THE RESTORATION OF AN ERRING CHRISTIAN

(Acts 8:18-24) 

THERE is a pathetic incident in the life of our 
Master recorded in the sixth chapter of John's 
narrative. Jesus had been a very popular leader. The 
multitudes had followed Him wherever He had gone. 
He had healed their infirmities, and fed them with 
loaves and fishes. They flocked to Him by the hun- 
dreds, and even threatened to take Him by force and 
make Him their earthly king. In order to prevent 
this, He withdrew into the mountain alone; and, during 
the night, He crossed the sea in a boat with the dis- 
ciples. But, on the following day, the multitude found 
Him again. Then He delivered a discourse to them, 
reproving them for their carnal desires. He talked to 
them of the bread of life. Being carnally minded, 
many of them could not grasp the great spiritual 
truths which He uttered. As a consequence, many 
turned back and walked with Him no longer. This 
discourse marked the beginning of the end; it was the 
climax of His career; from that moment His popularity 
began to wane. 

How characteristic of the multitude ! Some one has 
said: "The voice of the people is the voice of God." 
Just because a thing is popular is no evidence that it 
is right. You will usually find more noise than religion 
where the crowd is gathered. The church of to-day 
makes a serious mistake in appealing to the sensation- 
alism of people. The multitudes crucified Jesus Christ 
and martyred the apostles. If you walk in the path 
beaten by the footsteps of the multitude, the chances 
are that you are taking the broad road that leads to 
destruction (Matt. 7:13). 

Church rolls contain the names of many who have 
once followed Jesus Christ, but have grown careless 
and indifferent; of those who have once traveled in the 
Way, but have later wandered off into some bypath. 
Can they be restored to their former standing before 
God? If so, how? Remember that we are not discuss- 
ing the regeneration of the sinner, but the restoration 
of the erring Christian. 

1. What is his standing in the sight of God? 

a. He is not an alien (Col. 1:20-23). He has been 
adopted into the heavenly family by obedience to the 
gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27; Gal. 4: 
4-6). 

b. He is not an apostate. An apostate is one who 
has once believed in Christ, but later has fallen away 
and denied Him. In this connection, we consider two 
passages from the Hebrew letter. It seems that this 
entire letter to the Hebrews was written to check apos- 
tasy. Some of the Jewish Christians were drifting 
back into Judaism. The entire Jewish law having been 
" ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator" 
(Moses), he opens the letter by showing the superiority; 
of Jesus over the angels, the superiority of His priest- 
hood over that of the tribe of Levi, and the superiority 
of His mediatorship over that of Moses. Then he pro- 
ceeds to show that Christ is the great antitype of the 
entire sacrificial system, the fulfillment of the law and 
the prophets. In this manner he leads up to Heb. 6: 
4-6, in which he makes the following argument: "You 
Jews have heard and obeyed the gospel, thereby enjoy- 
ing salvation through Christ, the hope of eternal life, 
and the indwelling of the Spirit. In your unbelief, you 
once crucified Jesus on Calvary (Acts 2:36-41). For 
that sin you have been fully pardoned. If you turn 
back and deny Him, you crucify Him anew, and it will 
be impossible to turn you from the evil way again/ 7 

Then he goes ahead to show them that Jesus Christ 
is the one sin-offering of the ages (Heb. 9:26) ; that 
all things under the law had merely pointed forward 
to Him (Heb. 10: 1, 2) ; that under the law there had 
been no forgiveness of sin, but merely "the remembrance 
of sin year after year, until the offering of the body of 
Jesus upon the cross to atone for the sins of the world 
(Heb. 10:3-10). This brings us to a consideration of 
Heb. 10: 23-29). In view of such facts He urges them 
to hold fast to their profession of faith, because, m 
denying Jesus Christ, they put away the only sacrifice 
for sin; as no other ever had been, or ever would be, 
offered to make atonement. 

c. He is the unfruitful branch (John 15:2-6). A 
Christian is known by his fruits (Matt. 7:20). The 
fruits of the Spirit enumerated (Gal. 5:22, 23). The 
erring Christian does not bring forth much fruit. 

d. He is the foolish virgin (Matt. 25: 8). His lamp 
has gone out while he sleeps. "Were the Bridegroom to 
come now, he would be shut out because his light is 
not shining (Matt. 5: 16). 

e. He is the lukewarm Christian (Rev. 3:16). 
Being neither cold nor hot, he would be rejected alto- 
gether. Jesus Christ demands an absolute surrender 
to Him, followed by a life of service. There can be no 
middle ground in the warfare of King Jesus against 
the Adversary (Matt. 6:24). 

f. He is the Christian who has erred from the truth 
(Jas. 5:19, 20). It is the business of the church to 
turn him from the error of his way (Col. 1:9). 

2. What is his spiritual condition ?

a. Worse than in the beginning (2 Pet. 2:20, 21). 
The world expects him to live up to his profession, and 
he is crucifying Jesus Christ anew by failing to do so. 
His apostasy is a stumbling-block before sinners. 

b. His heart is not right (Acts 8:21). Simon 
thought to commercialize the gift of God soon after 
he had been baptized. His heart was not right. 

c. He is perishing (Acts 8:20). He is perishing 
because his heart is not right. Repentance is a com- 
plete turning from the evil way. Church rolls contain 
the names of many who have never repented. 

d. He is without excuse (John 9:41; 15:22). 
Ignorance of the law excuses no one where Bibles can 
be bought for fifteen cents each. What will be the end 
of him who neglects this great salvation? (Heb. 2: 1-3.) 

3. What are God's promises to him? 

a. "I will not cause my anger to fall upon you" 
(Jer. 3:12). 

b. "I will heal your backslidings" (Jer. 3:22). 

c. "He was lost and is found." The parable of the 
prodigal son and its application (Luke 15:11-32). 

d. (( He will forgive our sins" (1 John 1:9). Re- 
member that John is writing to those who are in Christ. 


4. What must he do to be restored? 

a. Repent, or turn from his evil and indifferent way 
(Acts 8 : 22 ; Jer. 3 : 12 ; Eev. 2:5). 

b. Confess his sins (Luke 15:21; 1 John 1:9). 
This confession must be made in prayer to God (Acts 
8:22). It must be made in the name of Jesus Christ 
(1 John 2:1). He must pray God to forgive the sin 
of his heart. Jesus must endorse his check before it 
will be accepted at the bank of heaven. 

5. What is the duty of the church in this matter? 

a. Acts 8 : 20-24. The ministry should be very 
plain-spoken, as were Jesus and the apostles, in deal- 
ing with sin (Matt. 23; Acts 7:51-53; 23:1-5). Be- 
cause they are not plain-spoken, many are going down 
to perdition. 

b. Gal. 6 : 1 ; 1 Thess. 5 : 14. The erring Christian 
should be visited and admonished by the church. This 
is a particular duty of the eldership. He should not 
be pushed down and down by idle gossip. 

c. Jas. 5 : 20. The reward for one who saves a sinner 
from the error of his way. 

Have you turned your back on Jesus? Have you 
deserted the army of the King? Have you been pitch- 
ing your tent towards Sodom? Have you been trying 
to serve God and mammon at the same time? 

Then, repent; with a humble confession, pray God 
to forgive you the sin of your heart, and He will heal 
your backsliding.