Question:

I have to address a subject with the missionary society for whom I am working. There are three couples in the church where I am at living together and not married. One couple has been together for over 15 years. Both of their spouses cheated on them so they left their spouses, met each other, but haven't married because in this country you must have two or three witnesses to get divorced, until recently. So now they are working on getting divorced and married. They been a part of the church here since the beginning, eight years ago. The second couple is a young couple. A guy bought a house and had his fiance move in with him and her mother. Even though they sleep in different rooms, it's still wrong because people here are very physical and this guy is physical. From what I know they haven't had sex, but give it time. Their excuse is it's economically effective. The two elders response was that he could no longer play in the worship band, be a leader anymore, and no longer participate in some things. The elders told them it was wrong and still is wrong but no further disciplinary actions are happening to my knowledge. Recently they had a birthday party at their house for a girl and it ended up going bad: drinking and freak dancing with all the youth from the church there. It was interesting how one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. So they are meeting once a week with an elder and his wife, but I don't see the point. If they are not willing to change their lifestyle by one of them moving out, what's the point? The third couple said they were going to get married, but haven't kept their word. They baptized the guy before he was married to the woman because he said he needed more time. He and his woman go to our church as members.

The first mistake I see is that you don't baptize someone while they are still living in adultery. He obviously doesn't want to commit to the Lord, so the baptism was nothing. All of it was nothing. But here comes the problem: because the elders made the mistake they have two options as i see it. Either they can let it go on as it is and outsiders have been looking in because people in the neighborhood have been talking to me about this. The Christians who know these people think badly of the church's toleration of such things. The non-Christian friends these people think that it's all right to do this and still be a Christian. It will get worse if they choose this option.

The second option is the option which Paul stated with the guy sleeping with his (most likely) stepmother. They need to be booted out of the church. I believe each should be taken aside one more time and given the chance to repent, but if not, do as Paul said and have the whole church reject them. But here's the problem: if they reject the new couple, they must reject the other couples. It makes me sad because they are beyond nice people, but I believe following Law of God is more important. It is amazing how not taking care of one problem such as people living in adultery as the first couple going to the church for eight years can eventually put you in such a position. The eldership will need to apologize to the people and congregation but afterwards enforce the law of God.

How I dread the coming weeks, but how I want to see how God may work in this situation and break and make people as he done with me. I believe I came at a time when God is pruning this church because they are all young in everything here as am I. But for me when people put their hearts in God and even if it costs them their best friends, then God works in such amazing ways when you are willing to sacrifice anything for Him. I don't wish hardships, but I do wish what is best for the church to happen and to make us all grow toward God. Just as I have gone many trials here, God has used it for His good. Pray God will work in the hearts of the elders and they make the right decisions because they are in a hard spot. May God give them the strength and courage. I don't wish to see any of them fall in leadership and I hope all the couples repent, but I don't know what the leadership is going to do. But because I will be mentioning it to head guy of the organization I am with, it will be dealt with soon. Be in prayer for me to use words of wisdom of God and that I said speak only what God asks of me.

Sorry to give you my problems but thank you for listening.


Answer:

It appears to me that you understand the problem. You are in a congregation much like the Corinthians. They figure that as long as a person is going to church, then the sins they are committing do not matter. "And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you" (I Corinthians 5:2). The thought is that eventually they will learn enough to leave their sins. Clearly that cannot be true because if sin is acceptable, then there is no need to change (II Corinthians 7:9-11). As you realized sin that is not dealt with spreads. "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" (I Corinthians 5:6). You are seeing signs of the most obvious spreading, but knowing people you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

I can't predict what will happen. The sad truth, given human history, is that nothing will change, but you will be blamed for pointing out the problems. According to the Bible, the person who should be bringing about the change is the preacher. "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear" (I Timothy 5:17-18). But in your situation, he is a part of the problem.

The Bible doesn't speak of an organization beyond the local church. Each congregation is autonomous and must deal with its own problems. The advantage of the New Testament system is that problems in the church, such as the ones you are facing, is isolated to the congregation. Similarly, the Bible makes no mention of a missionary society operating the spread of the gospel. Instead you find people volunteering to work in new fields and congregations independently choosing to support those volunteers directly. I know many people claim it is a clumsy system, but it is the one God established and I've seen repeatedly how it makes life difficult for false teachers to have a platform to spread their false doctrine.

You are also correct that people living in sin should not be baptized. Peter said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Baptism without repentance is just a chance to get wet.

The argument by the second couple to live in the same house without marriage is economically more effective is laughable. My question to such people is to ask exactly what costs are you saving over getting married this afternoon. Beyond the cost of the marriage license, which is too little to consider, there is no savings. Thus the proper thing to do is get married first, following God's law, and then move in together.

It will do you well to read the following passages concerning the false shepherds of Israel: Isaiah 56:10-12; Jeremiah 10:19-21 23:1-4, 34-38; 50:6-7; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 10:1-3; 11:1-17 because you are seeing the same thing happening on a smaller scale.