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Summary: A review of the ministry of reconciliation.

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“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” [1]

The Ministry of Restoration is committed to the Body of Christ. This vital ministry is far too important to be entrusted to one particular group or to just one individual within the church, so it is given to the entire community of faith. Pastors may neglect it. Deacons may ignore it. The church, however, must practise the ministry of mending broken brothers.

Perhaps you have noticed that Paul seldom addressed church leaders in his missives. Usually he addressed his letters to a particular church, or in those few instances where he wrote to the churches situated within a particular region he would address the missive in collective fashion. Though interspersed among the teachings presented within his letters are instructions directed specifically to elders, his instructions are addressed to the entire assembly.

This observation emphasises that the Apostle’s words were intended to be binding upon each individual Christian. All Christians are responsible to know the Word and the will of God, whether speaking of individual responsibilities or speaking of responsibilities imposed on elders. There are no secret teachings hidden within the New Testament. God has spoken openly so that everyone bears equal responsibility before Him for the knowledge communicated. This is not to say that every Christian bears equal responsibility to implement a particular teaching, but it is to acknowledge that each member of the congregation is responsible to know the teachings of the Word and each one is responsible to hold one another accountable for those truths.

Thus, each member of the congregation is responsible for the ministry of restoration. Each member of the church bears responsibility before God to mend fellow members who may be broken. Collectively, whatever we do as a congregation to heal the hurting among us is a reflection of the acceptance of individual responsibility for mending the broken among us. Let’s unite our hearts and our minds in order to learn of the ministry of mending broken brothers.

THE MINISTRY OF RESTORATION — “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Galatians is addressed to churches that were situated within the Roman Province of Galatia [see GALATIANS 1:2]. Paul stressed one primary truth in the brief instructions presented in today’s text—we are each responsible for one another. Refusal to accept this responsibility is evidence that an individual is not spiritual.

The prevailing view among the churches of this day appears to be that the church is an organisation. Thus, the church is viewed much the same as any social organisation or fraternal club. The perception seems to be that one joins a church by sitting through a membership class and then making a formal application which is approved or denied by an official board. Such a concept fails to find witness in the Word of God. Where within the Word of God does one find a board? The only boards to be discovered in the Word of God were flotsam and jetsam awash upon the sea following a shipwreck [see ACTS 27:44]. No membership class, no formal application for membership is discovered in the Word of God.

The definitive passage for this point must yet be ACTS 2:41. This is the divine record of the first intake of members into the Jerusalem church following the descent of the Holy Spirit. “Those who believed what Peter said were baptised and added to the church that day—about three thousand in all.” [2] The requirement of membership classes in order to be added to the congregation is a human invention. Applications for membership and the need for approval by a board are human inventions unsupported by the Word of God. Measures such as these are required when we adopt the political model advocated by the world instead of receiving the biblical concept of the church as a living Body. Under the biblical view those added to the church are responsible to the church to invest their gifts and lives in that Body to which they are added. Those who are part of the Body bear accountability to one another.

Let me restate the proposition. If the church is a political entity, membership classes and formal applications will be required for admission to the assembly. If, on the other hand, the church is a living organisation, God adds those members to the Body as He pleases; and those He adds are responsible to submit to the greater assembly. Consequently, in the political model accountability is to the board which admits or oversees membership; and such accountability is likely to be sporadic and/or casual in administration. If, on the other hand, the church is a living entity, accountability is immediate and ongoing. Discipline in the case of the political model falls under the purview of a hierarchy or oligarchy (a board or committee or even the pastoral staff). In the case of the biblical model discipline becomes the responsibility of the entire Body.

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