What are the implications of Excommunication?

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fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
NOTE: This thread is a split off of a thread regarding responsibilities for attendance on worship, that can be found here:

Was "Sabbath breakers"; Elder Responsibilites


Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Adam,
I have got to be honest; the problem here in this thread is two or three things:
1) It is almost impossible to compare Baptist polity with Presbyterian. They just do not align. What one church may do, the other does not. You'd think the PCA would be on the same page???
2) The mans church is not truly holding to the WCF; They have a Saturday evening service and two Lords day services; they believe that the Saturday service meets the WCF req's of keeping the Lords day holy, hence, he is not in any error from their perspective.
3) The Baptist church whom are strict sabbatarians are not challenging him for the two reasons they should be. One, he is an elder; they believe when the church gathers, all the elders are to be there, i.e. prayer meetings and every worship service, yet in this mans case, they don't enforce it. Possibly because he is not a member of their church. He has been attending routinely for 2 or so years; every Lords day. He does not want to switch churches and is a confessed paedo baptist, i.e. no personality conflict going on. The other reason is that they are strict sabbatarians; you'd think they would suggest that he meets with his own church oin the sabbath and by neglecting this principle, he is breaking the sabbath.

As far as letting him sit there (under the preaching), if he was under discipline, would you let him sit there? Excommunication is physical isn't it. You are asked to leave until you are repentant. But, he's not under discipline-see! The Baptist church can't discipline him; he is not a member........oh my, what did I do here?

First, excommunication is NOT physical. The one who is excommunicated is actually ENCOURAGED to continue to attend upon the means of grace in the word preached as a means of God granting repentance. So even if the Baptist church could excommunicate the man (which they cannot), that would not mean that they could bar the man.

Second, the problem (I say again) lies first with the man and second with the PCA church. He has violated his vow to support the worship of the Church and his vow to be gathered together with them. As far as I am concerned, the Saturday evening service is an excuse - no more. That is where the Session has an issue - they are encouraging a man in his sin by giving him a plausible excuse.

But in the final analysis, the issue is NOT a Sabbath one for me (to repeat what I said earlier). Let me say that if an elder were to abandon a Wednesday night prayer service of his church (which is NOT a worship service or a Sabbath issue) in favor of another church where the "prayer was better," he should be admonished, and if unrepentant, disciplined (including being stripped of his office). To whom much is given, much is expected.

[Edited on 2/16/2005 by fredtgreco]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Fred,
Appreciate your input; as well as the others. I know this situation is not typical, but none the less is a true story.

Fred,
If I sinned grievously and was unrepentant, my church would not ask me to stop coming to church there?

Ch 30 of the WCF:

III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.[3]

3. I Cor. 5:1-13; 11:27-34; I Tim. 1:20; 5:20; Matt. 7:6; Jude 1:23

IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.[4]

4. I Thess. 5:12; II Thess. 3:6, 14-15; I Cor. 5:4-5, 13; Matt. 18:17; Titus 3:10

Book of Chrusch Order:

36-6. Excommunication is to be administered according to one or other of the two modes laid down for indefinite suspension, or to be inflicted in public as the court may decide. In administering this censure the moderator of the Session shall make a statement of the several steps which have been taken with respect to the offending brother, and of the decision to cut him off from the communion of the church. He shall then show from Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 the authority of the church to cast out unworthy members, and shall explain the nature, use and consequences of this censure. He shall then administer the censure in the words following:



Whereas, _________________________, a member of this church has been by sufficient proof convicted of the sin of _______________________, and after much admonition and prayer, obstinately refuses to hear the Church, and has manifested no evidence of repentance: Therefore, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the Session of ________________________ church do pronounce him to be excluded from the Sacraments, and cut off from the fellowship of the Church.

I guess this means that they are spiritually cut off from fellowship? ; they don't necessarily stop the offender from coming to church however? Does thbis mean that no one is allowed to talk (fellowship) with the offending person?



An article from the Microsoft Encarta Online LIbrary.

Ecclesiastical censure whereby a member of a church is deprived of the benefits and privileges of membership. Excommunication is the most serious ecclesiastical censure; it is intended, however, as a corrective rather than a vindictive form of punishment.

In the time of Christ, excommunication was a recognized penalty among the Jews. A distinction is drawn in the Mishnah, the compilation of Jewish scriptural law, between two degrees of excommunication; of these the milder (niddui) involved exclusion from community life for 7 to 30 days, with the performance of penance and the wearing of mourning. Twenty-four offenses leading to this penalty were enumerated, most of them of a civil nature. The heavier sentence (cherem) was more formal, involving a ritual of solemn curses and lasting an indefinite time.

A similar power of excommunication was recognized from the inception of the Christian church. Two degrees of excommunication, major and minor, were defined early in church history. Minor excommunication involved exclusion from the sacrament of the Eucharist and from the full privileges of the church. Major excommunication was pronounced upon obstinate sinners, relapsed apostates, and heretics; its form was more solemn, and it was less easily revoked. The duration of the excommunication was decided by the bishop.

In Africa and Spain the absolution of lapsed individuals (those who in times of persecution had fallen away from their Christian profession by actual sacrifice to idols) was for the most part forbidden except at death.

In the early church no civil disabilities were connected with excommunication, but as governments became Christian, major excommunication was followed by loss of political rights and exclusion from public office. The 8th-century capitularies, or ordinances, of Pepin the Short, king of the Franks, ordained that major excommunication should be followed by banishment.

Other national laws further extended the scope of the ecclesiastical censure. Excommunication directed against rulers deprived them of their rights to govern and, therefore, absolved their subjects of allegiance to them; the church thus became an important temporal power.

The leaders of the Reformation also claimed the power of excommunication. Martin Luther insisted on the inherent right of church ministers to perform excommunication. The French reformer John Calvin asserted that excommunication is of the very essence of the ministry. Civil disabilities followed excommunication in communities permeated by the Reformation, but this practice eventually ceased to be the rule. Nevertheless, in England until 1813, persons excommunicated were barred from bringing legal actions into civil court, from serving on juries, from appearing as witnesses in any legal proceeding, and from practicing as attorneys in any court of the realm. All these disabilities were removed by statute, and excommunicated persons were declared exempt from penalty, except "such imprisonment, not exceeding six months, as the court pronouncing or declaring such person excommunicate shall direct." This penalty however, is never invoked. By U.S. laws, excommunication cannot involve the loss of civil rights, and the civil courts cannot be used to enforce the restoration of church membership.

In the Roman Catholic church the power of excommunication belongs to those prelates who possess ordinary or delegated jurisdiction in the forum externum (the court dealing with matters relating to the corporate life of the church). Parish priests, who have jurisdiction only in the forum internum (in matters of conscience), cannot excommunicate. The power of excommunication can never be delegated to the laity.

Excommunication may also be incurred, without the necessity of a formal sentence, by violation of a law that carries the penalty of "excommunication ipso facto." Absolution from certain cases of excommunication is reserved to the bishop having jurisdiction over the offender; absolution from a more limited number of graver cases is reserved to the pope. Anathema, the severest form of excommunication, differs from other disciplinary procedures in that it includes certain characteristic formal ceremonies.

"Excommunication," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Scott,

Very quickly - excommunication means that one is not able to partake of the sacraments, nor the fellwoship of the saints (in its proper sense). That does not mean that you cannot have coffee together, but it means that you are not in fellowship with them. You are to be treated as a heathen. So let me ask, are unbelievers welcome in the assembly? Can they sit under the word? And yet they do not have true fellowship - they do not vote, they do not participate in body life, etc.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by fredtgreco
Scott,

Very quickly - excommunication means that one is not able to partake of the sacraments, nor the fellwoship of the saints (in its proper sense). That does not mean that you cannot have coffee together, but it means that you are not in fellowship with them. You are to be treated as a heathen. So let me ask, are unbelievers welcome in the assembly? Can they sit under the word? And yet they do not have true fellowship - they do not vote, they do not participate in body life, etc.

Yes Fred, but they are not under discipline either. I'm not trying to be argumentative.

Here is how the Roman Catholics define it:

I. GENERAL NOTIONS AND HISTORICAL SUMMARY

Excommunication (Lat. ex, out of, and communio or communicatio, communion -- exclusion from the communion), the principal and severest censure, is a medicinal, spiritual penalty that deprives the guilty Christian of all participation in the common blessings of ecclesiastical society. Being a penalty, it supposes guilt; and being the most serious penalty that the Church can inflict, it naturally supposes a very grave offence. It is also a medicinal rather than a vindictive penalty, being intended, not so much to punish the culprit, as to correct him and bring him back to the path of righteousness. It necessarily, therefore, contemplates the future, either to prevent the recurrence of certain culpable acts that have grievous external consequences, or, more especially, to induce the delinquent to satisfy the obligations incurred by his offence. Its object and its effect are loss of communion, i.e. of the spiritual benefits shared by all the members of Christian society; hence, it can affect only those who by baptism have been admitted to that society. Undoubtedly there can and do exist other penal measures which entail the loss of certain fixed rights; among them are other censures, e.g. suspension for clerics, interdict for clerics and laymen, irregularity ex delicto, etc. Excommunication, however, is clearly distinguished from these penalties in that it is the privation of all rights resulting from the social status of the Christian as such. The excommunicated person, it is true, does not cease to be a Christian, since his baptism can never be effaced; he can, however, be considered as an exile from Christian society and as non-existent, for a time at least, in the sight of ecclesiastical authority. But such exile can have an end (and the Church desires it), as soon as the offender has given suitable satisfaction. Meanwhile, his status before the Church is that of a stranger. He may not participate in public worship nor receive the Body of Christ or any of the sacraments.Moreover, if he be a cleric, he is forbidden to administer a sacred rite or to exercise an act of spiritual authority.

II. KINDS OF EXCOMMUNICATION

(1) Major and Minor

Until recently excommunication was of two kinds, major and minor.

(a) Minor excommunication is uniformly defined by canonists and by Gregory IX (cap. lix, De sent. exc., lib. V, tit. xxxix) as prohibition from receiving the sacraments, what theologians call the passive use of the sacraments. In order to receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments, those who had incurred this penalty had to be absolved therefrom; as it was not reserved, this could be done by any confessor. Indirectly, however, it entailed other consequences. The canon law (cap. x, De cler. excomm. ministrante, lib. V, tit. xxvii) taught that the priest who celebrates Mass while under the ban of minor excommunication sins grievously; also that he sins similarly in administering the sacraments; and finally, that while he can vote for others, he himself is ineligible to a canonical office. This is readily understood when we remember that the cleric thus excommunicated was presumed to be in the state of grievous sin, and that such a state is an obstacle to the lawful celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments. Minor excommunication was really identical with the state of the penitent of olden times who, prior to his reconciliation, was admitted to public penance. Minor excommunication was incurred by unlawful intercourse with the excommunicated, and in the beginning no exception was made of any class of excommunicated persons. Owing, however, to many inconveniences arising from this condition of things, especially after excommunications had become so numerous, Martin V, by the Constitution "Ad evitanda scandala" (1418), restricted the aforesaid unlawful intercourse to that held with those who were formally named as persons to be shunned and who were therefore known as vitandi (Lat. vitare, to avoid), also with those who were notoriously guilty of striking a cleric. But as this twofold category was in modern times greatly reduced, but little attention was paid to minor excommunication, and eventually it ceased to exist after the publication of the Constitution "Apostolicæ Sedis". The latter declared that all excommunications latæ sententiæ that it did not mention were abolished, and as it was silent concerning minor excommunication (by its nature an excommunication latæ sententiæ of a special kind), canonists concluded that minor excommunication no longer existed. This conclusion was formally ratified by the Holy Office (6 Jan., 1884, ad 4).
(b) Major excommunication, which remains now the only kind in force, is therefore the kind of which we treat below, and to which our definition fully applies. Anathema is a sort of aggravated excommunication, from which, however, it does not differ essentially, but simply in the matter of special solemnities and outward display.

(2) A jure and ab homine

Excommunication is either a jure (by law) or ab homine (by judicial act of man, i.e. by a judge). The first is provided by the law itself, which declares that whosoever shall have been guilty of a definite crime will incur the penalty of excommunication. The second is inflicted by an ecclesiastical prelate, either when he issues a serious order under pain of excommunication or imposes this penalty by judicial sentence and after a criminal trial.

(3) Latæ and Ferendæ Sententiæ

Excommunication, especially a jure, is either latæ or ferendæ sententiæ. The first is incurred as soon as the offence is committed and by reason of the offence itself (eo ipso) without intervention of any ecclesiastical judge; it is recognized in the terms used by the legislator, for instance: "the culprit will be excommunicated at once, by the fact itself [statim, ipso facto]". The second is indeed foreseen by the law as a penalty, but is inflicted on the culprit only by a judicial sentence; in other words, the delinquent is rather threatened than visited with the penalty, and incurs it only when the judge has summoned him before his tribunal, declared him guilty, and punished him according to the terms of the law. It is recognized when the law contains these or similar words: "under pain of excommunication"; "the culprit will be excommunicated".

(4) Public and Occult

Excommunication ferendæ sententiæ can be public only, as it must be the object of a declaratory sentence pronounced by a judge; but excommunication latæ sententiæ may be either public or occult. It is public through the publicity of the law when it is imposed and published by ecclesiastical authority; it is public through notoriety of fact when the offence that has incurred it is known to the majority in the locality, as in the case of those who have publicly done violence to clerics, or of the purchasers of church property. On the contrary, excommunication is occult when the offence entailing it is known to no one or almost no one. The first is valid in the forum externum and consequently in the forum internum; the second is valid in the forum internum only. The practical difference is very important. He who has incurred occult excommunication should treat himself as excommunicated and be absolved as soon as possible, submitting to whatever conditions will be imposed upon him, but this only in the tribunal of conscience; he is not obliged to denounce himself to a judge nor to abstain from external acts connected with the exercise of jurisdiction, and he may ask absolution without making himself known either in confession or to the Sacred Penitentiaria. According to the teaching of Benedict XIV (De synodo, X, i, 5), "a sentence declaratory of the offence is always necessary in the forum externum, since in this tribunal no one is presumed to be excommunicated unless convicted of a crime that entails such a penalty". Public excommunication, on the other hand, is removed only by a public absolution; when it is question of simple publicity of fact (see above), the absolution, while not judicial, is nevertheless public, inasmuch as it is given to a known person and appears as an act of the forum externum.

(5) Vitandi and Tolerati

Public excommunication in foro externo has two degrees according as it has or has not been formally published, or, in other words, according as excommunicated persons are to be shunned (vitandi) or tolerated (tolerati). A formally published or nominative excommunication occurs when the sentence has been brought to the knowledge of the public by a notification from the judge, indicating by name the person thus punished. No special method is required for this publication; according to the Council of Constance (1414-18), it suffices that "the sentence have been published or made known by the judge in a special and express manner". Persons thus excommunicated are to be shunned (vitandi), i.e. the faithful must have no intercourse with them either in regard to sacred things or (to a certain extent) profane matters, as we shall see farther on. All other excommunicated persons, even though known, are tolerati, i. e. the law no longer obliges the faithful to abstain from intercourse with them, even in religious matters. This distinction dates from the aforesaid Constitution "Ad evitanda scandala", published by Martin V at the Council of Constance in 1418; until then one had to avoid communion with all the excommunicated, once they were known as such. "To avoid scandal and numerous dangers", says Martin V, "and to relieve timorous consciences, we hereby mercifully grant to all the faithful that henceforth no one need refrain from communicating with another in the reception or administration of the sacraments, or in other matters Divine or profane, under pretext of any ecclesiastical sentence or censure, whether promulgated in general form by law or by a judge, nor avoid anyone whomsoever, nor observe an ecclesiastical interdict, except when this sentence or censure shall have been published or made known by the judge in special and express form, against some certain, specified person, college, university, church, community, or place." But while notoriously excommunicated persons are no longer vitandi, the pope makes an exception of those who have "incurred the penalty of excommunication by reason of sacrilegious violence against a cleric, and so notoriously that the fact can in no way be dissimulated or excused". He declares, moreover, that he has not made this concession in favour of the excommunicated, whose condition remains unchanged, but solely for the benefit of the faithful. Hence, in virtue of ecclesiastical law, the latter need no longer deprive themselves of intercourse with those of the excommunicated who are "tolerated". As to the vitandi, now reduced to the two aforementioned categories, they must be shunned by the faithful as formerly. It is to be noted now that the minor excommunication incurred formerly by these forbidden relations has been suppressed; also, that of the major excommunications inflicted on certain definite acts of communion with the vitandi, only two are retained in the Constitution "Apostolicæ Sedis" (II, 16, 17): that inflicted on any of the faithful for participation in a crime that has merited nominative excommunication by the pope, and that pronounced against clerics alone for spontaneous and conscious communion in sacris with persons whom the pope has excommunicated by name. Moreover, those whom bishops excommunicate by name are as much vitandi as are those similarly excommunicated by the pope.

(6) Reserved and Non-Reserved

Finally, excommunication is either reserved or non-reserved. This division affects the absolution from censure. In the forum internum any confessor can absolve from non reserved excommunications; but those that are reserved can only be remitted, except through indult or delegation, by those to whom the law reserves the absolution. There is a distinction between excommunications reserved to the pope (these being divided into two classes, according to which they are either specially or simply reserved to him) and those reserved to bishops or ordinaries. As to excommunications ab homine, absolution from them is reserved by law to the judge who has inflicted them. In a certain sense excommunications may also be reserved in view of the persons who incur them; thus absolution from excommunications in foro externo incurred by bishops is reserved to the pope; again, custom reserves to him the excommunication of sovereigns.

[Edited on 2-15-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
I agree with Fred that excommunication means exclusion from the sacraments and a break in Christian fellowship. This does not mean that we abandon all social interaction with the individual. Otherwise how can the person be reclaimed? We would treat him as we treat any other person apart from Christ. He is welcome to sit under the preaching of the word. We can have coffee and donuts before work.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Tom writes:
We can have coffee and donuts before work.

Thats not what scripture exhorts Tom:

Mat 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

To the Jew (of the day), what did it mean to be considered gentile or a tax collector? Is it someone you would have had tea and biscuits with?

“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).




[Edited on 2-16-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by joshua
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
To the Jew (of the day), what did it mean to be considered gentile or a tax collector? Is it someone you would have had tea and biscuits with?

I'm not sure a Jew (of the day) would be having tea and biscuits. Jesus, however, was seen interacting with such. Samaritans, Tax Collectors....

This is true Josh, however, the admonition is in the emphatic. It is pronounced as an action that is to be seen as severe.

<Very funny> ;)

The term gentile, in many other translations is heathen.

(KJV+) And1161 if1437 he shall neglect to hear3878 them,846 tell2036 it unto the3588 church:1577 but1161 if1437 he neglect to hear3878 the3588 church,1577 let him be2077 unto thee4671 as5618 a heathen man1482 and2532 a publican.5057

(LITV) But if he fails to hear them, tell it to the assembly. And if he also fails to hear the assembly, let him be to you as the nations and the tax collector.

(YLT) `And if he may not hear them, say it to the assembly, and if also the assembly he may not hear, let him be to thee as the heathen man and the tax-gatherer.

The same word is used here "pagan":

1Co 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife.

[Edited on 2-15-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Bruce, Alexander Balmain (1831-1899)
Commentary on Matt 18/Church Discipline/Excommunication

SECTION II. CHURCH DISCIPLINE
Matt. xviii. 15-20.

Having duly cautioned His hearers against offending the little ones, Jesus proceeded (according to the account of His words in the Gospel of Matthew) to tell them how to act when they were not the givers, but the receivers or the judges, of offences. In this part of His discourse He had in view the future rather than the present. Contemplating the time when the kingdom--that is, the church--should be in actual existence as an organized community, with the twelve exercising in it authority as apostles, He gives directions for the exercise of discipline, in order to the purity and wellbeing of the Christian brotherhood;[14.10] confers on the twelve collectively what He had already granted to Peter singly--the power to bind and loose, that is, to inflict and remove church censures;[14.11] and makes a most encouraging promise of His own spiritual presence, and of prevailing power with His heavenly Father in prayer, to all assembled in His name, and agreeing together in the objects of their desires.[14.12] His aim throughout is to insure beforehand that the community to be called after His name shall be indeed a holy, loving, united society.
The rules here laid down for the guidance of the apostles in dealing with offenders, though simple and plain, have given rise to much debate among religious controversialist interested in the upholding of diverse theories of church government.[14.13] Of these ecclesiastical disputes we shall say nothing here; nor do we deem it needful to offer any expository comments on our Lord's words, save a sentence of explanation on the phrase employed by Him to describe the state of excommunication: "Let him" (that is, the impenitent brother about to be cast out of the church) "be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." These words, luminous without doubt at the time they were spoken, are not quite so clear to us now; but yet their meaning in the main is sufficiently plain. The idea is, that the persistently impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom is to be held no religious, and as little as possible social fellowship. The religious aspect of excommunication is pointed at by the expression "as an heathen man," and the social side of it is expressed in the second clause of the sentence, "and a publican." Heathens were excluded from the temple, and had no part in Jewish religious rites. Publicans were not excluded from the temple, so far as we know; but they were regarded as social pariahs by all Jews affecting patriotism and religious strictness. This indiscriminate dislike of the whole class was not justifiable, nor is any approval of it implied here. Jesus refers to it simply as a familiar matter of fact, which conveniently and clearly conveyed His meaning to the effect: Let the impenitent offender be to you what heathens are to all Jews by law--persons with whom to hold no religious fellowship; and what publicans are to Pharisees by inveterate prejudice--persons to be excluded from all but merely unavoidable social intercourse."
Whatever obscurity may attach to the letter of the rules for the management of discipline, there can be no doubt at all as to the loving, holy spirit which pervades them.
The spirit of love appears in the conception of the church which underlies these rules. The church is viewed as a commonwealth, in which the concern of one is the concern of all, and vice versa. Hence Jesus does not specify the class of offences He intends, whether private and personal ones, or such as are of the nature of scandals, that is, offences against the church as a whole. On His idea of a church such explanations were unnecessary, because the distinction alluded to in great part ceases to exist. An offence against the conscience of the whole community is an offence against each individual member, because he is jealous for the honor of the body of believers; and on the other hand, an offence which is in the first place private and personal, becomes one in which all are concerned so soon as the offended party has failed to bring His brother to confession and reconciliation. A chronic alienation between two Christian brethren will be regarded, in a church after Christ's mind, as a scandal not to be tolerated, because fraught with deadly harm to the spiritual life of all.
Very congenial also to the spirit of charity is the order of proceeding indicated in the directions given by Jesus. First, strictly private dealing on the part of the offended with his offending brother is prescribed; then, after such dealing has been fairly tried and has failed, but not till then, third parties are to be brought in as witnesses and assistants in the work of reconciliation; and finally, and only as a last resource, the subject of quarrel is to be made public, and brought before the whole church. This method of procedure is obviously most considerate as towards the offender. It makes confession as easy to him as possible by sparing him the shame of exposure. It is also a method which cannot be worked out without the purest and holiest motives on the part of him who seeks redress. It leaves no room for the reckless talkativeness of the scandalmonger, who loves to divulge evil news, and speaks to everybody of a brother's faults rather than to the brother himself. It puts a bridle on the passion of resentment, by compelling the offended one to go through a patient course of dealing with his brother before he arrive at the sad issue at which anger jumps at once, viz. total estrangement. It gives no encouragement to the officious and over-zealous, who make themselves busy in ferreting out offences; for the way of such is not to begin with the offender, and then go to the church, but to go direct to the church with severe charges, based probably on hearsay information gained by dishonorable means.
Characteristic of the loving spirit of Jesus, the Head of the church, is the horror with which He contemplates, and would have His disciples contemplate, the possibility of any one, once a brother, becoming to his brethren as a heathen or a publican. This appears in His insisting that no expedient shall be left untried to avert the sad catastrophe. How unlike in this respect is His mind to that of the world, which can with perfect equanimity allow vast multitudes of fellow-men to be what heathens were to Jews, and publicans to Pharisees--persons excluded from all kindly communion! Nay, may we not say, how unlike the mind of Jesus in this matter to that of many even in the church, who treat brethren in the same outward fellowship with most perfect indifference, and have become so habituated to the evil practice, that they regard it without compunction as a quite natural and right state of things!
Such heartless indifferentism implies a very different ideal of the church from that cherished by its Founder. Men who do not regard ecclesiastical fellowship as imposing any obligation to love their Christian brethren, think, consciously or unconsciously, of the church as if it were a hotel, where all kinds of people meet for a short space, sit down together at the same table, then part, neither knowing nor caring any thing about each other; while, in truth, it is rather a family, whose members are all brethren, bound to love each other with pure heart fervently. Of course this hotel theory involves as a necessary consequence the disuse of discipline. For, strange as the idea may seem to many, the law of love is the basis of church discipline. It is because I am bound to take every member of the church to my arms as a brother, that I am not only entitled, but bound, to be earnestly concerned about his behavior. If a brother in Christ, according to ecclesiastical standing, may say to me, "You must love me with all your heart," I am entitled to say in reply, "I acknowledge the obligation in the abstract, but I demand of you in turn that you shall be such that I can love you as a Christian, however weak and imperfect; and I feel it to be both my right and my duty to do all I can to make you worthy of such brotherly regard, by plain dealing with you anent your offences. I am willing to love you, but I cannot, I dare not, be on friendly terms with your sins; and if you refuse to part with these, and virtually require me to be a partaker in them by connivance, then our brotherhood is at an end, and I am free from my obligations." To such a language and such a style of thought the patron of the hotel theory of church fellowship is an utter stranger. Disclaiming the obligation to love his brethren, he at the same time renounces the right to insist on Christian virtue as an indispensable attribute of church membership, and declines to trouble himself about the behavior of any member, except in so far as it may affect himself personally. All may think and act as they please--be infidels or believers, sons of God or sons of Belial: it is all one to him.
Holy severity finds a place in these directions, as well as tender, considerate love. Jesus solemnly sanctions the excommunication of an impenitent offender. "Let him," saith He, with the tone of a judge pronouncing sentence of death, "be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Then, to invest church censures righteously administered with all possible solemnity and authority, He proceeds to declare that they carry with them eternal consequences; adding in His most emphatic manner the awful words--awful both to the sinner cast out and to those who are responsible for his ejection: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." The words may be regarded in one sense as a caution to ecclesiastical rulers to beware how they use a power of so tremendous a character; but they also plainly show that Christ desired His church on earth, as nearly as possible, to resemble the church in heaven: to be holy in her membership, and not an indiscriminate congregation of righteous and unrighteous men, of believers and infidels, of Christians and reprobates; and for that end committed the power of the keys to those who bear office in His house, authorizing them to deliver over to Satan's thrall the proud, stubborn sinner who refuses to be corrected, and to give satisfaction to the aggrieved consciences of his brethren.
Such rigor, pitiless in appearance, is really merciful to all parties. It is merciful to the faithful members of the church, because it removes from their midst a mortifying limb, whose presence imperils the life of the whole body. Scandalous open sin cannot be tolerated in any society without general demoralization ensuing; least of all in the church, which is a society whose very raison d '[Otilde]tre is the culture of Christian virtue. But the apparently pitiless rigor is mercy even towards the unfaithful who are the subjects thereof. For to keep scandalous offenders inside the communion of the church is to do your best to damn their souls, and to exclude them ultimately from heaven. On the other hand, to deliver them over to Satan may be, and it is to be hoped will be, but giving them a foretaste of hell now that they may be saved from hell-fire forever. It was in this hope that Paul insisted on the excommunication of the incestuous person from the Corinthian church, that by the castigation of his fleshly sin "his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It is this hope which comforts those on whom the disagreeable task of enforcing church censures falls in the discharge of their painful duty. They can cast forth evil-doers from the communion of saints with less hesitation, when they know that as "publicans and sinners" the excommunicated are nearer the kingdom of God than they were as church members, and when they consider that they are still permitted to seek the good of the ungodly, as Christ sought the good of all the outcasts of His day; that it is still in their power to pray for them, and to preach to them, as they stand in the outer court of the Gentiles, though they may not put into their unholy hands the symbols of the Saviour's body and blood.
Such considerations, indeed, would go far to reconcile those who are sincerely concerned for the spiritual character of the church, and for the safety of individual souls, to very considerable reductions of communion rolls. There cannot be a doubt that, if church discipline were upheld with the efficiency and vigor contemplated by Christ, such reductions would take place on an extensive scale. It is indeed true that the purging process might be carried to excess, and with very injurious effects. Tares might be mistaken for wheat, and wheat for tares. The church might be turned into a society of Pharisees, thanking God that they were not as other men, or as the poor publicans who stood without, hearing and praying, but not communicating; while among those outside the communion rails might be not only the unworthy, but many timid ones who dared not come nigh, but, like the publican of the parable, could only stand afar off, crying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," yet all the while were justified rather than the others. A system tending to bring about such results is one extreme to be avoided. But there is another yet more pernicious extreme still more sedulously to be shunned: a careless laxity, which allows sheep and goats to be huddled together in one fold, the goats being thereby encouraged to deem themselves sheep, and deprived of the greatest benefit they can enjoy--the privilege of being spoken to plainly as "unconverted sinners."
Such unseemly mixtures of the godly and the godless are too common phenomena in these days. And the reason is not far to seek. It is not indifference to morality, for that is not generally a characteristic of the church in our time. It is the desire to multiply members. The various religious bodies value members still more than morality or high-toned Christian virtue, and they fear lest by discipline they may lose one or two names from their communion roll. The fear is not without justification. Fugitives from discipline are always sure of an open door and a hearty welcome in some quarter. This is one of the many curses entailed upon us by that greatest of all scandals, religious division. One who has become, or is in danger of becoming, as a heathen man and a publican to one ecclesiastical body, has a good chance of becoming a saint or an angel in another. Rival churches play at cross purposes, one loosing when another binds; so doing their utmost to make all spiritual sentences null and void, both in earth and heaven, and to rob religion of all dignity and authority. Well may libertines pray that the divisions of the church may continue, for while these last they fare well! Far otherwise did it fare with the like of them in the days when the church was catholic and one; when sinners repenting worked their way, in the slow course of years, from the locus lugentium outside the sanctuary, through the locus audientium and the locus substratorum to the locus fidelium: in that painful manner learning what an evil and a bitter thing it is to depart from the living God.[14.14
The promise made to consent in prayer[14.15] comes in appropriately in a discourse delivered to disciples who had been disputing who should be the greatest. In this connection the promise means: "So long as ye are divided by dissensions and jealousies, ye shall be impotent alike with men and with God; in your ecclesiastical procedure as church rulers, and in your supplications at the throne of grace. But if ye be united in mind and heart, ye shall have power with God, and shall prevail: my Father will grant your requests, and I myself will be in the midst of you."
It is not necessary to assume any very close connection between this promise and the subject of which Jesus had been speaking just before. In this familiar discourse transition is made from one topic to another in an easy conversational manner, care being taken only that all that is said shall be relevant to the general subject in hand. The meeting, supposed to be convened in Christ's name, need not therefore be one of church officers assembled for the transaction of ecclesiastical business: it may be a meeting, in a church or in a cottage, purely for the purposes of worship. The promise avails for all persons, all subjects of prayer, all places, and all times; for all truly Christian assemblies great and small.
The promise avails for the smallest number that can make a meeting--even for two or three. This minimum number is condescended on for the purpose of expressing in the strongest possible manner the importance of brotherly concord. Jesus gives us to understand that two agreed are better, stronger, than twelve or a thousand divided by enmities and ambitious passions. "The Lord, when He would commend unanimity and peace to His disciples, said, ' If two of you shall agree on earth,' etc., to show that most is granted not to the multitude, but to the concord of the supplicants."[14.16] It is an obvious inference, that if by agreement even two be strong, then a multitude really united in mind would be proportionally stronger. For we must not fancy that God has any partiality for a little meeting, or that there is any virtue in a small number. Little strait sects are apt to fall into this mistake, and to imagine that Christ had them specially in His eye when He said two or three, and that the kind of agreement by which they are distinguished--agreement in whim and crotchet--is what He desiderated. Ridiculous caricature of the Lord's meaning! The agreement He requires of His disciples is not entire unanimity in opinion, but consent of mind and heart in the ends they aim at, and in unselfish devotion to these ends. When He spake of two or three, He did not contemplate, as the desirable state of things, the body of His church split up into innumerable fragments by religious opinionativeness, each fragment in proportion to its minuteness imagining itself sure of His presence and blessing. He did not wish His church to consist of a collection of clubs having no intercommunion with each other, any more than He desired it to be a monster hotel, receiving and harboring all comers, no questions being asked. He made the promise now under consideration, not to stimulate sectarianism, but to encourage the cultivation of virtues which have ever been too rare on earth--brotherly-kindness, meekness, charity. The thing He values, in a word, is not paucity of numbers, due to the want of charity, but union of hearts in lowly love among the greatest number possible.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Calvin writes:

4. Another distinction to be attended to is, that some sins are mere delinquencies, others crimes and flagrant iniquities. In correcting the latter, it is necessary to employ not only admonition or rebuke, but a sharper remedy, as Paul shows when he not only verbally rebukes the incestuous Corinthian, but punishes him with excommunication, as soon as he was informed of his crime (1 Cor. 5:4). Now then we begin better to perceive how the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church, which animadverts on sins according to the word of the Lord, is at once the best help to sound doctrine, the best foundation of order, and the best bond of unity. Therefore, when the Church banishes from its fellowship open adulterers, fornicators, thieves, robbers, the seditious, the perjured, false witnesses, and others of that description; likewise the contumacious, who, when duly admonished for lighter faults, hold God and his tribunal in derision, instead of arrogating to itself anything that is unreasonable, it exercises a jurisdiction which it has received from the Lord. Moreover, lest any one should despise the judgment of the Church, or count it a small matter to be condemned by the suffrages of the faithful, the Lord has declared that it is nothing else than the promulgation of his own sentence, and that that which they do on earth is ratified in heaven. For they act by the word of the Lord in condemning the perverse, and by the word of the Lord in taking the penitent back into favour (John 20:23). Those, I say, who trust that churches can long stand without this bond of discipline are mistaken, unless, indeed, we can with impunity dispense with a help which the Lord foresaw would be necessary. And, indeed, the greatness of the necessity will be better perceived by its manifold uses.

5. There are three ends to which the Church has respect in thus correcting and excommunicating. The first is, that God may not be insulted by the name of Christians being given to those who lead shameful and flagitious lives, as if his holy Church were a combination of the wicked and abandoned. For seeing that the Church is the body of Christ, she cannot be defiled by such fetid and putrid members, without bringing some disgrace on her Head. Therefore that there may be nothing in the Church to bring disgrace on his sacred name, those whose turpitude might throw infamy on the name must be expelled from his family. And here, also, regard must be had to the Lord’s Supper, which might he profaned by a promiscuous admission. For it is most true, that he who is intrusted with the dispensation of it, if he knowingly and willingly admits any unworthy person whom he ought and is able to repel, is as guilty of sacrilege as if he had cast the Lord’s body to dogs. Wherefore, Chrysostom bitterly inveighs against priests, who, from fear of the great, dare not keep any one back. “Blood (says he, Hom. 83, in Mt.) will be required at your hands. If you fear man, he will mock you, but if you fear God, you will be respected also by men. Let us not tremble at fasces, purple, or diadems; our power here is greater. Assuredly I will sooner give up my body to death, and allow my blood to be shed, than be a partaker of that pollution.” Therefore, lest this most sacred mystery should be exposed to ignominy, great selection is required in dispensing it, and this cannot be except by the jurisdiction of the Church. A second end of discipline is, that the good may not, as usually happens, be corrupted by constant communication with the wicked. For such is our proneness to go astray, that nothing is easier than to seduce us from the right course by bad example. To this use of discipline the apostle referred when he commanded the Corinthians to discard the incestuous man from their society. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6) And so much danger did he foresee here, that he prohibited them from keeping company with such persons. “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11). A third end of discipline is, that the sinner may be ashamed, and begin to repent of his turpitude. Hence it is for their interest also that their iniquity should be chastised, that whereas they would have become more obstinate by indulgence, they may be aroused by the rod. This the apostle intimates when he thus writes —“If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14). Again, when he says that he had delivered the Corinthian to Satan, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5); that is, as I interpret it, he gave him over to temporal condemnation, that he might be made safe for eternity. And he says that he gave him over to Satan because the devil is without the Church, as Christ is in the Church. Some interpret this of a certain infliction on the flesh, but this interpretation seems to me most improbable. (August. de Verb. Apostol. Serm. 68)

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.iv.xiii.html

[Edited on 2-16-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Excommunication is not a physical expulsion of the person from the church!

A.B. Bruce says (in one of the highlighted portions above) "that it is still in their power to pray for them, and to preach to them, as they stand in the outer court of the Gentiles, though they may not put into their unholy hands the symbols of the Saviour's body and blood."

What could be more obvious than that the ONE place in all the world that the wicked, apostate sinner NEEDS to be is under the convicting, threatening, and ultimately (if God should grant repentance) grace-bestowing operation of the Holy Spirit's PRINCIPAL means of grace, namely the preached Word? That this should be doubted is unbelievable to me.

WLC Q. 155 How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Bruce,
Where was the outer court of the gentiles? Preaching to the gentiles was accomplished outside the temple. We are called to do this everyday. The body is called to proclaim Christ and the repentance of sin. A.B. Bruse states earlier in the same post: "The idea is, that the persistently impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom is to be held no religious, and as little as possible social fellowship. " "No religious fellowship and as little as possible social". Here he says: "Heathens were excluded from the temple, and had no part in Jewish religious rites." Excluded means, removed from..........

Above Calvin says that the church "banishes" from their fellowship........Banishment is to be removed from the church, physically. By physically, I do not mean they grab the person from the collar and toss them on the front lawn. I mean that the person is escorted out, and asked not to come back until they are repentant.

Calvin continues to say: "to discard the incestuous man from their society. " and he cites 1 Cor 5:6,11.

1Co 5:6 Your boast is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens all the lump?

1Co 5:11 But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother and is either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat.

Bruce, I understand what you are saying in regards to the preached word. Many a man hath been saved outside of hearing the word preached within the confines of a building.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Tom writes:
We can have coffee and donuts before work.

Thats not what scripture exhorts Tom:

Mat 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

To the Jew (of the day), what did it mean to be considered gentile or a tax collector? Is it someone you would have had tea and biscuits with?

“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).




[Edited on 2-16-2005 by Scott Bushey]

As I pointed out, we're not talking about having a fellowship meal (which is epitomized by the Lord's Supper) with excommunicates. We are speaking of normal social interaction that a Christian may have with any unbeliever. I don't think this is what 1 Cor. 5:11 is speaking of. I think it speaks of the intense Christian fellowship that exists between true believers, not the casual interaction one has with all men regardless of their spiritual status.

Otherwise how could Jesus eat with those who were outcast from the Jewish fellowship, the old covenant church?

You seem to be suggesting that the only words we may have with such a person are words of admonition. Is this the way you interact with all unbelievers?

We are not to be more severe than God.

[Edited on 16-2-2005 by tcalbrecht]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
I don't believe anyone is effectively dealing with the texts or resources I have cited:

Phillip Schaff writes on Calvin:

He distinguished between the discipline of the people and the discipline of the clergy.715

1. The discipline of members has three degrees: private admonition; a second admonition in the presence of witnesses or before the Church; and, in case of persistent disobedience, exclusion from the Lord’s Table. This is in accordance with the rule of Christ (Matt. 18:15–17). The object of discipline is threefold: to protect the body of the Church against contamination and profanation; to guard the individual members against the corrupting influence of constant association with the wicked; and to bring the offender to repentance that he may be saved and restored to the fellowship of the faithful. Excommunication and subsequent restoration were exercised by Paul in the case of the Corinthian offender, and by the Church in her purer days. Even the Emperor Theodosius was excluded from communion by Bishop Ambrose of Milan on account of the massacre perpetrated in Thessalonica at his order.716

Excommunication should be exercised only against flagitious crimes which disgrace the Christian profession; such as adultery, fornication, theft, robbery, sedition, perjury, contempt of God and his authority. Nor should it be exercised by the bishop or pastor alone, but by the body of elders, and, as is pointed out by Paul, "with the knowledge and approbation of the congregation; in such a manner, however, that the multitude of the people may not direct the proceeding, but may watch over it as witnesses and guardians, that nothing be done by a few persons from any improper motive." Moreover, "the severity of the Church must be tempered by a spirit of gentleness. For there is constant need of the greatest caution, according to the injunction of Paul concerning a person who may have been censured, ’lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow’ (2 Cor. 2:7); for thus a remedy would become a poison."

When the sinner gives reasonable evidence of repentance he is to be restored. Calvin objects to "the excessive austerity of the ancients," who refused to readmit the lapsed. He approves of the course of Cyprian, who says: "Our patience and kindness and tenderness is ready for all who come; I wish all to return into the Church; I wish all our fellow-soldiers to be assembled in the camp of Christ, and all our brethren to be received into the house of God our Father. I forgive everything; I conceal much. With ready and sincere affection I embrace those who return with penitence." Calvin adds: "Such as are expelled from the Church, it is not for us to expunge from the number of the elect, or to despair of them as already lost. It is proper to consider them as strangers to the Church, and consequently to Christ, but this only as long as they remain in a state of exclusion. And even then let us hope better things of them for the future, and not cease to pray to God on their behalf. Let us not condemn to eternal death the offender, nor prescribe laws to the mercy of God who can change the worst of men into the best." He makes a distinction between excommunication and anathema; the former censures and punishes with a view to reformation and restoration; the latter precludes all pardon, and devotes a person to eternal perdition. Anathema ought never to be resorted to, or at least very rarely. Church members ought to exert all means in their power to promote the reformation of an excommunicated person, and admonish him not as an enemy, but as a brother (2 Cor. 2:8). "Unless this tenderness be observed by the individual members as well as by the Church collectively, our discipline will be in danger of speedily degenerating into cruelty."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc8.iv.xiii.ix.html

[Edited on 2-16-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Scott,

Calvin (and Schaff) are referring to the Church as the covenant people of God, not the building. Historically, Calvin's practice belies the interpretation you want to put on his words. In fact, one of Calvin's greatest problems was in preventing the excommunicated (e.g. the Libertines) from taking the Supper.

I think you also need to understand all these quotes in the context that in England and Geneva in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, church attendance was mandatory for all citizens. It was the law for all, baptized or not. That was another challenge for Calvin, as often he preached over the hoots and heckles of unbelievers.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Fred,
I don't know if I agree. Calvin states:
"....the church "banishes" from their fellowship........Banishment is to be removed from the church, physically. By physically, I do not mean they grab the person from the collar and toss them on the front lawn. I mean that the person is escorted out, and asked not to come back until they are repentant.

Calvin continues to say: "to discard the incestuous man from their society. " and he cites 1 Cor 5:6,11.

1Co 5:6 Your boast is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens all the lump?

1Co 5:11 But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother and is either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat.

Calvin adds:

"The idea is, that the persistently impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom is to be held no religious, and as little as possible social fellowship.

As I have asked Bruce, the descriptive, "Like a gentile/pagan/heathan". They were thrown out of the temple borders, to the outer courts, where the ungodly dwell.


"Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Put away............from among you.

[Edited on 2-16-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Here is how our church (the one I pastored) dealt with one we had to excommunicate.

One of the deacons and one of the elders escorted the man who wanted to continue to come to church to his seat 5 minutes after worship begun, and 5 minutes before the service ended. That allowed him to sit under the preaching of the word, but at the samw time allowed the congregation to treat him like a tax collector.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Matt,
How do you deal with Calvins suggestion and the biblical example of being sent to the outside courts w/ the gentile?

"The idea is, that the persistently impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom is to be held no religious, and as little as possible social fellowship.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Add'l material:

Manual of Church Discipline

REV. ELEAZER SAVAGE
Rev. Eleazer Savage was born in Middletown, Conn., July 28, 1800; entered Hamilton in 1820; was ordained in Rochester in 1824; was pastor in several other communities in New York, in which he baptized more than 400 souls; published a valuable work on Church Discipline. Mr. Savage was a very useful minister, and an honored and faithful servant of Jesus; one of his daughters is the wife of the able president of the Rochester Theological Seminary.



And the rule is before her. The same rule is laid down as equally applicable to each of the five public offences, here mentioned. "But now I have written unto you, if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, not to keep company with such an one; no, not to eat." This rule, proceeding upon the principle that the offender is irreclaimable; and therefore, necessarily and promptly removed from the church; includes and enjoins two things, designed to regulate our conduct toward excluded persons, who are high offenders; and to add merited weight to the excinding blow.
1. A strict avoidance of free and familiar intercourse. "I have written unto you not to keep company with such an one." There should be friendly feeling towards such guilty and unhappy individual; but, after exclusion, he should be made to feel the amazing weight of the solemn sentence by corresponding conduct, on the part of every member of the Church.3 To each and to all, he is to be as alien, as "an heathen man and a publican" to a Jew. 2. A refusal to participate with him at social meals. That is, to "dine or take tea" with him, as we should express it; "No, not to eat." This cannot mean eating at the Lord’s table, because, in that case, the apostle would have said, "not keep company," much less, partake with him at the Lord’s table. This would have been an ascending from the less to the greater; whereas he evidently descends from the greater to the less. "Not keep company; no, not to eat." That is not even to eat. Nor can this signify the avoidance of common family meals, which might be quite as impossible, in point of fact, as inconsistent with certain scriptural relations and duties. But it may mean, and evidently does mean a refusal of all such social interchanges; such visitings and receiving visits; and such groupings around the social board as express a familiarity with, and a fellowship for, the party, our act of disfellowship to the contrary, notwithstanding.

From the 1599 Geneva Bible Notes:

1Co 5:7
5:7 {8} Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new {e} lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our {f} passover is sacrificed for us:
(8) By alluding to the ceremony of the passover, he exhorts them to cast out that unclean person from among them. In times past, he says, it was not lawful for those who celebrated the passover to eat unleavened bread, insomuch that he was held as unclean and unworthy to eat the passover, whoever had but tasted of leaven. Now our whole life must be as it were the feast of unleavened bread, in which all they that are partakers of that immaculate lamb which is slain, must cast out both of themselves, and also out of their houses and congregations, all impurity.
(e) By lump he means the whole body of the Church, every member of which must be unleavened bread, that is, be renewed in spirit, by plucking away the old corruption.
(f) The Lamb of our passover.



Grace Community Church; John MacArthur:

Remove from church v. 17

Now, at Grace, what we do is, we give the person a reasonable time, usually a couple of months, to respond favorably. And if they have not responded, we will then make an announcement before the entire congregation that they’ve been removed from the fellowship, that they’ve been put out of the church. Do not associate with them; do not even eat with such a one. He’s been turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Now, that sometimes results in repentance. When it does, we’ve served our brother and won him, but sometimes it does not. In fact, most of the times when it gets to step four, it does not result in repentance. By that time usually, they’ve cut and run anyhow but we fulfilled our obligation. But he may continue in his sin, because there’s a possibility he may not be saved. He may be a tare within the fellowship. He might just be continuing to live in sin because he’s lying to himself about what a Christian really is. Or he may be a Christian that is being chastened by the Lord and part of your chastening is being removed from the fellowship. Or it may involve even sin unto death, like those people in Corinth that had sinned in the taking of the communion fellowship together, that some of them were sick and some of them had even died because of that sin.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by webmaster
as little as possible

Exactly. That was the point.

Ah, but it says no religious fellowship!

"The idea is, that the persistently impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom is to be held no religious, and as little as possible social fellowship.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by webmaster
Here is how our church (the one I pastored) dealt with one we had to excommunicate.

One of the deacons and one of the elders escorted the man who wanted to continue to come to church to his seat 5 minutes after worship begun, and 5 minutes before the service ended. That allowed him to sit under the preaching of the word, but at the samw time allowed the congregation to treat him like a tax collector.

Would you call the police if the person refused to cooperate? Or would you use physical force?

"Ecclesiastical power, which is wholly spiritual, is twofold. The officers exercise it sometimes severally, as in preaching the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, reproving the erring, visiting the sick, and comforting the afflicted, which is the power of order; and they exercise it sometimes jointly in Church courts, after the form of judgment, which is the power of jurisdiction." (PCA BCO 3-2)
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
You'd have to think about the situation - this person wanted to sit under the preaching, and agreed to the terms knwoing full well he had sinned. We wanted him to be reconciled.

Another church I knew called the police because they thought the man was going to be violent. it is impossible to divide the spiritual and physical aspects of how this works. You are excommunicating a person, not a spirit.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
"....the church "banishes" from their fellowship........Banishment is to be removed from the church, physically. By physically, I do not mean they grab the person from the collar and toss them on the front lawn. I mean that the person is escorted out, and asked not to come back until they are repentant.

Same questions (a bit extended) that I asked our esteemed Webmaster.

Do deacons have power of the sword? Would you call the civil magistrate (police) if the person refused to cooperate? Or would you othewise use physical force to enforce your ecclesiastical ruling?
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by webmaster
You'd have to think about the situation - this person wanted to sit under the preaching, and agreed to the terms knwoing full well he had sinned. We wanted him to be reconciled.

Another church I knew called the police because they thought the man was going to be violent. it is impossible to divide the spiritual and physical aspects of how this works. You are excommunicating a person, not a spirit.

Tom,
Ditto to Matts statement......
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In the ancient church, the service of worship was divided in two. After a common period, which was wholly public and included the preaching of the Word, the congregation divided. Catechumens were dismissed to elementary instruction in the faith. Full members were admitted to the Lord's Supper. And those who fit in neither camp? They had no place to go but leave. Perhaps they could watch, but I don't know the typical layout. Maybe it was held in another room.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by Contra_Mundum
In the ancient church, the service of worship was divided in two. After a common period, which was wholly public and included the preaching of the Word, the congregation divided. Catechumens were dismissed to elementary instruction in the faith. Full members were admitted to the Lord's Supper. And those who fit in neither camp? They had no place to go but leave. Perhaps they could watch, but I don't know the typical layout. Maybe it was held in another room.

Bruce,
I never heard that before. I am not saying it is not true; just never heard it. I know Jewish congregations were seperated; men on one side, woman on the other....Whatever the case, it still does not reconcile the language used by Paul in the passage I cite.

Thanks for your input Bruce!:book2:
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by webmaster
You'd have to think about the situation - this person wanted to sit under the preaching, and agreed to the terms knwoing full well he had sinned. We wanted him to be reconciled.

Another church I knew called the police because they thought the man was going to be violent. it is impossible to divide the spiritual and physical aspects of how this works. You are excommunicating a person, not a spirit.

"Another church I knew called the police because they thought the man was going to be violent. "

If they have evidence that they could present to the civil magistrate, then that's fine. I knew a situation where a man had been excommunicated, and he had a history of carrying a firearm and banishing it in a reckless/menacing fashion. The police were called on one occasion.

I would have a problem if this excuse were used without justification. Ecclesiastical power is entirely declaratory. The officers do not have the power to physically keep anyone from hearing the word of God.

It's not the role of the pastor/elder to act as the conscience of the individual under discipline. Allow God to deal with the heart. I would even argue that it is not the role of the elders to physically prevent someone from taking the Lord's Supper. If a man who was under suspension presented himself before the table of the Lord, the elders should speak the word of truth and announce to the man and the congregation of this person's status, and then allow God to deal with him. If he eats and drinks in an unworthy manner he is eating and drinking to his own condemnation. That is the warning.

I think it would be unseemly to try to physically restrict someone within the church (unless it's a civil affair).

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Originally posted by webmaster
You'd have to think about the situation - this person wanted to sit under the preaching, and agreed to the terms knwoing full well he had sinned. We wanted him to be reconciled.

Another church I knew called the police because they thought the man was going to be violent. it is impossible to divide the spiritual and physical aspects of how this works. You are excommunicating a person, not a spirit.

Tom,
Ditto to Matts statement......

I'm not sure what your answer is.

Are you saying you would call upon the civil magistrate to enforce the decision of the church even if the person posed no physical threat to anyone?
 
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