Suppose a man is caught in a sin involving one or more teenagers in the church. The man confesses his sin publicly and asks forgiveness, and it is of course granted. But this happens two more times, and perhaps continues to happen. At what point does the congregation say "enough is enough" and tell the erring Christian he is not welcome any more in the assembly? At what point, if any, does the safety of the members and the reputation of the church outweigh the right of the individual to assemble with the group? Does anyone here have an experience with such a situation?
Second, can the church tell a Christian that he can attend but not participate in a public way? Can the elders (or leading men in the absence of elders) place limits on how a member can serve the congregation?
Not only does this passage establish a pattern for Christians seeking to place membership or identify with local congregations, it also provides authority for local congregations to question and ultimately reject such a request.Luke wrote:And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. (Acts 9:26-28)
Depending on a man's sin, if he has broken civil laws, then he must face the civil courts, regardless of the church forgiving the wrong against them. In such cases, the man has broken 2 systems of law, and so he must face 2 "courts" or penalties. He must face the church, which can forgive him (II Corinthians 2:6-11), but he also must face the governing authorities to face what is "due" (Romans 13:1-7).
Yes, people may be restricted from serving upon the same authority that membership is controlled. No Scripture entitles anybody to play whatever role they want in the collective. (If you can find one, please let me know.) In fact, such entitlement would place the individual's authority above that of the collective and its elders! Rather, "let all things be done unto edification" (I Corinthians 14:26). Men should not be prohibited, because they are simply not liked; however, if a man incapable of performing a work, or if his public reputation damages his or the church's effectiveness, then he should not be permitted to lead in such a capacity. (Just as God took care to cut off opportunity for unbelievers to blaspheme, injuring His name, so must we also exercise the same care, II Samuel 12:13-14; Romans 2:22-24; I Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:5; II Corinthians 11:12.) Men serve the church for the benefit of the church, not themselves (I Corinthians 14:12). Those who demand to serve regardless, betray their own selfishness and spiritual immaturity, proving themselves absolutely unqualified.
I pray this helps. Let me know what you think.