Christians are deeply saddened when men of God fall into sin and bring reproach upon the church of the firstborn. When they do, let us pause and reflect on what this means for God’s cause in this world.
? We may be grateful that our faith is not placed in men, but in God who never fails us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Though we may be saddened, hurt, disappointed, or even indignant (2 Corinthians 11:29),/1 our faith will not be undermined. God’s truth does not fail because a disciple fails. “… if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV).
? We may take this moment to reflect, also, in order that we not lionize brethren in visible ministries or consider them to be above sin or as exceptionally spiritual. We must be careful in our own minds and congregations not to set others up for a fall. We may not fall physically at another’s feet, as Cornelius did before Peter, but we must remember that all must say, “I am a man like anyone else” (Acts 10:26 NEB).
? It reminds us that anyone can fall. Rather than clucking tongues over the fallen, we should beware, says Paul: “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV). As Christians we work to restore those snared by sin, while at the same time, Paul urges: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). By seeing examples of those who fall, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
? It provides us a moment to pray, like Jesus, that the faith of men and women of God not fail. Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He prays that Peter not be lost completely, forsees the difficulties for this unstable follower, but is confident of his eventual usefulness for the kingdom. Some fallen servants may be recovered; others may be lost for good. For all we pray.
On our last trip to the USA in May of this year, I included the preachers of our supporting congregations in my prayers. Too many good men have fallen, perhaps through our lack of intercession.
? When men of God fall, it reminds us not to use human standards in judging men’s work. Some may fall in our eyes, but not in God’s. The Corinthians had allowed interlopers to change their opinion of Paul, based on faulty standards. So the apostle appeals in 2 Corinthians 13:6, “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.” Men even judged Jesus wrongly, so he charged them as they considered his work and claims, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
? Such a moment also reminds us not to appoint a recent convert to ministries such as the eldership, “or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). Some men of God fall because they have been placed prematurely or inappropriately in positions of service for which they were not qualified or not yet prepared to handle the responsibilities and pressures.
When men of God fall, what do we do? We seek their restoration, if we are in a position to serve them, and we shore up the faithful, starting with ourselves.
1/ The apostle Paul “regards any sort of stumbling as a weakening of the fabric of Christian community and, in that sense, a destruction of the ‘work of God’ (Rom 15:20; cf. 1 Cor 8:11, 12; Rom 14:12 …)” (V. P. Furnish, II Corinthians, Anchor Bible, [Doubleday, 1984] p. 539).
How should the church react when God’s servants fall into sin?