We have been exploring the idea of ‘discipline’ as it relates to the church. The church, as Paul lays it out, is a collection of believers with their common bond being that they are in Christ, by faith. This is to distinguish between the use of the word church to define a religious, incorporated business/charity/not-for-profit entity. That may be a legal definition of what a church is, however, scripturally it is the collection of saints in Christ (regardless of what the laws of the land have to say about it). What we are not attempting to do is to understand how the legal entity is to ‘discipline’ its attendees (again, because the legal entity has no scriptural basis), but to understand how the church (the attendees) discipline themselves and each other. In Part 2, we saw that discipline bears a much deeper understanding that envelops restoration. Discipline is not the Mace of Justice that believers get to swing at one another in order to assert one’s desired behavior be present in another believer’s life, but rather, discipline is the idea that there are truths and principles that each believer should not only recognize their existence, but allow those truths and principles to ring true in their lives. The ultimate goal of discipline, as we saw, is two fold:
- ESTABLISH YOUR EXISTENCE ON YOUR ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST
This isn’t to construct a religious structure of how you spend your time, but is to train your mind to rejoice in the Spirit of Life of Christ rather than feeling burdened to entertain such religious time-structures. By examining the scriptures and meditating therein, the believer intakes more and more of what God revealed and through that revelation, the believer can watch God work in his/her life and be involved in it. This is the discipline of a ‘worthy walk’, as Paul mentions a few times in the book of Ephesians. To the Colossians, Paul wrote that “as they had received Christ, so walk in Him.” Did they receive Christ by religious structures and spending their time on religious activities? Or, did they receive Christ by faith? It is of course the latter – by faith. If you want scripture that outlines this distinction as I’ve laid out above, here are Paul’s words:
Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
- RESTORATION IS IN ORDER
Believers, having received the love and grace of God, being fully forgiven of all sins through the death of Christ, and having been transferred into the Kingdom of Christ should never seek occasion to ‘one-up’ by destroying another, FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED. We are ONE in Christ and members of the same body, with the same purpose (corporately) and same destiny. Yet, as believers, we all struggle with various aspects of our lives as the sin that dwells within our flesh is on an ever-constant offense against the Spirit’s leadership. Our mind should always be clothed in humility as we not only carefully handle ourselves but more so when we take the time to invest in others. In the book of Galatians, the believers in that region were being harassed by what Paul calls false brethren as they were attempting to define a righteous standing with God as being non-existent without submitting to Jewish ritual (namely, circumcision). Paul spends the balance of his letter dismantling this idea as no flesh could sufficiently perform to have God declare it righteous for all time (justified). As Paul closes the letter, he writes of the need of restoration for those who were potentially caught up in this circus – believers who were in Christ yet had their faith derailed by the influence of these bully Jewish legalists.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
The ‘fault’, in context, is this having responded to God by faith but having been led astray into thinking that God’s demand is personal performance and not faith at all. Some use this verse to describe any sin that a believer gets involved with and I’m not sure that taking this verse that way is necessary wrong (as it is a universal principle), however, if we stay in the context, the fault here is when folks believe they are made righteous in God’s sight by their performance rather than by faith. Paul says to restore these folks (back to confidence that their faith is all that God honors), but, it says for those who are ‘spiritual’. This shouldn’t be interpreted any other way than the way it has been used throughout Galatians. Galatians 3 begins with asking a question: Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect in the flesh? Those who are spiritual are those who never left the reality of faith – they never succumbed to the pressures of believing their performance was what God was after. These folks are still on the ship and are tossing out the life-ring to those who lost their balance by the waves of the false brethren. But, they are to do so with the spirit of meekness – not from a position of superiority or pride. They aren’t to look at this as an opportunity to proudly think, “Look at me – I didn’t fall away” – no, Paul says to do it with the spirit of meekness because you may not have fallen now, but you are always tempted to do so. You may be in the water tomorrow. Restoration is not about the one doing the restoring – it is about the one who needs restoring, to bring them back into the same ship where together you can bear one another’s burdens. Many believers do not bear each others’ burdens because they don’t share them for fear of how they will be treated. Yet, if we all considered how prone we are to falling and operated in the spirit of meekness, we would all see one another as Christ does:
Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Are we disciplined to discipline? Are we meek and tenderhearted towards one another or are we proud and cold to one another? Are we disciplined to bear one another’s burdens or couldn’t we care any less? As said above – don’t turn your nose up to an opportunity of restoration for one day, you may be the one needing restoring–consider thyself lest thou also be tempted.
Hopefully by now, you can see that discipline for the believer impacts his/her temperament, not only with themselves but how they engage with fellow believers. However, there are a few instances where the attempts of restoration has its limits. This isn’t to suggest that a believer reaches a point where he/she gives up on restoration, but that by recognizing the condition of the other, it is best to leave the stumbling believer to stumble. One of these is in 2Corinthians 5 and we’ll look at that in a later post. For this post’s focus, I want to focus on what the scriptures refer to as the ‘heretic.’
Titus 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject
The word heretick here in Titus comes from a Greek word, aihretikos, which is from a root word that simply means to be able to make a choice, distinction. Making choices requires a separation or a division to be made. For example, if I choose fishing over hiking, then I’ve separated or divided myself from hiking unto fishing. The word heretick carries this idea – it is the creation of division. Today, this word is often used to describe those who believe/teach things that are contrary to so-called ‘orthodoxy’. However, the idea of a heretic goes beyond what he/she teaches/believes and extends to the IMPACTS of the teaching. Let’s expand the context in Titus and get a greater glimpse into what Paul is referring to here.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 3:10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 3:11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
Titus was won to Christ through Paul’s ministry (as Titus 1:4 attests) and ironically is mentioned in the letter to the Galatians (that we mentioned above) and Titus was one who remained spiritual – he never succumbed to the pressure to submit to circumcision in order to be just with God – he stood fast in the faith of Christ that he had learned of Paul. Paul’s letter to Titus is short (3 chapters) and in the last chapter, we find this word ‘heretick.’ As we back up in the chapter, we see how Paul reminds Titus of their common beginnings – foolish, disobedient, deceived, servants of various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful. But, in stark contrast to this dark, terminal world they lived in, the kindness and love of God appeared and provided a means to exit that world of futility. This means of exit wasn’t by Paul and Titus working sufficiently/righteously, but according to the mercy of God they were delivered. In this deliverance, they experienced a regeneration for the fleshly life they lived in this evil world wasn’t worthy of the world in Christ – they had to be reborn with a new life – Christ’s resurrection life. This was shed upon them abundantly in and through Christ. Therefore, Paul concludes that being justified by God’s grace, they have something as a result. This is important to notice – the justification of a believer is the declaration by God that they are worthy to exit their old world (by faith and faith alone), but it is by the grace of God that He delivers the believer into the world of Christ – being therefore justified, we have been made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. In other words, our salvation defines much more than a point in time when you exited the old world – it defines the realm of His grace that you have been brought into to safely rest and what you have been made an heir to. Therefore, knowing this is true, Paul encourages Titus to be careful to maintain good works. Is this so Titus doesn’t lose his salvation or his right standing with God? Was Titus doing good works what secured his standing with God? No – as Paul already said in verse 5 – NOT by WORKS of righteousness we have done, but ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY He saved us. However, knowing what is true about their life in Christ, Titus (as would be true for any believer) should be careful (mindful) to maintain good works. This isn’t to obtain or maintain status, but is the response of a child of God who is in-tune with what God has done with them. Paul says that these are good and profitable for all men and he is going to draw contrast between what not-good works would look like. He does so in verse 9:
- Foolish Questions – having your mind and heart wrapped around questions and controversies (even conspiracy theories perhaps) that have absolutely no profitable fruit that come from them. Some people live for this stuff and it ends up going nowhere. Paul says to avoid this stuff.
- Genealogies – in the Greek world, there was always interest in genealogies, but not because they were harmlessly filling out their family tree on Ancestry.com, but disputations over lineages – could it be shown that you were a descendant of the gods? Even in the Jewish culture, genealogy was very important because of this blood-heritage view they had as to whom was a child of Abraham and who wasn’t. Paul spends a lot of time on this in Romans and Galatians that this blood-heritage mindset is nonsense because it is FAITH that makes someone a child of Abraham. Paul says to avoid this stuff.
- Contentions – Not only engaging in foolish questions and genealogies, but fighting over it. It’s bad enough to personally waste time on things that have no profit–it’s even worse to fight about these things–to take what doesn’t matter and create a battle field out of it as if you were fighting for the very essence of truth itself. Paul says to avoid this stuff.
- Strivings about the Law – Contentions are also present here. In 1Timothy 1, Paul mentions folks who are worried about being teachers of the law yet never actually having any idea of what they are after nor of what they are teaching. Worrying about the law’s demands and fighting over what the law has to say doesn’t profit the believer one bit, nor does it profit those around them who may observe such a scrum. Paul says to avoid this stuff.
This is the contrast between the good works that are profitable for all men from those things that do nothing but create confusion where clarity should exist. However, there are some who just need to be engaged in this stuff and they have made it their personal mission to inject themselves in discussions and in their immediate societies to not only stir the pot, as it were, but to bring folks over to their way of thinking. Persuasion is nothing bad and Paul often persuaded with the Jews and Gentiles alike, however, what we are persuading them with and about is of vital importance. For those who have no care for the good works of God but would rather clothe themselves with unprofitable sophistry – these have created divisions where there should be no divisions. As Paul rhetorically asked the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 1:13 – is Christ divided? Christ is ONE and we are ONE in Him. Yet, for those who are hell-bent (pardon the expression) to divide Christ over FOOLISHNESS and FRIVOLITY, these folks are HERETICS. Again, it is more about the RESULTS of teaching unprofitable things than the teachings themselves. Paul says to give a heretic a few chances to consider their ways, but when it is clear they want nothing of it, then reject their presence and their company. Turn them loose to wallow in their own subterfuge.
I might suggest that Galatians 6:1’s plea for the spirit of meekness is still at play. Paul’s point in Titus is not that we have permission to start dividing from other believers when they don’t believe like we do (that would, ironically, be a heretic). For example, when folks split company because one believes the rapture of the church happens before the tribulation and another believes it happens after and another doesn’t believe in a rapture at all, yet folks dig their heels in and start amassing a following to placate what they want to believe rather than, in meekness, considering one another as ONE in Christ, it is those folks who are being the heretics and they levy that accusation against each other. Paul’s point to Titus is that those who are coming in, with unfruitful works, and are creating divisions in the body of Christ because of them, they are to be engaged with, but briefly and if it be determined that their mindset doesn’t care to listen, then reject this person for the good of the assembly. Discipline of a heretic is a careful and prayerful decision. The believer is to be disciplined by the reality of God’s mercy and His righteousness that was bestowed upon him/her by faith and to allow that reality to manifest in the good works of God. The believer is likewise to be disciplined to recognize those works that do not profit and avoid them. By recognizing the unfruitful works, the believer likewise is to be disciplined to attempt to restore those who are purveying those unfruitful works, but be ready to walk away when their mindset is evident that they are not going to change their mission to subvert.