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Extraordinary Circumstances

CRBC holds a high view of Scripture and takes the call to holiness seriously. Therefore, we take sins and sins that are crimes seriously and do NOT condone any form of them; instead, we seek to deal with such matters with love, patience, kindness, grace, truth, soberness of mind, and impartiality, as the Scripture instructs. We also take seriously the authority of the Church to execute discipline within its proper jurisdiction, just as we do the Family and the State. We also take seriously the fact that the Church is an ambassador for Christ who has been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19-20), as well as the desire for the purity of the Church (Eph. 5:1-3). As a standard practice, CRBC leadership does not usually make matters concerning church discipline public; however, sometimes extraordinary circumstances call for an exception. We encourage you to carefully consider the gravity of the situation (here) and support us in advocating for truth, integrity, and uprightness.

Redemption and Accountability: A Closer Look at Cornerstone Reformed Baptist Church’s Approach to Sins and Crimes

Cornerstone Reformed Baptist Church is a close-knit, local body of believers professing the faith of the gospel through calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore evidencing our obedience of faith – by the grace of God – in seeking to observe all that Christ has commanded (1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 2:8-10; Matt. 28:18-20). We believe that the Holy Scripture, Divinely revealed and inspired, is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 LBCF 1689 1:1). Therefore, the leadership at CRBC, as under-shepherds, are guided by the Scriptures in our approach to church government. This means that a plurality of elders leads CRBC, and its offices are that of male Elders and Deacons – as outlined in the Scripture (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9) – elected by the congregation as a whole (Acts 6:1-6) but generally brought forth by the Elder(s) and are supported & held accountable by the congregation; therefore, the Scriptures reveal how the leadership and the congregation as a whole relate to and govern one another. This is important to outline as we seek to show how redeemed sinners, having been reconciled to God the Father through the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and this great salvation applied by the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25-26; Titus 3:3-7), hold one another accountable (1 Tim. 5:17-21; Matt. 18:15-20).

We live in a fallen world where sin is pervasive throughout all of creation. While the regenerate are no longer dominated by sin or condemned for their sin (Rom. 6:1-14; 8:1), they are not removed from the presence of sin because it remains in their flesh and is called the lust of the flesh in the Scripture (Rom.7:18-23; Gal. 5:17); which they will battle against as they grow in sanctification and are gradually conformed to the image of Christ. CRBC’s approach to accountability – regarding sins and crimes – is multifaceted, as we incorporate pastoral counseling and community support through CRBC members and church discipline. When necessary and proper, we collaborate with the magistrates to report sins that are crimes. Whether through pastoral counseling of the common issues of life or church discipline (informal or formal), the goal is always reconciliation. This article will look closer at CRBC’s approach to sins and crimes, which seeks to foster personal responsibility and growth, balancing forgiveness with justice by adequately using the law/word of God.

Sin, Law of God, and Sins that are Crimes

Before proceeding, due to the nature and scope of this article, only some details that this topic could include will be covered, except for those matters that define and clarify CRBC’s position and approach.

Sin & The Law of God

To achieve clarity, we must start by defining our terms, namely sin. 1 John 3:4 states, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” [1] The Scripture defines sin as “lawlessness”; sin is breaking a law. The question is, what law? The only law that sin breaks or transgresses is the law of God – except for the case of a nation that has temporal laws that coincide with the spiritual law of God (Rom.7:14) – particularly the moral law of God as laid out in the ten commandments that were delivered to Moses and written by the finger of God (Ex. 31:18), as well as the general equity (moral principal) of the civil laws that were the application of the ten commandments in theocratic Israel. The moral law of God is the perfect rule of righteousness as it reveals the unchanging and morally perfect, pure, good, and holy character of God (Mal. 3:6; Ps. 19:7-8; 119; Rom. 7:12). Therefore, the law/word of God reveals to mankind what sin is by way of transgressing it, and this is the standard by which sin judged, good and evil delineated, and truth and falsehood discerned at CRBC.

Sins that are Crimes

CRBC believes that the law of God distinguishes between sins that are NOT crimes and sins that ARE crimes. A clear example of this would be the tenth commandment that says, “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). If any person or a member of CRBC, in their heart, covets or lusts after something that is forbidden by the law/word of God it is not a crime that the civil magistrate can righteously bear the avenging sword of wrath (Rom. 13:4), even though that person is guilty of sin before God and will be eternally judged unless He grants faith and repentance unto life. Neither is it a sin that the Church can discipline at that point.

A helpful anecdote: the murderer who is plotting to murder their neighbor cannot be charged and held liable for the crime of murdering their neighbor until the act is committed, but God would and does judge the hate within that person’s heart (Matt. 5:21-23).

We believe only God can truly know and judge the intentions of a man’s heart (Heb. 4:12-13), even though we may be able to get a glimpse of a person’s intentions through their words and actions (Matt. 12:34;15:18-20). Many Scriptures speak to this, but see what the Psalmist says, “If we had forgotten the name of our God Or extended our hands to a strange god, Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:20-21). However, suppose the lust for what is forbidden by the law/word of God manifests itself in an outward action of sexual assault of an adult or child. In that case, that person is guilty of an egregious sin and crime, and this person is to be disciplined by the Church through excommunication and handed over to the magistrates. In this case, it is CRBC’s practice that upon receiving knowledge that a crime of this nature has been committed, it is to be immediately reported to the civil magistrates. A report is to be made to them with the case being in their possession to execute justice (Rom. 13:4). In the scenario mentioned above, CRBC’s approach is for the Elders to bar the guilty party from the congregation, thus protecting the flock (Acts 20:28-29), present the facts of the case and the proposed discipline according to the Scripture to the whole of the congregation, then the decision is ratified by the Church (Matt. 18:18-20; 1 Cor. 5:1-11).

Concluding Remarks

Leaders in the Church know that no amount of preparation can equip them for unexpected tragedies. Only the grace of God and strength from the Lord sought through prayer can sustain both the leaders and those under their charge. Fear not; Christ is our steadfast anchor amidst life’s storms, and only He can calm the chaos in our lives and communities. The word of God illuminates our path and guides us when we find ourselves in uncharted territory (Psalms 119:105). The people of God are not left to figure things out on their own, nor are we to work in our strength; we have access to the throne of God through Christ Jesus our Lord, and He strengthens our resolve to stand in and for the truth. May we all fear the Lord as we seek to serve the King in His kingdom.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.