Sin Making Reinstatement Impossible
1. What shows there are forgivable sins, but what sins may not be dismissed with unconcern?
THERE are sins that can be forgiven. We ask forgiveness for them every day if we pray in the way Jesus taught us, for we say in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12, NW) We can forgive certain sins. That is, we can forgive the other person’s trespasses against us. We cannot wipe them out and make him clean again. No, but when a person asks for forgiveness we can give it to him. In Galatians 6:1 (NW) it says: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” So we have a responsibility upon us to go to these individual sinners, or, when they come to us, to help them stay in the right way even before disfellowshiping ever takes place. We can forgive them. We can help them, if their heart is right and they show it. But if they do not show it and if the sin vitally affects the congregation, there is no reason why we should overlook it and say: “Well, we’ll forget it this time.” We cannot, for the sake of that individual and for the sake of the congregation.
2. What did Jesus say was an unforgivable sin, and who can commit it?
2 The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sinning against the holy spirit. Christ Jesus spoke about that. At Matthew 12:31, 32 (NW) he said: “On this account I say to you, Every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.” You may wonder, Well, what kind of sin would that be? Anything contrary to the manifest operation of God’s active force is against God’s spirit, for his spirit is his active force, and not a spirit person, not a third God in a supposed “holy trinity”. Persons not Christians, like those Pharisees whom Jesus addressed here, can sin against the holy spirit, for they can come up against its manifestation.
3. How may we grieve the holy spirit, and what danger is there in continuing to do this?
3 After we have dedicated ourselves to Jehovah God and we have decided to do his will, we have come under the active force of Jehovah God, his holy spirit. Then it means we are responsible to him, to act according to that spirit. If we are going to act against that holy spirit we will grieve it. Our course of action or our speech will offend against what the holy spirit is and will diminish or reduce God’s spirit in us. In Ephesians 4:30 (NW) it says: “Also do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.” We might not have blasphemed the holy spirit but we might have grieved it terribly. But we might go so far that we are no longer just grieving it but actually sinning against the holy spirit. If we keep on taking the wrong course and grieving the holy spirit we finally come to the point of being disfellowshiped by the congregation. We have sinned against the holy spirit and it is no more in us. It no more seals us for a release by ransom in God’s due time.
4. According to Hebrews 10:25-38, whom will God not restore?
4 The matter of disfellowshiping for such unforgivable sin is a very serious thing. God is not going to restore any again if they have denied the ransom sacrifice of Christ and deliberately worked against the congregation of God. Hebrews 10:25-38 (NW) warns: “Not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near. For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition. Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?”
5. How do those sinning against the holy spirit sin, and what will be their end?
5 Unforgivable sinners who were once in the congregation are sinning against the holy spirit. They are fighting against God, they are turning against Christ Jesus, they are no longer being imitators of God, they are no longer walking in love, they are sinning against the manifest operation of God’s holy spirit and are worthy of destruction. Maybe sometimes we in the congregation grieve the holy spirit. As long as we are only grieving it there is an opportunity, if we repent and change our course of action, to get back into God’s organization. But if we reach a limit and get to the point where we willfully and greedily sin against the holy spirit, the active force of God, and work against its manifestation, then God is finished with us. Then we are turned over to Satan and his organization for the destruction of our flesh. It is a terrible thing to be thrown out of the congregation of God, to be destroyed like Korah and his allies, to be stoned to death like Achan, or to be judged as one unworthy of living in the congregation of God now. To the Pharisees who saw the manifest operation of God’s holy spirit through Jesus and yet spoke abusively against it and called it the spirit of Beelzebub, Jesus later said: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?”—Matt. 23:33, NW; Mt 12:22-28, 31, 33.
6. One’s being ejected is whose fault, and why?
6 But if we get put out of the congregation of God it will be because of our own fault, because of our own wrongdoing, because of our not making our minds over, because we are not living according to the pattern that God has set. As it is stated in Ephesians 5:1, 2 (NW), after Paul speaks about grieving God’s holy spirit: “Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved you and delivered himself up for you as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling odor.”
7. What has Matthew 18:15-17 to do with this matter, especially as to going to the congregation?
7 There is one more scripture quite pertinent here, at Matthew 18:15-17. It reads, “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” (NW) This scripture here has nothing to do with disfellowshiping on a congregational basis. When it says go to the congregation, it means go to the elders or the mature ones in the congregation and discuss your own private difficulties. This scripture has to do with merely a personal disfellowshiping.
8. How may such a difficulty arise, and to what extent does the disfellowshiping go?
8 An individual might not get along with another person in the company. Maybe he built a house for him and the other brother thinks perhaps he has been cheated out of something in this house-building. He may have made a contract in the business affair, and a quarrel comes between the two brothers and they squabble over the matter. Well, here Jesus says, If you have anything at fault between another brother and yourself, try to straighten it up between yourselves. If you cannot, call one or two others in and have them listen to it and help you and give you advice. If you cannot straighten it out then with the offending brother, then it just means a personal avoidance between you two persons, your treating him like a tax collector or a non-Jew outside the congregation. You do what you have to do with him only on a business basis. It has nothing to do with the congregation, because the offensive act or the sin or misunderstanding is not any grounds for disfellowshiping him from all the company. Things of that kind should not be brought into the general congregation for decision. We should not try to split a congregation open and say, “Well now, I want all of you to agree with me,” while the other person says, “I want all of you to agree with me”; that is, on some personal problem which has nothing to do with preaching the gospel or keeping the congregation clean. This scripture in Matthew 18:15-17 has often been used in connection with disfellowshiping or putting such persons out of the organization, but it has merely to do with personal avoidance.
9. In view of all the foregoing, what must be our endeavor, and why?
9 So let all of us keep in mind that the organization of the Lord God must be maintained intact, it must be kept clean, by all of those who are in the congregation. Bear in mind that it is up to those who are the servants of the company to see that it remains that way and if anyone in the company is not clean, not working in the interest of God’s kingdom and his brothers, then he should be removed. They are doing the one removed a benefit, because he might be ashamed as a result and get back into line. They are doing the right thing in God’s sight by putting him out of the congregation because he is unclean. By this procedure God’s visible organization will remain clean through the coming battle of Armageddon, on into the new world. Anyone who wants to live in that new world will have to live according to the principles of Jehovah God, as set down in His Word, for we must become imitators of God.