A Question of Withdrawal

by Morris Norman
Sentry Magazine, September 2003

Who is to decide when a person is to be withdrawn from? There can be no doubt that the Bible teaches that certain ones are to be. "Mark them that cause division, and occasion of stumbling ... turn away from" (Romans 16:17). "Have no company with ... no, not eat with ... unrighteous"(l Corinthians 5:9-10; 6:9). "Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly ... have no company" (II Thessalonians 3:6,14). "Factious man ... refuse" (Titus 3:10). Saints must decide who may fall into these categories and a judgment must be made. I Corinthians 5 and 6 can be a good guide, read this carefully to see if that is true.

A man was living with his father's wife and the congregation had done nothing about it; Paul urges them to do so. He had already ''judged him that hath done this wrong.," (I Corinthians 5:3) but it is evident Corinth hadn't. In an assembly, "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in my (Paul's) spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one unto Satan" (I Corinthians 5:4-5). They were to do so to save the fornicator and purge out the old leaven (I Corinthians 5:5-7).

They were not to keep company with certain persons (I Corinthians 5:6-13), who would not "inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). It was obvious this fornicator was "among" them and they were keeping company with him. To do the things from which they had been cleansed (I Corinthians 6:11) put them back where they were before they had been washed (II Peter 2:22). Fornication by one whose body is the temple of the Holy Spirit sins against his own body and dishonors God (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

When such matters were to be decided, who were they to go to for guidance? I Corinthians 6:1-8 gives guidelines. Not the "unrighteous" (I Corinthians 6:1; see I Corinthians 6:9), not "the world" (I Corinthians 6:2); not "the no account in the church" (I Corinthians 6:4) but rather the "wise" (I Corinthians 6:5) according to God's wisdom in Christ (I Corinthians 1:30; 3:18-19). Paul, being inspired, had taught them God's will, now Corinth was to take that and judge this man. Preachers must, with all authority, preach the truth, but preachers can't make judgments for a church. Paul urges Corinth to let "saints" or the "wise man" aid them in this judgment. The "wise man" would be the spiritual brother (there could be several among them) who could make righteous judgments (I Corinthians 2:14-15), based on the wisdom of God addressed to those who were full-grown (I Corinthians 2:6). Without them, they were defrauding the church of righteous influence (leaven) by letting the weak and ungodly influence their toleration of this man. When the factious, ungodly, uninformed, and unrighteous people have influence in a church there will be sinful practices, division, and ungodly attitudes in a church, as there were at Corinth. Those who are spiritual (want God's will and wisdom to prevail) have an obligation to wield their influence to counteract the wisdom of the world.

Such judgment was to be done by the whole church when they were "gathered together" (I Corinthians 5:4). They were to "deliver" this man to Satan, i.e. conclude with a purpose that he was under Satan's power, not Christ's. They were to "purge out" this bad leaven (I Corinthians 5:7). Their action in this was to be proof of their obedience to Christ (II Corinthians 2:9). A failure would indicate they were influenced by unrighteous judgment. Every effort should be made to save any saint that has been taken captive by Satan (II Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1-4). But after all, efforts to bring him to repentance have failed, count him as self-condemned (Titus 3:10,11; Matthew 18:17; Romans 16:17-20).


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