Restoring the Sinner

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.

6 thoughts on “Restoring the Sinner

  1. That’s really helpful thoughts Mark – thank you. Too often the church seems to vacillate between talking about “disqualified for eternity” and judging harshly to the other extreme of rushing the individual who has fallen back into active ministry just because they display dramatic gifts! There’s a balance which I think you got really well.

  2. Hi Mark, I totally agree with the 3 areas in which restoration is necessary, but i think back on the front lines is also essential. Christs salvation is not just forgiveness as you know but has many awesome componants, inc healing, sanctification, deliverance , etc. It is the same with restoration. It is God’s purpose to restore all things in Christ
    (Mat 17:11 NIV) Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.
    Say Todd, (who by the way was a great champion of the faith , just look at the fruit of his ministry, before fall) actually publically said he was not sure that Jesus was the Messiah, would not this be as bad as divorce? If he had done this should he be restored? How about if he was resored in 3 days? bit quick no? This is exactly what happened to Peter! Now i personally totally agree that sexual sin takes longer than denying Jesus in fear, to resore, but God made Peter leader and immediately appointed him back in ministry: look after my sheep (lead), feed them (teach), take care of my lambs (pastor) . todd bentley is very hard to understand as is every new move of the spirit. every revival has been rejected by last revival leaders, God is bringing a new wine skin, in terms of emphasis, focus , in these end times, but still of course on the same foundation of Christ and his word. I wonder what people would think of a modern day Ezekial, wheel within a wheel, a bit unbalanced ? Or jeremiah, always speaking aobut judgment, but that was the rhema word at that time. Selah
    food for thought. Todd made serious mistakes, it is unacceptable to divorce, however our goal should not only be to restore geniuinely humble repentant fallen to former ministry but to a higher place. Look at the depth of David’s psalms before and after he fell:eg my favouriter ps 51…
    Bless you brother, if you post a reply please email me. thanks.

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  4. Mark,your insights are noteworthy. But there is alwways a part to the following scripture you sited below that I think the church does not understand. The scripture says:

    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)

    “…or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Out of the many hundreds of articles like yours I have read, this phrase gets little attention. That phrase to me is the most important aspect when it comes to understanding why a person may be “turning” away from church or never returning to worship. Restoring a fallen sinner is onething but restoring an overwhelmed one that has reached the point of sorrow is an indictment on the church. The implication here is that they should never be found in that position. This happens all to often because we do take our time in thinking that the longer we wait, the better the tough love will sink in and make the person jump for joy. Nonsense! It can also push them emotionally over the edge. And trust me that is where the devil wants it all to go. If you read the rest of that scripture you will note that Paul said in conjunction that we are not ignorant of the devils ways. Mark, lets have a further discussion.

  5. Amen. Very thoughtful. Your thoughts remind me that Christ, though a traveler, maintained his fold. Christ’s congregation with his Apostles reflects this.

    I liked your discussion of forgiveness, particularly its relationship to grace.

    There is much to think about. Most importantly, start with the restoration of your relationship wih God. Work on this moment to moment, and I think you have the beginnings of salvation.

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