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What would you do if someone came to you and said, “I was put out of a church, even though I did nothing wrong?” How would you know who to believe in a situation like this?

Responsibility. Let’s take the example of a family. What if a teenager came to you and said, “My parents are too strict. They grounded me for two weeks when I hardly did anything wrong.” If you accept this and side with the young person, you would undermine the authority of the parents and thwart the effect of their discipline. If you felt that they were dealing incorrectly with their children, you would have liberty to talk to them about it, but you certainly would have no right to undermine their authority with their children. To do so would be violating the order that God set up for families.

The same is true in the church, which is also a family (I Timothy 3:15).

I Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor hard at preaching and teaching.” One of the responsibilities of the elders, then, is to “rule” or lead and direct the church.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” God has given church leaders a tremendous responsibility, to “watch over” the souls of those in the church. They will give an account to God for how well they did this. These verses clearly show that God has given church leaders authority and responsibility for the church. This would certainly include any matters of discipline.

Just as we respect the order of authority and responsibility that God has set up in the family, we need to respect the order He has set up in the church. If we don’t respect the judgments of local leaders, we don’t really respect God or His word. If we don’t respect this, we are violating the biblical principle of autonomy (self-government) of local churches.

Unrighteous Judgment. But what if the leaders in a certain church are unrighteous and judge someone unjustly?

If a believer has been unfairly judged, he should appeal to God. A good example for him to follow would be that of David, who was oppressed by Saul, an unrighteous authority. He appealed to and waited on God to vindicate him. He did not try to overthrow the kingdom, or slander Saul, whom he respectfully called “the Lord’s anointed.” Even when he had a chance to kill Saul, he didn’t,

Why? David had killed many wicked men, and Saul was certainly wicked. Why didn’t he kill him? Because David recognized Saul as “the Lord’s anointed.” God had placed Saul in a position of responsibility and authority. David respected God’s order and was conscience-smitten even when he showed the slightest disrespect for Saul’s honor by cutting off a portion of his robe.

Another example is Joseph. He was falsely accused of attacking his master’s wife, unjustly tried, and sentenced to prison. Yet he did not grow bitter or try to get even with his accusers. He put his hope in God. Eventually, God exalted him to be ruler of the most powerful kingdom on earth.

If certain church leaders really are wicked, God will judge them and will justify the innocent. He will deal with those leaders as he did with Aaron and Miriam when they sinned (Numbers 12), as He did with Eli and his sons when they used their position as priests for wicked purposes (I Samuel 2:22-4:22), or as he did with king David when he was unrighteous (II Samuel 11-19).

The Right Response. So, to answer our original question, if someone comes to you claiming he has been wrongly judged, you should respect God’s order of authority in the churches, and respect the judgment of those local leaders. You should encourage him to get right with that church, and you should fully honor the discipline by refusing to associate with him.

—By David Bovenmyer


The Cause And Effect: A Closer Look

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