Eating & Drinking [Eternal!] Judgment on Ourselves? (Henry)

  In 1 Corinthians 11:29, in the middle of Paul’s discussion of the Lord’s Supper debacle in the Corinthian church, he wrote this: “For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself” (NET). It’s not uncommon for Christians to read this text and think: “If I come to this table in an unworthy manner, I could face God’s eternal judgment and wrath!  If I don’t examine myself enough, or if I do it wrong, this could mean condemnation and hell for me.”  In fact, some Christians simply stay away from the table because they have these kinds of thoughts.

However, in 1 Corinthians 11:29 Paul is not talking about eternal condemnation or eternal judgment. He’s talking about temporal and physical judgment; that is, weakness, sickness, and even death (v 30).  In fact, Paul goes on to say that this “judgment” is God’s fatherly discipline (think Heb. 12:6) to prevent his people from falling into the condemnation that the unbelieving world will face (11:32).

Matthew Henry explains this well:

Note, A careless and irreverent receiving of the Lord’s supper may bring temporal punishments. Yet the connection seems to imply that even those who were thus punished were in a state of favor with God, at least many of them: They were chastened of the Lord, that they should not be condemned with the world, v. 32. Now divine chastening is a sign of divine love: Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth (Heb. 12:6), especially with so merciful a purpose, to prevent their final condemnation. In the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy: he frequently punishes those whom he tenderly loves. It is kindness to use the rod to prevent the child’s ruin. He will visit such iniquity as this under consideration with stripes, and yet make those stripes the evidence of his lovingkindness. Those were in the favor of God who yet so highly offended him in this instance, and brought down judgments on themselves; at least many of them were; for they were punished by him out of fatherly good-will, punished now that they might not perish forever. Note, It is better to bear trouble in this world than to be miserable to eternity. And God punishes his people now, to prevent their eternal woe.

That’s excellent and worth reading a few times in case we need correction in this area of our Christian thinking about Communion.

The above quote is found in Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

On Disciplining Your Children: Do It!

It seems that from one perspective disciplining our kids isn’t a kind or nice thing to do.  Think about it.  If your child disrespects you, you might take his dessert away for a week.  If company comes over, they’d all get dessert, but your kid won’t.  Seems mean.  Or maybe your teenage daughter was terribly disobedient and you took her phone away for three months.  All the other parents let their kids have phones, but you don’t.  Are you being cruel?  The list goes on.  Discipline – especially more severe kinds of discipline – seems unkind from one perspective.

However, from a Christian and biblical perspective discipline is beneficial for our kids.  Of course, I mean discipline that comes from Christian love and a concern for the child’s well-being.  In fact, biblically speaking, if we fail to discipline our kids for disrespect and disobedience we are failing to show them love.  We’re letting them go down the path of sin and destruction.  Proverbs 13:24 puts it this way: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (NIV).  John Kitchen has a helpful commentary on this verse:

The notion of corporal punishment flies in the face of much popular psychology, but is a clear part of God’s program for parenting a child to maturity.  To withhold corporal punishment is not a sign of advanced learning, wisdom, or even greater love for the child.  Far from it, it proves that a parent ‘hates his son’!  The contrast between ‘hates’ and ‘loves’ is intentionally strong.  The notion conveyed by these words is often that of comparative love, rather than emotional revulsion over someone (Gen. 29:31; Deut. 21:15; Mal. 1:2f; Rom. 9:13).

Thus, withholding appropriate spankings is not a sign of superior love for one’s children, but rather a signal that one loves something, or someone, more than his child.  Perhaps the parent loves himself (avoiding the personal pain or self-discipline that comes with disciplining his child) more than his child, or perhaps he loves the affirmation and approval of others (who may disapprove of corporal punishment) more than he desires his child’s welfare.  Certainly, such a one loves someone more than he loves God, since he yields his obedience to them in this matter, rather than following God’s word.

The true signal that parents love their child is their willingness to do the painful work of discipline.  Here, ‘discipline’ certainly includes corporal punishment, but Proverbs also demands other forms of ‘discipline,’ which include verbal instruction, reproof, and correction (Prov. 15:5) as well as action.

Disciplining our children isn’t easy, nor is it fun.  It’s hard to be fair and consistent.  But discipline for sure has to be done – even swift, severe discipline!  It’s not an option in a Christian home.  If you’ve slacked in your discipline, now is a good time to remember Scripture’s call to parents: discipline your child (see Prov. 19:18; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15, 17)!  If you do so with Christian love and instruction, it’ll help them learn right from wrong, good from evil, and it will give them a reflection of our heavenly Father’s love in Christ: …The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in (NIV).

The above quotes are found in John Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, p. 296-7.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

One of the Marks: Christian Discipline

 One of the three marks of a true Christian church is discipline.  That is, a true Christian church will follow Christ’s command in Matthew 18 and discipline an unrepentant sinner (see also 1 Cor. 5:1-5).  Now, not every church disciplines unrepentant sinners.  Some churches are ignorant of Christ’s command, others are afraid to discipline because it might mean people leave.  Still others think God will sort it all out so the church shouldn’t worry about it.  However, no matter how difficult it is, no matter if it means people leave, the call of Christ is clear: unrepentant sinners must be reubked and disciplined (Mt. 18:17).  D. M. Lloyd-Jones was emphatic on this point:

The third mark of the Church, and the one I am most anxious to emphasize, because it is so sadly neglected, is the exercise of discipline. Now if we had asked at the beginning: ‘What are the three essential marks of the Church?’, I wonder how many would have mentioned the exercise of discipline? There is no doubt at all but that this doctrine is grievously neglected. Indeed, if I were asked to explain why it is that things are as they are in the Church; if I were asked to explain why statistics show the dwindling numbers, the lack of power and the lack of influence upon men and women; if I were asked to explain why it is that so many churches seem to be incapable of sustaining the cause without resorting to whist drives and dances and things like that; if I were asked to explain why it is that the Church is in such a parlous condition, I should have to say that the ultimate cause is the failure to exercise discipline.  David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 14.

But why do (or should!) churches discipline unrepentant sinners?  The Bible gives several reasons.  Here are some reasons found in 1 Corinthians 5 (I’ve summarized them from Ursinus’ Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism):

  1. So that the obstinate sinner may be put to shame and convicted to the point of repentance (1 Cor. 5:5).
  2. So that other Christians do not stumble because of the person’s sin (1 Cor. 5:6).
  3. To teach other Christians that sin will be disciplined (1 Cor. 5:6).
  4. So that the church may not be disgraced on account of public scandals (1 Cor. 5:7).

Also, one of the major reasons why churches should discipline unrepentant sinners is for the glory of Christ.  We don’t want his name dragged in the mud because some in his church are allowed to live in a way that profanes his holy name.

On a positive note, a church disciplines unrepentant sinners out of love for the sinner and for Christ!  We want the sinner to repent, his people to be edified, and we want Jesus’ name to be hallowed.  Indeed, Christian discipline is a mark of a true church.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

 

When Sin Turns into an Affliction (Bunyan)

Israel’s complaining and grumbling began early on in the wilderness years. In fact, if my count is correct, they complained around 5 times in the first year or so after God rescued them from Egypt.  In one instance of their grumbling, God gave Israel what they whined for: meat to eat.  In fact, God said to Israel, “You will eat it [meat] for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it” (Num. 11:20 NLT).

In their hearts, the people of Israel craved, coveted, and longed for the things of Egypt.  This was such a deep heart issue that they wouldn’t listen to God’s word nor would they remember his promise and his provision.  John Bunyan commented on this deep-rooted sinful craving:

But now, how shall this man be reclaimed from this sin? How shall he be brought, wrought, and made, to be out of love with it? Doubtless it can be by no other means, by what we can see in the Word, but by the wounding, breaking, and disabling of the heart that loves sin, and by that means making sin a plague and gall unto the heart.

Sin may be made an affliction, and as gall and wormwood to them that love it; but the making of sin so bitter a thing to such a man, will not be done but by great and sore means.

Bunyan also told a story of a little girl in his town who used to chew on dirty cigar butts she found on the ground.  Her parents tried everything to get her to stop eating the butts – from kind promises to discipline – but nothing worked.  Finally, since nothing else was working, they listened to their doctor.  They took a bunch of dirty cigar butts, mixed them with warm milk, and made the girl drink it.  She took a sip and it made her so sick that she vomited.  After that, she never touched a cigar butt again!  The point is that God sometimes does that to his children when they are infatuated with sin.

Bunyan then wrote,

You love your sin, and neither rod nor good words will as yet reclaim you. Well, take heed; if you will not be reclaimed, God will make you a potion of your sin, which shall be so bitter to your soul, so irksome to your taste, so loathsome to your mind, and so afflicting to your heart, that it shall break your heart with sickness and grief, till sin be loathsome to you. I say, thus he will do if he loves you; if not, he will allow you to go on in your sinful course, and will let you go on eating your tobacco-pipe heads!

In other words,

God can tell how to make that loathsome to you on which you most set your evil heart. And he will do so, if he loves you; else, as I said, he will not make you sick by smiting you nor punish you for or when you commit whoredom, but will let you alone till the judgment-day, and call you to a reckoning for all your sins then.

When our hearts are so in love with the things of this world, so enraptured by sin, sometimes God makes us drink that sin like a nasty elixir which makes us sick to the heart.  When that happens, we must learn from Israel’s mistake and repent!  And we must thank God for making us taste the bitterness of sin now so we can escape its bitterness in eternity.  Finally, we should ask God for forgiveness, for the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, for his Spirit to help us fight sin, and for contentment with the lot God has given us.

The above edited quotes are found in John Bunyan, The Acceptable Sacrifice, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 707.

Shane Lems

Confidentiality in Counseling and Church Discipline?

Handbook of Church Discipline When a pastor, elder, or other Christian mentor/counselor in a church is dealing with a another person’s sin issue, is 100% confidentiality biblical?  Jay Adams argues that it is not.  He makes a good case for this in The Handbook of Church Discipline.  Here’s an edited summary of his argument which specifically has to do with church discipline:

The biblical requirement (Mt. 18:15-17) to seek additional help in the ongoing process of discipline means that Christians must never promise absolute confidentiality to any person.  Frequently it is the practice of Bible-believing Christians to give assurances of absolute confidentiality, never realizing that they are following a policy that originated in the Middle Ages and that is unbiblical and contrary to Scripture (there is not a scrap of evidence in the Bible for the practice).

Both individuals and counselors must be aware of the all-important fact that absolute confidentiality prohibits the proper exercise of church discipline.  It would be impossible to follow the discipline steps of Matthew 18 if absolute confidentiality was being practiced.  Because absolute confidentiality is an unbiblical concept, it serves only to keep persons who need the help of others from receiving it.

Absolute confidentiality also requires a person to make a hasty vow.  No such vow to silence should ever be made.  A rash vow of this sort may put us in a bind where we are obligated to God to move the process of discipline to a larger sphere, yet our vow to silence prohibits us from doing so.  We should never speak a rash vow that makes it impossible for us to follow a command of Scripture.

The best thing to say to the person is, ‘I am glad to keep confidence in the way that the Bible instructs me.  That means, of course, I shall never involve others unless God requires me to do so.’  In other words, we must not promise absolute confidentiality, but rather, confidentiality that is consistent with biblical requirements.  No Christian can rightly ask another for more than that.”

I believe this is wise, biblical advice.  Of course pastors, elders, and Christian counselors should never gossip or spread stories about others.  There is certainly a level of privacy and confidentiality as we deal with sin.  However, it is not 100% confidentiality, but biblical confidentiality that helps in the process of discipline and, by God’s grace, restoration.

For Adams’ entire argument, see pages 30-33 of his helpful book, Handbook of Church Discipline.

shane lems