This post will begin to more closely examine God’s purpose, plan, and instruction in matters pertaining to disfellowshipment in order to establish a framework whereby one can become better equipped to make sound judgments that pertain to family when this occurs.
The post that follows will give guidelines that God’s people should follow in making decisions (judgments) in how to address this subject of disfellowshipment that occurs in one’s own family as well as with others we have come to love and know so well. This series has become longer than it was originally thought to be, as God is revealing much more about this entire subject; however, in all that is being covered, above all things, it is important to remember that God is to be kept first. All that God gives us in the instruction and guidelines that follow are to be upheld in order to uphold and keep God first. This also means that we are to uphold and be faithful to His Family – the Church.
Due to a high degree of lack of understanding, there have been some in times past who have challenged the disfellowshipment of a family member, of a close friend, or even of themselves by saying, “They did not ‘leave’ God’s Church, but were put out (disfellowshipped).” When a formal declaration of someone’s disfellowshipment is made, it is only a formality and notice to others (who generally do not know the truth of what led to such action). However, when such a declaration is made, it is only an administrative procedure to something that has already happened, and most often, long before.
During my 44 years in God’s Church, there have been large numbers of people who have been disfellowshipped, even into the multiple thousands. John spoke of this when he said that “many deceivers (imposters, misleaders) have entered into the world” (2 Jn. 7). As it has already been explained, these people did not begin this way, but somewhere along the line they began to change and “tolerate” (allow) sin into their life of which they would not repent. This often begins by giving into some lust of the flesh or lust of the eyes. However, it will always involve the pride of life that enters the mind when one decides (chooses) to believe something that is not in unity with the truth.
One may keep such disagreement internally for a long time, but at some point will begin to make divisive comments to others. Such comments are often shrugged off by others. Some may react by being uncomfortable with what they have heard, but may not feel it is important enough to address or don’t want to upset the person more than they are already. Others may simply feel the person is only weak and doesn’t clearly see what is true and that they will hopefully grow and come into unity later. There are other reasons why such people are ignored or shrugged off, but sometimes there is also the feeling of empathy for someone’s disgruntlement or even agreement with some of what they spew out. Divisive comments are a lack of unity and can grow quickly into far greater outward divisiveness if given a receptive audience. Most often, people initially just don’t “see” the incredible danger and true spirit behind divisive talk – whether it is divisive and negative toward doctrine (teaching, truths) or even toward the leadership of the Church.
People who become negative and divisive by what they are living and/or saying that is contrary to doctrine (Church teachings, the 57 Truths, etc.), without repenting, do become imposters who begin to live misleading (false and lying) lives within the environment of the fellowship in the Church. However, such unrepentant individuals who are still in actual fellowship with members in the Church are not in actual “true spiritual fellowship” as they have already been cut off from –disfellowshipped – from God by God Himself.
In actuality, they did “leave” God’s Church as a result of their own choice to turn against His ways. Although God disfellowships someone from His presence, in that He and His Son will no longer “dwell” in them, He often “allows” such a person to continue for a time in the midst of His people in the environment of the Church before He finally makes it fully manifest to His Church in order to have them completely disfellowshipped from His presence. Well before a person is formally disfellowshipped, they have already “entered into the world.” When John speaks of such people by saying, “They went out (went away) from us, but they were not of us” (1 Jn. 2: 19), he is not speaking of an immediate physical observation. He is speaking of a spiritual change in the lives of such people that begins well before it is actually manifested (revealed) that they have already disfellowshipped themselves from God spiritually by their unrepentant sins.
Some may wonder why God would “allow” such a thing to continue in His Church for any length of time before He has it revealed to His Church that He has already disfellowshipped (removed the holy spirit from coming into) a person. That time period may last a few days or a few years. That is a matter of God’s purpose in allowing it in the first place. The reasons why God allows it are many. It is allowed for the purpose of training, giving experience (that cannot be substituted by instruction alone), trying and testing, development of growth in spiritual discernment, learning deeper matters concerning the administration of government, and numerous other reasons.
God even “allowed” His entire Church that numbered into the tens of thousands to be completely removed from His presence – disfellowshipped – when the Apostasy occurred in December of 1994. However, through some few experiencing this Apostasy, He quickly began to bring them to deep repentance in order to reestablish a remnant upon which He would do a final “work” before He would send His Son to be the Messiah over the earth.
God allowed the entire Church to experience this Apostasy in order to teach billions in the future one of the most important lessons yet, concerning the assurance (guarantee) that His way will always be lived and administered toward others. All humans, even with the begettal of God’s holy spirit, have the capacity to be lifted up in spiritual pride – to become rich and increased with goods (spiritually) – to the degree they “cannot see” their true spiritual state. For all who have and will become begotten, if they had lived just prior to and through the time of the Apostasy, they would have done the same thing as those who lived it. They would have become lukewarm, spiritually rich (in self perception – lifted up in pride) and increased with goods, and then separated from God’s presence. Being begotten and in the Church as a physical human being is not enough to insure (guarantee) absolute unity, even living God’s way in truth and in spirit, and continuing peace. Only when “in” Elohim, when fully born into God’s family (fully composed of spirit), can such life be insured – guaranteed to continue without end. As long as human nature exists – sin is ever present and must be continually fought against, repented of, and forgiven.
God first revealed that a special called out nation of people, physical Israel, who were shown His ways and able to receive of His special intervention in life, is not enough to insure peace, unity, and obedience to one way of life. Through the experience of the Apostasy, God revealed that a Church, spiritually begotten Israel, composed of spirit-begotten individuals, does not insure that “His ways” will always be lived. It is not enough! Only when literally born into Elohim, finally can God’s ways be insured to be lived by others for all ages to come. The Church is the beginning of that process. But the truth is that if the Church were allowed to grow into the hundreds of thousands worldwide, let alone into the millions or billions, it would simply never survive UNLESS Jesus Christ, along with a Church that had a government structure over it of 144,000 spirit born beings, were literally present to actively lead and govern it. What a remarkable thing that this IS God’s awesome plan!
Purpose for Formal Disfellowshipment
There are many reasons why God disfellowships individuals from His presence and His Church. We have already covered how God cannot and will not dwell in or with sin (darkness), so that those who are unrepentant of sin must be removed from His immediate presence (spiritually). It would also be good to consider a few other important reasons for disfellowshipment.
God has established the process of disfellowshipment in His Church as an administrative procedure and formality. We are to learn from what this process should teach us. Overall, this administrative function is designed to be outwardly seen so as to be a sobering factor for the Church in order to stir each person to be ever watchful, alert, spiritually on guard, and spiritually fearful of turning away from God (a healthy fear from staying in sin and becoming unrepentant, which leads to being cut-off from God).
Disfellowshipment is also given in order to help protect the Church from excessive harm, yet even in this, God is in full control and works to mold and fashion those in His Church according to His overall plan and purpose.
The public formality of disfellowshipment also serves as an extremely important and powerful means to magnify one of the greatest lessons in life to be learned, which is the need for everyone to become in unity and oneness with God. To be separated (disfellowshipped) from that unity and oneness, without change, leads only to death – a total end of life and existence.
Yet to disfellowship someone from God and from His spirit to live in them is done for a most powerful and meaningful purpose for their individual life. It is done as part of a means to eventually bring them to repentance so that they might be saved. This is not a simple statement that has just been made. It goes far deeper than anyone has truly known or understood. God’s Church has only understood this in a most basic manner, but the complete truer purpose goes much deeper.
The key to understanding this in its deeper and most important purpose “concerning the individual” that is disfellowshipped is contained in an area of scripture we reviewed earlier in this series. It is contained in a statement Paul made concerning the individual he told the Corinthians to remove from their fellowship.
Paul instructed them, “To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5).
Before someone is called, they are in bondage to Satan’s system and his world where he deceives, wrongly influences, and perverts. When brought into the Church, God begins the process of deliverance and protection from that being and his demons. Although all human beings will suffer in this world, both in the Church and out of it, only those within the Church does God give the only means for deliverance, answers, and transformation that is able to lead them to permanent change and peace that gives true fullness of life.
Yet when someone in the Church is severed (cut off) from the continuing flow of God’s spirit in their life by becoming disfellowshipped, they are then separated from God’s continuing flow of spiritual nourishment that is given with the spiritual help (means and inspiration) to receive (see) it. They no longer have access to the unleavened bread of life. They are actually cast back into Satan’s world without God’s grace, help, protection and favor in life. Not only that, but in many ways they now become targets of harassment, turmoil, and deception from that demonic world. The ability for that evil spirit world to now have open access to such individuals is taken as a kind of perverted sense of victory against God. However, God has a plan whereby He will still work during “another time” to deliver those who have become permanently disfellowshipped.
A Greater Purpose
Some of the reasons for formal administrative disfellowshipment have been covered and that has primarily been done in the context of its purpose in relationship to its affect upon the Church. However, there is a greater or deeper purpose regarding the actual individual that has not been understood in the past. It is certainly understood that becoming disfellowshipped is the penalty for unrepentant sin. It has also been understood that the action of such an administrative formality will hopefully sober and stir up a healthy fear that will lead to repentance.
My experience as a minister for nearly 33 years is that such a response is quite rare. Even when some have shown some repentance and have become reinstated, most of those became disfellowshipped again – permanently. Although there are many who have been permanently disfellowshipped over the past 1,900 plus years, God still has a plan for most of them to be able to yet be saved. God is revealing this purpose more fully through what Paul wrote in the second half of the verse we have been covering.
“To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh (to suffer again in the world without God’s help), that (so that) the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5).
The second half of this scripture needs to be broken down in order to better understand what God is saying. God’s desire is to grant salvation to all who can potentially receive it. Not all who become disfellowshipped can receive what God will offer most of them at a future time. God knows who can potentially receive His future offer of repentance and salvation and those who cannot.
During the era of Philadelphia, due to a great lack of understanding in this specific subject matter, there was the belief that if someone was disfellowshipped in this age of Satan and they did not repent that this constituted an “unpardonable sin.” An unpardonable sin is simply sin of which someone will not repent, and therefore, cannot be forgiven – unpardonable. What will actually happen with such disfellowshipped individuals was not understood more deeply for the very simple reason that God had not yet given it.
It was also believed that such individuals were to receive the “second death” as punishment, which means they would be resurrected again to physical life for the sole purpose of being given a final punishment of this second death. This would be death for all time, never to be resurrected to life again – an eternal punishment. It is true that the second death is indeed an eternal punishment, but not being eternally punished as much of the world believes concerning their belief in hell.
Part of the belief at that time (which many in the scattered groups still believe concerning these things) also stated that such individuals who were begotten, later disfellowshipped, and then died in that state (still disfellowshipped – unrepentant) could not be given a “second chance.” That belief meant that they could not be resurrected during the beginning of the final 100 years when most of mankind would be resurrected into a second physical life, since this was considered a “second chance.” Indeed, there is no such thing as a true “second chance,” but God does grant the potential for some to receive a continuation of their first chance, of their first calling (as there is no second calling), of their first and original begettal (as there is no second begettal).
So what is God revealing through Paul’s words in this verse? It clearly reveals God’s purpose that someone disfellowshipped “might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This undisputedly shows that a repentant, disfellowshipped person might still be able to be saved at another time – the day of the Lord Jesus. So God does grant that many will be able to repent in a different time and that they have, therefore, not committed the unpardonable sin. This is a continuation of their original calling and begettal and not a “second chance” as it has been looked upon in the past.
When speaking of the day of Christ or the day of the Lord Jesus, it is always in the context of the “time” of his reign over mankind as Christ, the Messiah – the one anointed to be King of kings for 1,100 years. That is his day (time) to reign; however, most verses are simply looking forward to the coming or beginning of that time (day) to commence.
So when Paul is giving this instruction to the Corinthians that they should disfellowship this individual, the only period such a person still “might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus” is in the second resurrection of the final 100 years of Christ’s reign. Such a person will not be resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium. Those in Paul’s day have been dead for well over 1900 years. None of these who Paul is referring to who can potentially be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus are to be resurrected at the beginning of the Millennium (except those who will be part of the 144,000), but at the end of it.
God’s Revelation Through Paul
God is revealing two important matters in the latter part of this verse. Many who have been disfellowshipped over the past 1,900 years plus will be resurrected in the final hundred years. God’s Church has known this truth for several years now, but those who are scattered have not. These formerly disfellowshipped individuals (from over the past 1,900 years) will have an opportunity to repent at that time (the last hundred years), during a time they can be more readily saved.
During that time, those who are resurrected will not have to “live by faith” of God’s coming Kingdom (as they did before becoming disfellowshipped), but they will be able to literally see what it already has produced after being on earth for 1,000 years. These individuals will not need to “live by faith” concerning the great resurrection of most of mankind who have died over the millennia, for they will have experienced it themselves, knowing they had been dead and now resurrected to physical life a second time. In addition, they will not only be able to witness a world filled with great peace and prosperity, but they will also experience the absence of Satan and the demons.
Although such individuals could not be saved during the time of Satan’s reign over mankind (after they had first been called), they now have a far greater potential to do so. However, not all who have ever been disfellowshipped through time will be resurrected to a second physical life. God knows the mind – the true spirit of every person! Some have already permanently chosen that they do not want God’s ways. Even if offered repentance during the Great White Throne in the final hundred years, they would not repent. God knows who such people are. He knows those who have already committed the unpardonable sin – those who will never repent, no matter when they might be given life.
There are even people who have lived over the past 6,000 years who will not be offered begettal during the final 100 years, as God knows such minds that are fully set against him and will not respond in true repentance even if offered His spirit to transform them. Of those who have lived during the past 6,000 years, whether begotten or not, there are minds that became fully “set” against God and will never repent of their own free will. Just as there were those in the angelic realm who rejected God’s ways, so have there been many among mankind who have rejected God and will not change, regardless of the magnitude of grace God might grant them.
To Save the Spirit
God is now far more fully revealing what He means by the statement that the “spirit might be saved.” God’s desire is to save all and to offer salvation to all, but “not all” will or would (if offered) choose to receive it. God’s desire for those who have been begotten and then disfellowshipped is that they still might be able to be saved in a different time than in the one during Satan’s reign.
The “spirit” God is speaking of in this verse is not just about a human spirit. Billions who have only experienced life with the human spirit that God has given all mankind will be resurrected in the Last Great Day – in the final 100 years of mankind. However, those who have been impregnated with God’s spirit in their human spirit are most unique. That state of existence is far more critical to God’s creation of Elohim, as it is in this stage of a kind of spiritual embryo that determines whether or not one will actually be born into Elohim as a spirit being. However, the analogy of a kind of spiritual “embryo” has some big differences when compared to a physical embryo.
God is showing through what He inspired Paul to write, “So that the spirit might be saved,” that He is referring to the spiritual embryo of the “spirit in man” that has been impregnated by His holy spirit. That “new spirit essence” begins to develop (grow) and as it does it works to transform (change) the mind (thinking) of the individual that is begotten. That new life that is being created is being developed (fashioned, molded) by God through the power of His holy spirit. It is that “new spirit essence” that is likened to a spiritual embryo that God seeks to save.
That “new essence” being developed by God is growing “in” or “within” the “spirit in man” that each individual has which enables all thinking, reasoning, memory, individuality, creativity, etc. Yet that spirit-begotten essence is still functioning within a human (physical) brain. The mind of man is composed of both a physical brain and that spirit essence that is this “spirit in man.”
God inspired Herbert W. Armstrong to “see” that mankind was different from the animal kingdom in that God had given man an essence of spirit (not God’s holy spirit) connected with the human brain that enables man to think, reason, use memory, plan, and have creative ability on a physical plane. Around 1972, Mr. Armstrong published a book entitled, The Incredible Human Potential, that explained this new understanding about this “spirit in man.” The animal kingdom was not given such capacity, but it was simply “programmed” by God with instinct, specific behavior, and unique life that pertained to each creature according to God’s will for what He wanted each kind of created life to be.
Mankind was created differently with the ability of thinking, reasoning, free choice of an individual mind – “free moral agency” – as Mr. Armstrong explained. It is God’s purpose to “save” the impregnated spirit in man by transforming it into a “new creation” – a new spirit essence – that with time can potentially be created to come into complete unity, oneness, and agreement with God as a matter of one’s “own will” and free choice in life – a mind fully subject to God and His one true way of life.
(Pt. 9 will follow)