Monday, May 11, 2015

Early Church & Interceding for Sinners

"Therefore let us also intercede for those who are involved in some transgression, so that forbearance and humility may be given them, so that they may submit, not to us but to the will of God..." (1 Clement 56.1, 1st Century). 

These words were shared from one church to another regarding the handling and care for someone within the body that is involved in a particular sin/transgression.  Interestingly enough, the original audience of this letter was the church at Corinth.  The Corinthian believers, as we are well aware from I & II Corinthians, were often a troubled bunch.  Here, yet again, the church is encouraged by this non-canonical writing in the care of sinners in their midst.  Notice the prayer's goal: that humility be given so that God's will might be done.  How often in our own churches do we think to regularly pray for those in the body that are struggling with sin. Even in churches that practice church discipline, if we are not careful, the word discipline itself begins with a capital "D", and we forget to pray long and hard for a fellow believer struggling in sin.

Of course, these words in 1 Clement mesh well with the Scriptures (Galatians 6, Jude).  But notice that the focus is a submission to God's will...over and against submitting to the will of man.  There is wisdom here...oh such wisdom.  How often do we seek to restore or confront someone with the goal that they agree with us?  Rather, the submission seen here is unto the Lord...and it is approached with great care in prayer.  As so many churches are recovering the biblical practice of church discipline, let diligent prayer be wedded to the process.  The Corinthian church a generation away from Paul needed this reminder, how much more might we?

One other implication is that the sins of another person in the body are a matter for prayer and concern.  We live in a day when churches are not places to share sin, much less diligently praying for another person to be granted humility in order that they may submit to the will of God.  Let us be wary of not knowing one another.

This passage goes on to talk about not despising correction, knowing that the Lord loves the one that He disciplines, and ultimately that we have a kind Father who disciplines us.  As Paul would say to the church at Galatia:
"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."- (Gal 6:1 ESV)

So, based on Scripture's command to seek restoration for a sinner, and seeing a Patristic example of praying for those in sin, let us be a people who pray for those in sin in our midst...