Do you have a favorite verse of scripture? Romans 8:28 is what I refer to as my theme verse. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are the called according to his purpose.” I call this my theme verse because it represents my view on my faith and my outlook on life, at least my desired outlook.
Noble as it sounds, I fall far short of having contentment with God’s providence, as this verse intends. You would think that I would live by this principle, if it is my theme. But, rather, it stands as a goal, because it reminds me often, that the primary sin in my life is lack of contentment with how God works.
To combat lack of contentment, we must all become philosophers. Philosophy basically is the love of knowledge. Philosophy can be sinful. The primary motivation for the first sin in the garden was lack of contentment with the knowledge God had given Adam and Eve. Covetous of what had been denied them, the fruit of the tree of knowledge provided a possibility of their having this knowledge. God desires that we have all the knowledge we need, and he has provided for it in his word.
When we have questions about why God does things, we must be careful that we do not tread upon the secret things. So when Boston posed his fifth question, he did so with the understanding that there are areas where mere speculation is dangerous and we need to flesh out the knowledge that God has provided us. With a desire to help you be more content with God’s providence, we will look at the answer to Boston’s question, “Why the Lord suffereth sin to remain in the regenerate?”
This is an age old question. If God made man innocent, without sin, why did he choose to allow man to mutate and become sinful? Seeing that God can regenerate man, if he so chooses, why not eliminate sin altogether? We must ponder these ideas with fear and trembling because we dare not go where we are forbidden. But the answer is quite obvious from a preponderance of the evidence.
When God says something is good, we must admit, his and our definition most often don’t align. As a parent, what I deemed as good for my children seldom met their expectation. What God declares to be good for his children usually meets with stiff resistance.
Church discipline is an example of how God uses the principles of his fatherly correction and our remaining sin to bring about positive results, though often a painful process. I realize that the concept of Church discipline may be completely foreign to some of you. Today there is little use of this scripturally prescribed and even commanded method of discipleship. We can throw the word “disciple” around with ease, but to add two letters and say discipline, as a practice of the Church, we are repulsed by the idea. In its most benign form, Church discipline is the orderly working of the Church. How the Church will be in Heaven is the pinnacle of Church discipline. How the Church behaves on earth takes a little more work.
For the topic at hand we will use the example of Church discipline, where punitive measures are required to correct sin. In Matthew 18:15-19, we see how God desires unrepentant public sin to be dealt with by the Church. If the sin is not repented of by the offending party, then Paul, in 1 Cor. 5:4-5, gives the remedy. He says that the offender is to be “given over to Satan.” What Paul intends is that the offender is to be removed from the church. This is called excommunication. Today this would be seen as strict and callous, only because we misunderstand God’s purpose. God’s design is not to get rid of the person, but rather to drive them back. The church member who does not respond with repentance to the Church leadership’s rebuke is already gone in reality. They have already, by their lack of submission and unwillingness to stop the sin they have been accused of, separated themselves from the benefits of God’s method of protecting and nurturing them, that is his Church. At this point God says to leave them in their sin so that their sin might be the thing that makes them come running back for shelter. Their eventual realization, by God’s providential revelation to them, will cause them to repent and seek restoration to the body. Even if God chooses to never restore the person and he proves to be, as John describes one who “went out from us, but they were never of us,” God still works for his Church’s good. If a Church leadership does not use this prescribed method of discipline, then they are not functioning as a Church by definition. They are failing to love their sheep and disciple them, just as parents who don’t disciple their children aren’t loving them. They desire the love of men more than the love of God. They are denying the membership the opportunity to see God work things for their good.
In the example of the restored Church member we see how God used sin to Glorify himself. He powerfully uses the sin of the offender to bring about an example of his mercy. He creates a situation for love to one another, for trust in his ways, and for living instances of sacrifice in the face of difficult circumstances. The “Prodigal Son” will never be played out on their stage.
I hope I have whet your appetite for more on this subject. This truly is a case of “playing Polyanna,” to put a positive light on an apparent negative. In the next part to Question 5, we will look more closely at some of the evidential positives for “Why God suffereth sin to remain in the regenerate?”