Administrative Forgiveness

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Scripture regards the assembly as administering forgiveness in this world towards those that are without, and this forgiveness is administered on the reception of persons into the professing church. This character of forgiveness is connected with baptism. Paul was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. Peter, to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven were entrusted and the authority of binding and loosing on earth was given, admitted Jews to the kingdom in Acts 2 and Gentiles in Acts 10. The authority given to the disciples in John 20:2323Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23) appears likewise to be connected with their mission and ministry in the world. “As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you” (John 20:2121Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)).
The binding and loosing in Matthew 18:1818Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18) stands more in connection with church discipline, but a distinction must be made between the assembly or the disciples administering forgiveness towards those without, on their reception into the house, and the discipline of the house of God, under the authority of Christ, for the maintenance of holiness among those that are within.
Christians in the house have already received administrative forgiveness and stand in a place of responsibility, where all the privileges of the dispensation are to be found and enjoyed. Now what do we learn from the epistles to the Corinthians as to discipline, or the responsibility of the assembly in relation to sins committed by those within? In 1 Corinthians 5:1213, the Apostle states, “Do ye not judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.” Unjudged evil in the assembly constituted the leaven with which the Corinthians were keeping the feast, and the course of the assembly in relation to this is clearly laid down: “Purge out  .  .  .  the old leaven”; “put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” The saints were identified with the sin and should have mourned and humbled themselves about it, which they did subsequently (see 2 Cor. 7:711). But God’s house was no place for such sin. “With such a one no not to eat” marks the social separation, as putting out from among those “within” marks the ecclesiastical separation to be made between the saints and the evildoer. Now it is perfectly clear that if the assembly had bound sin, or put away and judged an evildoer, on his repentance the assembly should have rejoiced to restore, to comfort and to forgive. Hence in 2 Corinthians 2 the Apostle instructs the Corinthians to act in grace, to comfort and forgive, on the ground of the sufficiency of the punishment which had been inflicted.
Scripture abounds with exhortations to saints to deal with each other in faithfulness and love. We are to wash one another’s feet; to love one another with a pure heart fervently; to be kindly affectioned one to another in brotherly love, in honor preferring one another; to exhort one another daily; to comfort one another; to be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another; to warn the unruly, to comfort the feeble-minded, to support the weak, and to be patient toward all; to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. All this comes under the head of individual activity in the power of the grace of God. If there were only an increase of these holy and healthy activities of love in private life, there would be far less public sorrow or need for bringing cases before the assembly.
Adapted from The Christian Friend, 1882