Q. I have a question regarding forgiveness. Is there a reference in the bible that tells us that we are not to forgive a believer that is backsliding until he/she first repents? What does the Bible say about forgiveness and a backslider? How are we to treat them?
Also, if a member of the church falls deeply into sin, is it to be announced to the whole church that they are in sin, and that they refuse to repent? I have been hearing things like this recently at church and I am not sure that I completely agree with my pastors idea on the subject.
A. Some use 1 Cor. 5 to justify such an action, but I’m convinced the sinner in that instance was not a believer. Since everyone in the church who has been saved longer than one day is a backslider, the verse about getting the plank out of our own eye before removing the speck from a brother’s should apply first (Matt. 7:5). As for how we should treat a backslider, 1 John 5:16 says that if we see a brother commit a sin we should pray for him , asking the Lord to forgive him.
Matt. 18:17 says that the last step before giving up on reconciling one brother to another in case of a dispute is to bring the matter before the congregation. Then beginning in verse 21 the rest of the chapter is about the need to forgive one another, and the trouble we cause for ourselves when we refuse. All that’s accomplished by accusing someone from the pulpit is to bring shame upon a brother. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.