I have refrained from posting anything about Todd Bentley here on this blog, but I thought I would make a brief comment on Gal 6:1, which has been quoted several times by Rick Joyner.
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)
First, any attempt to restore someone caught in sin is commendable. It is sad that so many Christians who fall into sin disappear off the scene entirely and never return to fellowship in their former church (or indeed in any local church). This is clearly not the New Testament intention.
But what exactly is meant by the word ‘restore’ in this verse? Rick Joyner takes it to mean that the person resumes the same ministry they exercised before-hand. But that is an arbitrary definition. One could equally insist that restoration means Todd Bentley should be reunited with his former wife by the same logic.
Can a person who has sinned, particularly in a scandalous and public manner, be restored to fruitful ministry? I think so, but it is usually inappropriate to rush the process. And I don’t believe that return to ministry is the point of this verse in any case. I think the restoration it speaks of has three elements to it:
1. Restored to right relationship with God. The person needs to reach a point of confessing their sin honestly before God, repenting of any ongoing sin, and trusting him for complete forgiveness. They need to come back to a place of daily enjoying his presence rather than hiding from him.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)
2. Restored to fellowship in the local church. Often someone who has been caught out in a sin will avoid contact with believers, whether as an angry reaction to church discipline, or simply due to the shame they feel. This means that the church must take active steps to reaffirm their love for the person involved and welcome them back (assuming repentance has taken place).
6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.
(2 Cor 2:6-8 ESV)
3. Restored to right relationship with those sinned against. It is sometimes possible for a sinner to return to worship in church, yet the relationships with those hurt by the sin to remain broken. The gospel gives us no excuse to withhold forgiveness. Our own forgiveness is on the basis of grace, and it is on that basis that we offer it to one another.
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Col 3:13 ESV)
What are we doing to reach out to those we know who have fallen away from God? It can often be difficult as they do not always want our help or appreciate our advice. But Gal 6:1 requires that we seek to restore them. The Greek word katartizo is used elsewhere of setting a broken bone. They have been broken, they need healing. Or as J B Philips translates it, they need to be “set back on the right path”. It is not enough to simply condemn their sin.
As for Todd Bentley, there are other reasons why I have concerns about him taking up his former ministry again, unrelated to his marriage breakdown and remarriage. Important as those are, (and perhaps the subject of a future blog post), they should not cloud our thinking on the vital matter of how we restore those who have been “caught in a transgression”. The gospel way is the way of hope, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation.