I have been reading your many posts on marriage and relationships. I am somewhat confused in regards to your reply to† "If a minister has committed adultery, should he step down even though he has repented of his sin."†
It seems that you say that the preacher can continue in his ministerial service without any form of disciplinary action. I somewhat disagree he should continue straight away.
- The minister was not the one that confessed himself, it was the other lady he was having an adulterous affair with.
- He has been committing this adultery for over ten years with full blown scriptural knowledge that what he was doing was evil and sin.
- His heart must have been seared up to a point to have the boldness to stand on the pulpit every Sunday and still preach God's word knowing full well he was in a continuous adultery.
- This is the same stance a lot of words of faith preachers use to keep hold of the flock by saying God has forgiven and their wives have forgiven them, hence they have repented.
- According to Scripture and your own writings within marriage, if the spouse that broke the marriage bond via adultery, though they have even repented, they have no right to re-marry if the innocent spouse is still alive? Correct.
I am not on the premise that the preacher should never preach again, but it seems to me that you indicate that this preacher can still continue preaching based on his own word without a disciplinary period at least before he steps back on the pulpit.
"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (I Timothy 3:1-2).
"And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things" (I Timothy 3:10-11).
The reason I somewhat disagree with you in part is that the preacher was caught because the other woman confessed and it seems he would have still continued with the adulterous relationship if the woman never confessed to the leadership of his church. She probably did it out of spite or bitterness (only God knows), but the fact of the matter is that this preacher was at this for ten years (not†ten months so we can say it was just a lapse of temptation or character) and he never once confessed to a trusted brother in Christ. If this preacher was truly repentant, this sin would have been heavy on his heart or conscience and he would have stopped this relationship or felt uncomfortable, in which brethren would have noticed he was unsettled about something and maybe then, if per chance he would have confessed himself to brethren, they would have shown care in the first instance by asking him, “Is everything OK at home or with you?”
It looks to me if this preacher can knowingly (with the full light of scripture shed on his conscience) committed adultery and when caught (he didn’t stop it himself), he can then feel it's time to repent and not do it again and God will overlook. Then I believe I can knowingly do the same (be in a continuous adulterous relationship) to my wife or marriage and then wait until I get caught (whenever that is) and then repent knowing God will forgive me.
I do agree to the forgiveness part. But the way I read your response it seem that it's OK to sin and if caught you can just repent and still carry on normal without any consequences.
If I have misunderstood you then I apologize.
I suspect the source of the difficulty comes with the terms being used. I mention that people are quick to say "I forgive" long before they are actually willing to forgive. I believe the reason is that they know their own salvation is dependent on forgiving others, so they offer the words but without the deeds. The same thing happens with repentance. Most people see "I repent" as an alternative way of saying, "I'm sorry." In many ways being sorry isn't enough, nor is it what the Bible defines as repentance. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11). Sorrow leads to repentance, but it isn't repentance. Repentance is a complete change in behavior accompanied by a zealous desire to do what is right.
You look at this situation and conclude that you could not forgive merely on this man's word that he repented. I'm inclined to agree. However, neither you nor I are there. We only have a third-party's partial description of what took place. For example, you mentioned that it appears this man only confessed his sins because the other woman ratted him out. Perhaps -- it is a likely scenario. But is it possible that this man finally decided that sinning against his God and his wife was wrong and he called the affair off and began straightening out his life with his wife? The other woman, in her anger, decided to get revenge by telling the elders of the congregation about their sin. Because she now made the issue public, he makes a public confession of his sins. There are just too many possibilities for you or I to be able to sit in judgment on this man's life.
Yes, there are many evil men who are preaching and who have offered fake apologies and claims of repentance. The existence of sin doesn't change the requirements of righteousness.
What I concluded is the writer is much like you and I. The writer doesn't know the details and doesn't know whether the preacher really repented or not. However, the writer is in the position of simply asking the man's wife and family if they really forgave him and if they really think he has repented of his sins. But it doesn't appear that the writer did much research into the matter.
I'm assuming that the elders of the congregation did decide to retain this man as a preacher; hence, the reason the question was asked. If the man had removed himself, or the elders had asked him to discontinue preaching, the question would not have been raised. Therefore, it appears that it is a matter where a few in the congregation who were not in on the details are grumbling that more should have been done. Thus, my challenge that the person should look within to see why forgiveness is harder for the writer than people more directly damaged by this man's sins.
The difficulty we as humans have in these matters is that we do not have access to a person's heart. We can only make conclusion from secondary evidence. I don't know if this man was sincere or not when he said "I repent." But I do know what the Lord said: "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4). It is natural not to trust a sinner. It is especially hard when you've been on the receiving end of someone's sin. The matter comes down to whether I trust the man's word or not. I believe the Lord is saying that we must err on the side of sinner who claims to have repented. God, who does know all men's hearts, will see that justice is done. On my part, if someone says "I repent" and I believe him, then when I say "I forgive" I must be sincere about the forgiveness.
Here is a question for you to consider: Should David have stepped down as king when his sin with Bathsheba became known? After all, he didn't admit his sin until he was accused of it. Do we conclude that David's heart must have been seared because he knew what he did was wrong, but he did it anyway? Even when Nathan confronted David, it took an illustration of the extent of David's sin and his hypocrisy to get him to admit he was wrong. "Blameless" doesn't mean without sin; it is a man's character and attitude toward sin. What I find fascinating is something David wrote long after his sin with Bathsheba:
"The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me; and as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His eyes. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd" (II Samuel 22:21-27).
David did not say he was sinless. But he did strive to keep himself from his own sins. It is because he departed from his sins that he was blameless. God did punish David for his adultery and the murder he used to cover it up, as it was God's right being in authority over him, so that he did not profit from his sin.
In this man's case, if his wife decided to end the marriage, it would have been her God-given right. He would not be allowed to remarry because God keeps a man from profiting from his sin.
Over this man is the eldership. It appears it was their decision to keep him as a preacher. You and I don't know why and I'm not about to second guess that decision. I must assume that they had evidence of some sort that he was sincere and really had changed his life. There is no instruction from the Lord that a repentant sinner must take a period of time to prove his repentance. To say this is what the elders had to do is to add to God's word. You or I in a similar situation might made a different decision or we might have made the same decision -- neither of us knows.
What I saw in the question was a person rebelling against the eldership, not because of hard evidence of wrong doing, but from a belief that the elders made the wrong decision, even though the person didn't have all the facts. I did point out that it would be reasonable for the congregation to insist that the man abide by restrictions which would make a repeat of this sin more difficult. In fact, it ought to be done for this man's salvation. Whether he should continue as a preacher at that congregation was the elders' decision.