The Doctrine of Separation


“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

            Our text issues a call, nay, a command to separation. It is based upon the fact that there are things and people that are incompatible one with another. Righteousness cannot fellowship with unrighteousness; light cannot dwell with darkness; believers have no share with unbelievers; and the temple of God has no agreement with idolatry.

            This has been so from the beginning of Creation. God separated time from eternity, matter from nothing, and the heavens from the earth. He went on to divide the light from the darkness, day from night, and the seas from the dry land. After that, God separated the beasts from humans and put a difference between male and female. He also told man that there is a difference between good and evil, warning him of the judgment for committing sin.

            When man sinned, there came death, which is a separation between God and man. Scripture tells us, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:” (1 John 1:5–6) There is also the ultimate separation from God in outer darkness. 

            Cain killed his brother and was separated from his family and from most of humanity. Noah had to separate from the rest of the world in order to board the ark and be safe. Abraham had to separate from worldly Lot. Lot had to separate from wicked Sodom. Israel had to leave Egypt, and also had to live separately from other nations.

            The covenant of circumcision had Israelite males separating themselves from a portion of their flesh, signifying both their faith in God and their separation from sin (See Colossians 2:11).  The circumcised were also to be separated from the uncircumcised.

            The Levitical law and holiness code called for a separation from those who were immoral. Often the separation was due to the execution of the death penalty upon those whose sins were harmful to family and society. We also see that the leper had to live separately from those who were healthy.

            We also find a separation placed between those Jews who were atoned for and worshiped the LORD and those who were not atoned for and did not worship the LORD.

            Numerous times in the Scriptures we find that God commanded Israel to put a difference between the holy and the profane; and He also rebuked and chastened them when they did not do so.

Separated Minds

            It is especially interesting to notice that Israel was to be separated from the unbelieving nations around them even in the things that they ate (See Leviticus 11). Why was this so? God wanted the people to be distinct from the nations around them, even in the normal habits of life. Paul told Timothy that, while the dietary laws have been abolished, the principle of separation still stands and is seen in our willingness to nourish ourselves with the good Word of God while refusing profane words and myths (1 Timothy 4:1-7). Just as we are taught to not be led by the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1), we should always recognize the need to be separated from the influence of the world upon our thought lives. 

            Too often we have thought of separation as merely a separation from doing sin, but we must recognize that God wants us to have purity of thought also. Our transformation comes from the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), and that began when we were born again (Colossians 3:10). We are taught to surrender our minds to the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), and to become fools in worldly wisdom that we might gain godly wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18). Lot, sadly, failed to do this and troubled his mind greatly with the things that he saw and heard in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7). Lot’s failure in this respect let him to compromise and a testimony that was so weakened that he could not help many in his own family. 

            Israel’s dietary laws separated them in their nutrition and eating habits so that they were not like the nations around them; and that pointed to our need to nourish ourselves only with that which is good. Many things that we eat today are enjoyable yet unhealthy. Whether they are filled with sugar, feed inflammation, too fattening, or simply devoid of nutritional benefit, much of today’s food is harmful to us. Just as we must beware of our nutritional intake so that we can be healthy, so we must be very careful of the things we see and hear, because they will greatly impact our minds and holiness. Our music, our reading, our conversations, and our television viewing all have effects on our minds; and they will feed either holiness of worldliness in us. We must be a separated people, feeding ourselves only on that which is good.

Separating From Doctrinal Error

            Doctrinal error is a very pervasive thing, steadily working like leaven and spreading its corrupting influence throughout the body of Christ (Galatians 5:9). Paul told Timothy it is like gangrene, spreading, decaying, and destroying (2 Timothy 2:15-17). It is for this cause that we must separate ourselves from grave doctrinal errors.

            Paul warned the Romans to take notice of those whose teaching contradicted the doctrines of the gospel and holiness (Romans 16:17-18) and to turn aside from them, because those people would be servants of their flesh rather than followers of Jesus. Peter warned that there would be false teachers whose teachings would tempt and mislead others to walk away from Christ (2 Peter 2:1-22). It is partly considering this that Peter teaches us to be holy (2 Peter 3:11,14).

            John also battled false doctrine, and those who were teaching falsehoods about Jesus. Mainly they said that Jesus had not come in the flesh, and their teaching then affected the morals of the people they influenced. John said, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 10–11) John is teaching that we should not give material, spiritual, or moral support to the purveyors of false doctrine, because one becomes a partner in their error by so doing. Separation is essential for the health, prosperity, and survival of the churches.

            The failure to separate from those teaching and embracing false doctrine has wreaked havoc among churches over the last one hundred sixty years. Whether it was the accepting of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the denial of the Deity of Jesus Christ, the rejection of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scriptures, the introduction of corrupted Bible versions, the denial of the virgin conception and birth of Jesus Christ, or the rejection of the reality of miracles, it is painfully obvious that the state of Christianity in Europe and in the United States of America has suffered greatly because of this. Furthermore, we now see the prevalence of prosperity theology that is merely greed masquerading as spirituality, using God as a genie to get what we want; and this is heretical, but people are embracing the slick looking, smooth speaking men who present the therapeutic pep talks that make folks feel better. Ultimately, these things affect worship and morality, and bring great harm. We must separate ourselves from grave doctrinal error.

Separating From Schismatics

            While the principle of separating from doctrinal heretics is real, so is the principle of separating from practical heretics. Heresy is primarily schism, which is simply division. Some divisions are doctrinal. Other divisions are practical. Some people have correct doctrines but have poor practices and are fractious, contentious, and disturb the peace and well-being of the body of Christ by their contention or by introducing harmful practices. Paul commanded Titus to warn the divisive person two times and then avoid him or have no fellowship with him (Titus 3:10). Why is this seemingly extreme course commanded? Because the person who will not heed godly warnings about divisive and harmful behavior is corrupted and sinful, and his own heart and behavior condemn him (Titus 3:10-11). It is imperative to note that, while many ironically condemn biblical separation as being judgmental, this passage teaches us that the one being separated from has condemned himself. 

            John, while being considered the apostle of love, shows us that love will separate from those who create divisions. Notice he spoke concerning Diotrephes, a man who decided that he would be the ruler of the local church where he was a member, refused to receive and help God’s men, and excommunicated those who did help God’s men and stated that he would remember Diotrophe’s words and ways. In other words, rather than Diotrephes being the one casting out, he would be rebuked and cast out unless he repented. Not only so, but John commanded the church to follow good, and that those who did not follow good are not of God. (3 John 9-11). This is nothing less than the principle and doctrine of Biblical separation from divisive people being described and put into practice.

            Few people think of the great damage that divisive people cause and fail to realize that separating from them in a godly fashion will do much good. Whether it is immorality as seen in 1 Corinthians chapter five, false doctrine and divisive actions as seen in Galatians (See Galatians 2:11-14;5:9-12), or wagging tongues, anger, unreasonableness, and strife as seen in James, divisive people do much harm. The leaven of sin spreads. Anger festers, builds up, comes to a head, and erupts, causing much damage. Notice James’ statement: “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (James 3:16) We can expect all sorts of sin to flourish in the presence of division and strife, and that is why we must call divisive people to repentance and then separate if they refuse to amend their hearts and ways.

A Warning Against Compromise

            Scripture also teaches us that we must be on our guard against compromise and separate from it when we see it. We are warned that friendship with the world is enmity with God and spiritual adultery (James 4:4). Scripture commands us to love our God supremely, and that love for the world denotes an absence of love for God in our hearts (1 John 2:15-17). We know that the LORD rebuked Jehoshaphat for joining in with wicked Ahab (2 Chronicles 19:1-3). The text heading this article also teaches us that light and darkness, righteousness and wickedness, Christ and Satan have no true fellowship. We cannot stand with our feet in both worlds but must choose between the two.

            Why is compromising a thing to guard against? Compromising is a joining of forces with those who are believing or practicing wrongly, and is a lending of support to them, which makes us partakers of their wrongdoing. Paul warned Timothy against partaking of other men’s sins (1 Timothy 5:22), and we have already seen that John spoke similarly (2 John 10-11). We must beware of compromising and choose to separate, or we will be guilty of aiding and abetting others in their sins.

            While it may not be quite as obvious as in other issues, compromise is ground for separation as well. Notice that compromise makes one a partaker in another’s evil deeds. Just as one who is present with another when a crime is committed is considered an accessory and one who helps is considered an accomplice and both are considered guilty of the crime, so it is with compromise. When we know of ministers and churches who offer fellowship to heretics or compromise with immorality, we must exercise separation from them as guilty of the same spiritual misdeeds. Their compromise demonstrates their sympathies to those sinning and demands our separating from them so that they will not affect us with the leaven of compromise.

Separation Vs. Isolation

            Separation, as we have seen, is a Biblical doctrine and practice. We are often prone to extremes, however, and can sometimes take separation too far and become isolationists. We cannot totally separate ourselves from the presence of sinners, or we would have to leave the world. This is what Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Jesus prayed for His people, not that they would be taken out of the world, but that they would be kept from evil (John 17:15). It is easy to stand aloof from others, look down our noses as the Pharisees did, scorn and criticize, and become “holier than thou,” but that is not separation. That is isolationism, and it is contrary to the commands of God, who told us that we should seek to convert our erring brother (See Matthew 18:15-17;James 5:19-20;1 John 5:16). 

            Paul’s directions to the Corinthians concerning the man in an incestuous relationship was that they should separate but not isolate themselves from those in immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). The purpose of separating was two-fold: it was for the purity of the church, so that the leaven on sin would not spread, and it was for the spiritual good of the one being separated from, so that he would come to repentance. It seems to have been successful, because Paul later wrote to them and admonished them to show grace and love in forgiving him (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). With this in mind, we conclude by asserting that the Biblical doctrine and practice of separation is a positive doctrine that seeks the holiness of the church and the repentance of those from whom we separate.

Disqualified pt 2

See part 1

What About David?

When a leader falls into immorality, it seems that many today are convinced that they can apologize and then continue in the position of godly leadership. One of the things that is often mentioned is the fact that King David sinned and was used of God. This is indeed true. David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and continued as king of Israel. We can rejoice in the wonderful example of the forgiving grace of God; but does this present us with godly reason to believe that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry? Does this present us with Biblical proof that a confession of immorality and forgiveness thereof allows one to continue in the ministry simply because one has been forgiven? My response, based upon the Scriptures, is “No: emphatically, NO!”

First of all, let us remember that Scripture has a context. One or two passages can be taken out of context and used to teach and present a sort of proof for almost anything. This is why context is important.


John Wycliffe 1324-1384 – “It shall greatly help you to understand scripture, if you mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows after.”


We find then, that we should read about David in the context both of the book in which it is written, and the Bible which is a library of books which are all in agreement one with another.

The first thing that we must notice is the biblical context of First Samuel and Second Samuel, remembering the history and the events that led up to David becoming king. Saul, if you recall was disqualified and rejected as king of Israel. While some say that only God can judge a person, that is not necessarily true. Jesus commanded us to judge righteously (John 7:24). We must be able to discern right from wrong. Furthermore, it was God who judged Saul as being disqualified as king. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23) “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35) Here we see that, on two different occasions, Saul was informed by Samuel that God had rejected him as king. Not only so, but later Saul needed counsel to go into battle, so he sought a witch to call up Samuel to give him counsel. Here is what we read: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:15–19) Not only was Saul disqualified from the kingship, but God removed from him His guidance: Saul no longer heard from God because he had ignored the Word of God.

Next we must consider the context of David’s sin. David sinned by committing adultery, trying to cover it up, and having the husband of Bathsheba killed. David continued without repenting for about a year. Then Nathan the prophet came and rebuked him. David confessed his sins and received forgiveness. But let us hear the Word of the Lord: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:10–14) Notice that David was forgiven, yet still was going to reap some sad results from his sin. His own family would be divided. His newborn son would die. David would have cause to regret his sin for the rest of his life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) David may have continued as king, but David reaped sorrowful consequences for his one night of pleasure with Bathsheba. Brothers, we cannot use David as an example that says one cannot disqualify himself from the ministry, or that one’s forgiveness immediately makes him qualified to be a pastor. David is rather an example that should serve to warn us that sin has consequences that will be with us even though God has forgiven us.

Another thing that we need to realize about the context of Scripture is that David was not a pastor. He is not the greatest of examples to use regarding the lives, morals, and qualifications of pastors. If we desire to speak of David and qualifications, we may need to even recognize that David did not consider himself worthy of being king: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” (2 Samuel 23:1–5) God was gracious to David though David did not claim that his family was a righteous family. It is truly foolish to try to use such a man as David to speak to the morals and qualifications of a pastor. Furthermore, let us remember that the qualifications for a pastor are found in First Timothy chapter three, and that David was not a pastor; thus the qualifications for a pastor are not relevant to David’s kingship. It is imperative that we read Scripture in context.

Finally, we must recognize a very important issue that is before us, and that is the fact that using David to show that forgiveness can immediately make a fallen man qualified for the pastorate does violence to the Scriptures. The qualifications of pastors remain the same, whether the fallen and disqualified man is forgiven or whether he never repents and receives forgiveness. To try to use David to show that either cannot disqualify himself, or that he can be immediately qualified after receiving forgiveness is to deny the truthfulness of First Timothy chapter three. It is to present a view that there are texts of Scripture that disagree with other texts, which is very wrong. All Scripture is the Word of God and is correct. We do not pit one text against another as though they are enemies: all Scripture is true, and Scripture does not conflict with itself. It is a sad day when those who say that they are ministers and preachers of the Word of God will refuse to acknowledge the truthfulness of all of the Word of God. To such we can only say, “Repent. God has no pleasure in those who twist and distort His Word.” (See Proverbs 30:6;2 Peter 3:15-16;Revelation 22:18-19).

In conclusion, we must indeed rejoice in the forgiving grace of God to each of us. We must hold out the forgiving grace of God to those who have fallen. This is the gospel, and we must preach it. We are also duty bound to call upon those who profess Christ to live a life that is in harmony with the gospel (Philippians 1:27-29). We must also demand that those who say that they are called to the ministry be qualified according to First Timothy chapter three.


Brief Thoughts On Separation

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1–7)
We are in those days.
How do we respond to the ungodly and immoral who profess Christ? “From such turn away.” This may seem harsh, but we are warned that, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”(1 Corinthians 5:6) The corruption of the immoral will spread. Their ungodly attitudes will affect others.
We must refuse them the opportunity to have leadership positions (1 Timothy 3:1-13). We must refuse them communion at the Lord’s Table, and all of the privileges of membership. When they repent, and only when they repent, should they be given a place in the Lord’s church. Even then, forgiveness does not automatically qualify one for the diaconate or pastorate.
Harsh? Not at all. It is a matter of holiness. It is a matter of protecting the Lord’s church from predatory people who are wolves that seek to lead people to follow them. It is to protect the church from those who would devour the flock by leading them into sin.
On top of it all, it is a matter of faithfulness to Christ, who calls us out of sin and calls us to be loyal to Him rather than to the world and the world’s ways.

Church Discipline And Excommunication

Church Discipline And Excommunication

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named amongst the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, 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 a one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5) 

            The church at Corinth had many problems within the body, but among the worst was the worldly wisdom that embraced immorality as good. It was heard everywhere (As Paul said, it was commonly reported.) that there was a man who was sleeping with his stepmother, and the church was swollen with pride that he had done such a thing. It is into this situation that Paul wrote to call the church to mourn, repent, and to deal with the matter in a godly way.

            Paul’s command to the church was that they should excommunicate[1]the sinning brother. His instruction was that they were to deal with this when they met together as a body (:3-5). Excommunication, or the withdrawing of fellowship, is to be an act of the body of Christ and not simply done by the pastor. This act is described as the person being put away from among the body (:2,9,13). The one under church censure was to be excluded from the Lord’s Supper (:11), and from the company, or fellowship, of the saints (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-16). 

            What sins are worthy of excommunication? The apostle lists several: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, 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 a one no not to eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:9–11) Again, he told the Romans, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17–18) Likewise, he told Titus, “A man that is a heretick, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Titus 3:10–11) The sin may be that of immorality, as in 1 Corinthians chapter five, or it may be doctrinal divisions as in Romans chapter sixteen, or possibly a generally divisive person as the heretic (schismatic) person who is mentioned in Titus chapter three. All of these things introduce sin and disruption into the body of Christ, whereas excommunication is the church pursuing holiness together, and thus peace (See 2 Thessalonians 3:16in context.).

There is a goal to church discipline, and that is that the work of Christian discipleship would be accomplished. Discipline is not about punishing and harming those with whom we are angry, but about leading them back to Christ. The Thessalonians were told that they should withdraw fellowship from the sinning brother that he would be ashamed (2 Thessalonians 3:14-16). Shame has a goal, and that goal is repentance (Psalm 83:16-18;2 Corinthians 7:7-12). The one under church censure is to be treated as one who needs the gospel (Matthew 18:15-20), though he is to be warned as we would warn our brothers whom we love. Paul also states that this is so that the spirit of the man would be saved at the judgment (1 Corinthians 5:5). This simply means that it is for the purpose of bringing the sinning one to repentance. If he is truly saved, he will repent and demonstrate it. If he is not saved, we long for him to repent that he will be saved. As the sinning brother is living as though he were not converted, we must treat him as such, have no Christian fellowship with him, and call him to get right with God through repentance and faith.

Excommunication also has to do with the holiness of the church. Sin is likened to leaven, or yeast, which works by means of corruption and spreads throughout the body (1 Corinthians 5:6). Excommunication is the purging out of sin that the body might be holy.

            It must be emphasized that the action of excommunication can never be one that is done in wrath or bitterness, “for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) This is an act of love. We are never to treat the erring one as an enemy, but as a beloved brother who is to be warned and called to repentance (2 Thessalonians 3:14-16). If he repents, he is to be warmly received and given grace and forgiveness, thus confirming our love for him (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).

            What is the process that should be followed in excommunication? While Paul simply mentions that the Corinthian church should carry out the sentence as a body (1 Corinthians 5:1-5), should we simply excommunicate a person without warning? Is that the way to treat one whom we should embrace lovingly as a natural brother (2 Thessalonians 3:14-16)? Is that how we would desire to be treated (Matthew 7:12)? Should we not strive in every way possible to call the sinning person to repentance, longing to avoid the extreme measure of excommunication? Note that Paul said that the divisive person should be warned twice before being rejected (Titus 3:10). Surely we should in most cases actively seek the repentance of this person multiple times before we withdraw fellowship from them.

            Another thing that is important is the principle of truth. We must not simply proceed to excommunication because of something that is not verified. It is by no means loving to receive a false report: that is the mark of sinful and foolish people (Proverbs 10:18;17:4). Note also that God hates perjury (Deuteronomy 19:15-21), and calls us to pursue the truth by means of faithful witnesses (Matthew 18:15-20). It is far better to have the charges of immorality, false doctrine, or divisiveness established in the mouth of two or three witnesses than to deal with any sort of “He said-she said” report. We always need to pursue the truth, and pursue it in love.

            When multiple loving efforts to reclaim our sinning member have failed, the church must with grief withdraw fellowship from him (1 Corinthians 5:2). This should typically be done in regular business meeting of the church. This will possibly help prevent accusations of the action being pursued in secret or in a sneaky manner; as all members of the church should know when the regular business meeting occurs. This should also be an action that is taken by the whole body. Though a simple majority vote will certainly pass, it is preferable that the vote be a unanimous vote. The church certainly needs unity in such a troublesome time that requires them to excommunicate someone they love greatly.

            Finally, let us always remember that we should pursue holiness and love in all things. Never should we act hastily, but proceed with charity and seek to lovingly be a blessing to the one who is in sin. That is our calling as the body of Christ.

[1]excommunicationExclusion from the community of the faithful or particularly from the Lord’s table because of an error in doctrine or lapse in morals or both.Kurian, George Thomas.Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary: The Authoritative Resource on the Christian World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.