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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Restoration of Offenders

In the discipline of the Apostolic Church the restoration of the offender was the main idea and that of punishment subordinate. Even excommunication was not final, if the expelled member, conscious of guilt, was led to repentance and reformation. The Christian Church has the right and the authority to admit, to exclude, to re-admit suitable persons to its privileges. This is seen clearly in the case of the Corinthian offender (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

A general rule is laid down in Galatians 6:1 -‘Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass (‘flagrante delicto’), ye which are spiritual, restore (καταρτίζετε) such a one in a spirit of meekness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted.’ Bengel, in his comment upon the word ‘brethren,’ says, ‘a whole argument lies hidden under this one word’ (cf. Galatians 3:15; Galatians 4:12; Galatians 6:18). Some (e.g. Lightfoot) think that the Corinthian case was before the mind of St. Paul. Others (e.g. Ramsay) reject this idea.

καταρτίζω (to make ἄρτιος, ‘fit,’ ‘sound,’ ‘complete’) is a surgical term used of setting a broken bone or a dislocated joint. It may be used to refer to the repair of material or spiritual damage; e.g., mending nets (Matthew 4:21, Mark 1:19); setting up walls (Ezra 4:12); removing State factions (Herod. v. 28); righting spiritual calamity (Galatians 6:1). Spiritual restoration is gradual, but it may become complete. All the powers of the sinner may be combined harmoniously, all defects supplied, all faults amended, so that the restored one is fitted perfectly for service (1 Corinthians 1:10 Gr. 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 11:3; Hebrews 13:21, 1 Peter 5:10; cf. Luke 6:40, Herod. v. 106. See Ephesians 4:12, καταρτισμός; 2 Corinthians 13:9, κατάρτισις, Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] consummatio; cf. Ign. Ephesians 2, Phil. 8, Smyrn. 1, Mart. Ign. 4). As the many members of the body in each believer must be fitly framed together, so believers themselves must he brought into harmonious relationship in Christ’s body the Church, and this mainly through the duly appointed ministers of the Church (Ephesians 4:11-12). ‘The enumeration is not of classes of persons or formal offices, but of classes of functions,’ is Hort’s comment on Ephesians 4:11 (The Christian Ecclesia, 1897, p. 166).

This work must be carried out by the spiritual (οἱ πνευματικοί; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 3:1), believers in general as well as the ministry. It must be done ‘in the spirit of meekness,’ which will counteract any tendency to vainglory or feeling of superiority. Here ‘πνεῦμα seems immediately to refer to the state of the inward spirit as wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately to the Holy Spirit as the in working power; cf. Romans 1:4; Romans 8:15, 2 Corinthians 4:13, Ephesians 1:17, in all which cases πνεῦμα seems to indicate the Holy Spirit, and the abstract gen. the specific χάρισμα’ (C. J. Ellicott, on Galatians 6:1).

The doctrine of the final restoration of all offenders cannot be based upon texts of Scripture. Upon this point there is an almost general agreement. Those who advocate this theory base it upon other foundations than biblical texts which deal with the subject of restoration in general or the restoration of offenders at particular.

H. Cariss J. Sidnell.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Restoration of Offenders'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/r/restoration-of-offenders.html. 1906-1918.

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