Restore the Erring child of God
Carol R. Lumpkin
Meaning of Words:
Restore: restoration to a former state or relationship. "Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal.. 6:1).
Erring: one who has turned from a goal, missed the mark. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death (spiritual death) and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Jas. 5:19-20).
Child of God: one who has been born of water and of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5). One who has obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17-18). One who has been baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Gospel obedience makes one a Christian, a child of God.
When a Christian, a saved individual, turns back into the world of sin he ceases to be a Christian, a disciple, a follower of Christ; hence, he is no longer a saved person (Acts 2:26). The follower of Christ who falls is an erring child of God and needs to be restored.
A saved person may, by choice, sin the following ways:
1. commit sins of the flesh. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, sedition, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Gal. 5:19-21). See also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Rev. 21:8.
2. Commit sins of lying, stealing, anger, corrupt communications, bitterness, wrath, calmour, evil speaking (Eph. 4:25-31). God hates "a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies and he that soweth discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:17-19).
3. Commit sins by forsaking the worship of the church "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).
4. Commit sin by being in a local church of Christ which does not scripturally follow the New Testament pattern in worship, work, or teaching (doctrine) of Christ. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (2 Jn. 9).
When a child of God is guilty of any of the above sins, he needs to be restored. Simon also believed and was baptized after hearing Philip preach Christ (Acts 8:12-13). Later, Peter and John (apostles) arrived in Samaria to, "pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:15). Simon offered them money for this power and was rebuked because his "heart was not right in the sight of God" (Acts 8:21). Simon was told to "repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts 8:22).
Each and every sin committed is against God. Sins which others know about are public to the extent known. Sins which two are three know about involves the two or three and God. Sin which is committed by thought and/or desire, is known by the individual and God. "That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). Sin for missing worship due to indifference or neglect is public and demands a public confession (1 Jn. 1:9). Sin committed by practicing error in work, worship or in doctrine must be confessed (2 In. 9).
How are sins forgiven an erring child of God? Not by (1) taking up where one left off; (2) not by just placing membership with a faithful church of Christ; (3) not by hearing a preacher or elders say you are alright as you are.
God has a plan to restore the fallen. That plan is:
1. Confession of sins: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (Jas. 5:16).
2. Repent of sins. The erring Simon was told to repent of his sins (wickedness, Acts 8:22). Repentance is a change of heart which leads to a change of life.
The lost son (Lk. 15:11-21) asked for and received his inheritance and in a distant country wasted it all in riotous living. He hired out to feed swine. While hungry, friend-less, broke, miserable. he came to himself and said his father's servants had bread to eat while he ate husks from the grain. He made up his mind to return to his father and say, "Fatherl have sinned against heaven and before thee." This same statement is repeated in verse 21. A change of mind, repentance, led him back to his father and his acknowledgment of his sin against God and his father.
A man told his son to go work in his vineyard, the son said, "I will not," but later he changed his mind and went. When a sin is repented of it must be given up; or else there is no repentance (Matt. 21:28-29).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 17, p. 20-21