Were it necessary to be always meek and mild to “follow Christ” then we would expect to see this characteristic prominently displayed in the Church being built by the Apostles. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, lists of Bible verses on the topic of “Church Discipline” include many dozens of examples. It turns out that the Apostolic Christian church was riven by conflict, and by the exercise of discipline in many forms (some drastic). And yet most of our contemporary pastors pretend that somehow this is all ignorable because there are other Biblical passages that do indeed teach peacefulness.
But they err greatly in presuming the right to pick and choose which aspects of God’s Word are worthy of inclusion and which are not. In a Mainline denomination the institutional pressure is to do just that. This pressure must be resisted and rejected by clergy and laity alike if we truly want to know and follow Christ.
So, let’s look into a few of these Biblical passages that are carefully ignored by our teachers of “meek and mild” Christianity. I will limit myself to the New Testament, not because the Old Testament isn’t relevant, but rather because of the false assumption that the New Testament is the reason for the “meek and mild” uniform standard of conduct.
Galatians 2:11-14 (NIV)
The most important incident of open conflict in the early church was between no other than the Apostles Paul and Peter!
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
In this incident the Apostle Paul openly confronted the Apostle Peter (The Rock upon whom Jesus Christ said His church would be built) for error and hypocrisy. He did not meekly accept what was clearly an anti-Gospel act on Peter’s part. And yet, we are taught to meekly accept anything taught by our Mainline leaders because that is “the Christian thing to do.”
This post could go on to thousands of words were we to document and discuss all of the other Bible passages that deal with conflict and discipline. So, for brevity here are just a few selected passages for you to read and consider.
Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
The Apostles were clearly following this teaching by Jesus as they built the church. Note that Jesus is expecting conflict in the church and therefore is describing how it should be handled, including the last step of excommunication.
1 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV)
You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
This is an example of utilizing extreme, harsh measures in the hope that a soul can be saved. We allow souls to run unopposed towards perdition rather than cause any worldly discomfort.
Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Ah yes, the smooth talker who convinces us that they are teaching the Gospel while they are actually pursuing godlessness, power and worldly position. Remember, the Gospel is a scandalous insult to our human pride.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 (ESV)
Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
Obviously this is understood to cover extreme cases. But make no mistake, there are far more extreme cases than there should be because of the false “meek and mild” piety taught and accepted in our congregations.
Acts 5:1-11 (ESV)
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
Peter didn’t hesitate to confront a church member who was deceitful.
Titus 1:10,11,13b,14 (NIV)
For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. … Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.
My denomination (the PCUSA) is saturated with “rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception” who shamelessly distort and deceive. I have written a 300+ page book documenting this scandal.
This all brings us back to J. I. Packer’s thesis that the “old gospel” has been supplanted by a “new gospel” that is so purposefully partial that it has become a fraudulent gospel. And the entire purpose of this fraudulent gospel is nothing less than to replace God with humankind as the center of Christianity.
But in the new gospel the centre of reference is man. This is just to say that the old gospel was religious in a way that the new gospel is not. Whereas the chief aim of the old was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and His ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed.
From this change of interest has sprung a change of content, for the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message in the supposed interests of “helpfulness.”
(J. I. Packer’s introductory essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)
This “gospel” may be more pleasing to our prideful sin, but it is a lie that must be confronted, not meekly accepted.