Pristine Grace

Growing in Grace!
Part 3
by Eileen Beckett
Growing in Grace!

It has been wondered if someone is not a member of a church and they are indulging in sin who will confront them and how will they be disciplined? 

Accountability and Discipline

It has been assumed that if you do not have church membership you are not accountable to anyone on earth. I’m not quite sure how/where that statement even came about because I certainly have never said that I am not accountable to anyone on earth. I have to assume that the statement was made in regards to sin and that is how I’m going to address it here. We certainly ALL know that in many ways we are accountable to others. I’m accountable to my employer and answerable to him for the job that I have been given to do, I’m held responsible to do that job. To those who provide my daily needs such as the water in my home and the electricity that I use I’m accountable/responsible to pay them for those services. And of course in those ways the list does goes on. Ultimately even in these types of things we are accountable before God. 

Accountable= subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.

There is often confusion about the meaning of words and how they are used in our communication with others. Some use words without really understanding what they are saying simply because it somehow sounds good. I think that is the way it is with accountability. It is assumed that ‘church membership’ lends itself to a degree of accountability that is not found outside of membership. 

King David said after his great sin with Bathsheba “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned”. Only God can forgive sin and that is what being accountable means in regards to our sin. It is God’s Law I transgress when I sin and so the accountability belongs to Him and him alone. Only He can truly and really forgive my sin and He alone! 

It has always been comforting to me (and still is) that those I am very close to know what sins I struggle with and have a propensity for. I have no obligation to report or explain my sin to every person in an assembly of believer’s however we are called to come alongside in our mutual state to encourage and to rebuke if necessary in love. There are those in my life who have been right there for over 20 years who continue to love me, inquire after me and we still fellowship in the bond of Christ. The Body of Christ isn’t just limited to the few that you fellowship with in church and the Lord continues to bless me by bringing members of His body into my life  

We dig into the scriptures together and we remind each other of the promises of God and we empathize with each other in our mutual state but never have I felt accountable to them for my sin or held them accountable to me. Certainly we are all called to address true sin when it is evident but that doesn’t take church membership to accomplish, it takes the bond of Christ in love. We must be very cautious in our judgments and not play guessing game as to someone’s sin. We cannot call things sin that God does not call sin or that are not evident as sin, i.e. judging someone’s motives. We should be diligent to remember several things, among them: 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”….because the Scripture tells us that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Cor 10:13). 

We certainly sin against one another and the Lord is merciful to give us a way to reconcile the sin between us and that is to forgive one another in the offenses but I am not accountable to you and you are not accountable to me for your actual sin, we are accountable to God alone. 

Undoubtedly there is a fear that if someone is not in church membership that there is no way to discipline them. In my over 20 years in the church I have seen 2 discipline cases and although I don’t want to bring them up and hash them over I still have grave and great doubts about the last one as I don’t believe that excommunication was warranted.  

I’ve often wondered why, if Matthew 18 is used as a guideline in discipline cases, the sin/sins are not brought before the whole body as the instruction is written. I’ve wondered if in the doing of that many such cases could be avoided. It seems as if only elders are considered to be ‘the church’ in the actual carrying out of Matthew 18 and I think that is a great failing to the body. 

Personally I truly trust the Holy Spirit to convict me of sin as He has been doing since I first became a Christian. Should I fall into a grievous sin that I cannot see or that I refuse to repent of I trust the He will chasten me and will cause a beloved saint to address that in my life.