor did he charge me with being divisive over Rom 16 in two letters to my daughter dated Sept. 2004 and Nov. 2007. The difference over this passage never escalated into open division and he knows it! It was a subject of discussion, possibly, in men’s meetings long after I was gone, but not before.
Actually, it all began at the October, 1985, Hartland Camp. Loren Johnson had previously asked me for my understanding of Rom. 16. I promised to put my thoughts in writing for him. In mentioning this to John Morey at Hartland, he asked for a copy also. A 4-page, double-spaced, summary was mailed to both men on November 3. Later in November, at an all-day, Sunday gathering in the Morro Bay Masonic Temple, Robert Grove and Bob Harrison confronted me in the foyer. No pleasantries were exchanged. Robert just reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a folded, packet of papers, and, handing it to me, asked, “Did you write this? It doesn’t have a signature.” It was a copy of my comments on Rom. 16. Glancing at it, I nodded my head and said, “Yep, it looks like something I put together.” He brusquely asked, “Did you have the approval of ministering brethren to circulate this?” I replied, “Well, I didn’t really mass-mail it and I didn’t know I had to have such approval, but since you ask, John Morey was aware I was writing it and I mailed him a copy. By the way, where did you get your’s? I don’t remember sending you one.” He didn’t reply . . . just walked away. Loren had told me that both Kevin Grant and Bill Meeker had asked for copies. Bill was in the dining hall. I headed right for him. “Bill, I understand Loren gave you a copy of some notes I made on Rom. 16. What do you think of them?” He obviously was stumbling for an answer: “Well, I never read it.” He admitted giving it to Robert that very morning.
A 3-page reply, dated Nov. 28, was received from John. Another written response, dated Dec. 9, came from Berl Chisum. Neither reply attempted to actually expound the passage or systematically refute my examination of the context and its comparison with many other parallel passages. Both men treated the difference in interpretation merely as a disagreement, albeit a major one. Berl made the remark:
As you know, the application of Romans 16:17,18 is of special importance at this time as a result of the marking of Ron and Bill Blain to be avoided on the basis of that scriptural passage. . . To avoid being misunderstood, let me observe that we have never so disciplined someone merely because they disagree with us on a point of doctrine or because they stop meeting with us.
On the 11th of November men from SLO and Tulare met secretly in Paso Robles to decide the fate of 7 other family heads in Tulare (in addition to Ron and Bill Blain). By Dec. 7 all had been contacted, and “In every case they refused and would not walk in the marking of Bill and Ron.” Letters of excommunication, recognizing “these men as heretics, walking disorderly and causing division,” were mailed out on the 11th day of December. The letters made no mention that an issue existed over Romans 16.
About 2 weeks later at the December camp in Santa Maria Rom.16 was made an issue. Jack Langford (a surprise appearance) hewed me to pieces in the Saturday morning meeting before hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ, with my wife and children present, and then afterward had the gall to demand my presence at a meeting of the men that afternoon to try my case. I politely declined, saying the meeting should have been held before Jack poisoned everyone’s minds against me. With that said Jack exclaimed, “We have only two questions to ask you! Are you going to retract what you wrote on Romans 16? And are you going to stand with the markings in Tulare?” To this day I’m not sure what would have happened if I had said yes only to the latter. Anyway, I said no to both. Gordy Grant cried out, “Mark him, Jack! Mark him!” I was dispatched on the spot. After three years of men’s meetings they finally had found the means to clinch a case against me. (Years later, when Jack was setting the date for the rapture of the church, brethren gathered in Texas to deal with him on that subject. Jack felt he was first “hewed to pieces” and then “asked if he wanted to present his case.” Ironic. But such is the trademark of hypocrisy.)
The Letter of Excommunication
This individual had many disagreements, but he left in finality over his interpretation of this very passage and actually became a prime example of what this passage is talking about; consequently he was finally “noted to be avoided” by his own assembly in compliance with this passage.
It is blatantly misleading to say that “he left,” when in reality I was put out as part of the “house-cleaning” operation which was underway in California. My “interpretation” of Romans 16 had nothing to do with it, the wholesale severance of a dozen families in Visalia/Tulare had everything.
The undated, typed notice of excommunication (a 7-page document) was found in my mailbox (unstamped) on the morning of January 11, 1986. After four pages of history ten indictments were listed. Actually the first eight were short essays rehearsing problems the men had had with me over the years trying to fathom my “spiritual condition.” The last two were the cardinal sins that (in their eyes) justified beginning “the process of putting leaven out of the San Luis Obispo assembly.” One was my refusal to “stand with” the decimation of the Tulare/Visalia assembly. The other was my “apparent disregard for the untimeliness and divisiveness of [my] letter on Romans 16:17.” This charge in part states that: “His final words in this study were ‘we cannot use this passage for disciplinary action.’” Obviously the authors of this edict didn’t have a copy of the study at hand. Actually my final words were: “The purpose behind the ‘marking’ in Romans 16:17 is not disciplinary or to ‘make one feel ashamed.’”
One need only to make a cursory reading of the context to realize that Paul’s purpose (as one commentary clearly states) “is not to get the Roman Christians to exercise ‘church discipline’ against heretical church members but to put them on their guard against such teachers who might make their way to Rome . . . The definite article -- ‘those’ -- suggests that Paul has in mind a definite group of people and one that the Romans will recognize when (and if) they come there.” The translation “look out for” or “watch out for” brings out the warning nuance that the verb skopeo has here. His point is that they must be on their guard against them and be determined to avoid them should they appear.
I marvel incredulously at the charge that my original study was untimely and divisive. Since there had been “much discussion on this subject,” what more appropriate time could there have been to introduce a little rational sense into the discussion? The answer perhaps lies hidden in the charge itself. It reads:
Jim sent his letter into the Tulare area (to Loren Johnson and others that we do not know) at a time when some of us were still working with those brethren to encourage them to stand with us in the marking of Ron and Bill Blain. We believe Jim’s letter to be like pouring gasoline on a prairie fire. It ended a hope many of us still held for some of our own families.
Of course, they could have known who received that study if they had asked. But their compelling motivation was to imply a mass-mailing and conspiracy on my part to cause division. This I perceived during the brief confrontation with Robert Grove in November. The brethren they were trying to “encourage” had already been labeled as being in the “camp of Korah, Datham and Abirum.” Now they were being threatened with the ultimatum “Obey leadership or be banned!” Such was the nature of the encouragement, and such was the hope some still held for their own families -- while simultaneously holding over their heads the verbal axe that would sever their relationship indefinitely. “Pouring gasoline on a prairie fire” would certainly brighten things up a bit, but I’m not inclined to think that even I would attempt such foolish wantonness. Under proper climatic conditions, however, brush fires are put out that way (backfiring). At least those men realized that they had a wildfire on their hands. What they didn’t see was that their dictatorial control methods would generate a wind storm, sending the fire completely out of control.
“Not Only False Doctrine -- It’s Heresy!”
Waxing eloquent, Jack thus branded my paper on Romans 16 as he glared down at me from the lectern on that Saturday morning in Santa Maria. My feeble and belated effort to introduce some sanity into a rapidly degenerating situation was arrogantly dismissed as “heresy.” To illustrate the status my written exposition achieved and the extremes to which it was distorted, I refer to a message given years later in June 1991 by Jim Maurer. In it he described the men’s meetings held in Tulare on Jan. 12-13, 1985 and said:
During that time [sic] Jim Langford took a position on Romans 16:17,18 that is quite surprising for a man that I thought knew as much about the Scriptures as he supposedly knew . . . And, of course all those who were being condemned by their actions quickly grabbed on to Jim’s teaching . . . It was a faulty position and it was wrong, but, oh, all those who were carnal quickly followed Jim’s leading and he became more or less the spokesman. . . . How Jim Langford must have stayed up nights trying to figure out how he could get out from underneath that verse.
Maurer mistakenly places the Rom. 16 issue almost a year too early. In Jan. 1985 the grossly inappropriate application of Num. 16 to the Tulare situation was fresh on my mind, something Jim Maurer and Jack Langford have never referred to. Now that was really a divisive issue. After constantly being fed misleading information, is it any wonder that Jack, 24 years later, would accuse me of causing division over the interpretation of those verses. Actually, I have little reason to believe that Jack has ever personally read my study. The understanding I gleaned from Romans 16 is not unique to me. It’s the position that many conservative, evangelical scholars have taken during the past 200 years. Among those I am most familiar with I name Matthew Henry, Griffith Thomas, Godet (outstanding), Harrison (Expositor‘s Bible Commentary & Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary), Wuest’s Word Studies and Moo. Their works are less devotional and more thoroughly exegetical. If these men are considered heretical by Jack, I am still inclined to prefer their company.
I Timothy 6:3-5
Little need be said in response to Jack’s treatment of this passage. The first two verses offer instruction regarding the attitude of believing slaves to their masters, especially masters who also believe. Timothy was to teach and preach the principles Paul advocated. Most commentaries treat verses 3-5 as referring to false teachers in general, not just those who may give different advice to the slaves. In returning to the subject of false teachers and strange doctrines, which he addressed in Chapters 1 & 4, Paul continues Timothy’s education and preparation for withstanding and silencing such individuals. The charge to “withdraw from such teachers” (v.5) doesn’t appear in all translations; nevertheless, it’s good advice to avoid such people.
Titus had his challenges in Crete, both from within the church and without. In 1:10-16 the adversaries among unbelievers, especially Jews, were doubly troublesome. Even among believers, the Cretans tended to be insubordinate, contentious and easily deceived. In 3:9-11 Paul mentions a couple “traps” Titus was cautioned to avoid: “foolish disputes” and the “divisive man.”
Jack’s elucidation of the Greek word found in verse 10, usually translated as heretic, heretical, factious or divisive, is helpful but much could be added. He summarizes the definitions for the terms “heretical” and “heresy”, found in Vine’s Expository Dictionary, as follows:
A heretic in the Church of Jesus Christ, therefore, is “an opinionated person who places his opinion above the Word of God.” By actively gaining support for his position, he brings about division.
On its face I have no quibble with Jack’s concise recap. The rub comes when fallible men, steeped in the exclusive, separatist teachings of their little sect, and infatuated with authority claimed as God-given, indiscriminately brand anyone who may disagree with them with the stigma heretical. First of all, the “Church of Jesus Christ” is inclusive of all Christians, not just the members of some little “no name” sect or denomination. Secondly, “the Word of God” is not to be equated with the doctrinal tenants peculiar to each and every group or movement which divide them one from another. And third, one can hold a different view or opinion (heresy) from the majority in their group but still be part of the whole. They are heretical (divisive, factious, schismatic) only when they become insistent on their opinions (which may or may not be devoid of true scriptural basis), strive to gain a following and stir up divisions. When persisted in, the result is the formation of heretical parties, factions or sects.
It must be kept in mind that there is both a negative and a positive side to heresy. All of us are considered heretics by somebody. As Jack pointed out, the Greek word for heresy is translated 6 times in the NT in a neutral sense as sect, party or heresy (Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5,14; 26:5; 28:22), referring to the Sadducees, Pharisees and the Nazarenes (followers of Christ). Paul, after his third missionary journey, when accused by the Jews in Jerusalem, said before them all, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees.” (Acts 23:6) Later, before Agrippa, he referred to it as “the strictest sect [heresy] of our religion.” Are we to attribute deceit to Paul or charge him with adroit, insincere maneuvers in saying this? Paul undoubtedly believed that the Pharisee sect more faithfully represented the true beliefs of Israel. Church history has also shown us that in many instances the heretics -- the innovators, the nonconformists, the dissenters, the protesters, the ones burned at the stake -- were the true followers of Christ. So-called heretics, even in this day, are frequently the defenders of orthodoxy or truth among the sects of Christendom. My point, of course, is that what Jack Langford or Robert Grove may call heresy, other devout Christians could rejoice in as God’s truth.
The Final Twitch
I begin this epilogue by quoting the capstone to Jack’s treatise on church discipline. At the conclusion of his discussion of 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 he summed up his own performance as a disciplinary judge thus:
In any discipline in which I had a part in, I wanted to make sure there were no innocent people who did not know or understand what was happening. Therefore, I do not practice the marking of “innocent” brethren. On the other hand, when I have found that others are standing with the one being disciplined, I have not hesitated, in light of the Biblical principles above, to warn them of the same judgment.
During his tenure Jack participated in an inordinate number and variety of disciplinary judgments, including his own. In his mind, it seems, all were ratified in heaven, except possibly the last, which he adamantly denies the validity of. There are many wounded saints out there who can bear testimony of abusive treatment at his hands. And there is an increasing number of brothers and sisters who admit that they were wrong in supporting his judgment and actions in what may be called the California Inquisition of 1985-1986.
Jack had much to say at the beginning of his paper about the lack of biblical discipline in the typical denominational churches of today. One reason why it is so widely neglected is because of its abuses. Church history, even following the reformation, testifies to that. “Churches have always fluctuated between leniency and severity or between malicious ingenuity to turning a blind eye to their sins,” says one writer. Discipline is also considered dangerous because there are some Christian leaders who seem to have a “need” to control others. But the fact remains, it’s the abuses we must fear, not discipline itself. Is there anything good that is not abused?
In his opening remarks on this topic, Jack quoted from several books and articles lamenting the demise of biblical discipline in nearly all church organizations. “Through the years,” he said, “I have collected articles on this subject. One reason I have is because it is rarely ever taught in typical religious circles.” The Bible talks about the perversion of justice and Jack speaks about the need for “fallible men” to exercise righteous judgment, but nowhere in his document does he address the issue of perverse or abusive discipline. He wrote his treatise in the year 2009. During the period 1985 to 1997, while he was collecting articles on the “lost doctrine” of church discipline, I purchased over 12 newly published books on the subject of church abuse and damaged Christians. One was titled “Healing the Wounded, The Costly Love of Church Discipline.” Neither Jack or Robert Grove have displayed any sensitivity to that aspect of the subject. Nor did the shepherds of Israel, whom Ezekiel chastised, or the Pharisees, whom Christ labeled “blind fools.”
Jack has produced an exhaustive array of biblical passages on discipline. I have attempted to expose the flaws in his treatment and application of them by the careful examination of each context. I have done this only after consulting the expository writings of many capable and gifted Christian authors. The checks and balances and insights they provided were incredibly helpful. Only by being familiar with the intended original, historical, contextual meanings of those biblical passages can we hope to properly apply them to ourselves. Too many of us have only an isolated “proof text” acquaintance with these pertinent Scriptures. They have become merely clichés to us, trite, stereotyped expressions that have lost originality and impact by long overuse. It remains for the reader to discover and point out the flaws in my presentation.
June 6, 2011
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