Is "disfellowshipping" proper from a biblical point of view?
No, dear MiniMan (peace to you!), it was not. Neither under the OT... OR the NT. Although the OT prescribed it... Israel was supposed to SURPASS the Law, not worry about those who transgressed it (they were supposed to plead for forgiveness for such ones).
Regarding the NT, expulsion was a teaching of Paul... and Paul was wrong. And his admonition to "remove" a man from the Corinthian congregation almost destroyed that congregation. Because of HIS teaching, the congregation literally became "divided": those who agreed with Paul... vs. those who disagreed, including the Apostles, and followed Christ. Christ, though, did NOT disfellowship... but, to the contrary, literally sought OUT the disfellowshipped ("expelled")):
" The Pharisees didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. The Pharisees asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?” His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”
“Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.” The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.” They questioned him, “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?” He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”
“The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”
“They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.
“[Jesus] heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, [Jesus] said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man? He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.” [Jesus] said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he did obeisance to [Jesus].”
This is, in fact, my own story. I was blind… my Lord opened my eyes, which I readily confessed… and was “expelled” from the WTBTS “synagogue” as a result. To comfort me, my Lord showed me this very account.
He then showed me the following (John 8:1-11), which didn’t necessarily apply to me, but showed me what HE is TRULY about (which I was learning), because I WAS confused as to PAUL’S teachings:
“[Jesus] went to the Mount of Olives . At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery . They made her stand before the group and said to [Jesus], “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women . Now what do YOU say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
“ But [Jesus] bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of YOU… who is WITHOUT sin be the first to throw a stone at her .” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
“ At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only [Jesus] was left, with the woman still standing there. [Jesus] straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” [ Jesus] declared. “Go now; your sin IS NO MORE.”
[Yes, I know: Bibles say… and so people teach… both erroneously… that my Lord said, “Go and sin no more.” His word to ME is that that is NOT what he said, as he KNOWS we will continue to sin as long as we reside in the flesh. What he SAID to her was that he had TAKEN AWAY her sin – “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins… of the world!” – so that it was NO MORE! Telling her to sin no MORE… would not have cleansed her CONSCIOUS; rather, it would have made her paranoid… and where is the love in THAT?? Rather, he said, “Telling her that she had NO sin anymore… set her FREE! Which is what I came to do!” Indeed, that is why I love him: he set ME free, as well… when he told ME that MY sin… was no more! Unlike US… who say we “forgive”… but do not FORGET… once HE has forgiven one their sin(s)… HE does NOT recall it at all, not one bit! Unless that one goes around judging… and condemning… OTHERS!]
And THIS was the teaching of the Apostles, who witnessed these kinds of events. And it was those at the Corinthian congregation knew… and practiced. Which is why they had allowed the man in question to REMAIN in the FIRST place (which prompted PAUL to tell them to REMOVE him!). They did what Israel SHOULD have done when someone transgressed the OLD Law: they gave the man a REBUKE… AS A CONGREGATION (just as Christ had directed them - Matthew 18:15-17)… which apparently he LISTENED to! But that wasn’t good enough for Paul; no, he felt they should go further and REMOVE the man (which he had already instructed them to do in his FIRST letter… which is NOT in the Bible canon – 1 Corinthians 5:9). Well, again, that didn’t go over too well with many in the congregation… who consulted with the Apostles… who also vehemently disagreed (and took Paul to task, which he didn’t take so well such that he retaliated by calling them “superfine” apostles!).
Paul ultimately realized that his admonition went COUNTER to what he said his purpose was: to keep the congregation “clean.” Because it caused SUCH a problem… it threatened to leave the Corinthians with NO congregation… clean or otherwise. This realization caused him to recant HIS position in his 3RD letter (2 Corinthians 2:1-11)… where, there, he stated that it was never his intention to cause them sadness and so whatever THEY decided (which was the FORGIVE the man involved)... was "good enough/sufficient" for him:
“I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you. For if I grieve you, who is left to make me glad but you whom I have grieved? I wrote as I did, so that when I came I would not be distressed by those who should have made me rejoice. I had confidence in all of you, that you would all share my joy. For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
So, what TRULY happened? Although Paul had told the Corinthians that he and those who walked with him were NOT masters over their faith, he really had actually tried to be. Paul couldn’t handle what the man had done… AND that the Corinthians allowed him to stay among them. He thought that that rendered them “unclean”… by means of “touching” this man whose conduct made HIM “unclean”… under the OLD Law. So, he sent them a scathing letter (his FIRST one)… but they ignored him and consulted with the Apostles… so that when he came the SECOND time… what he’d directed them to do… had not been done. Thus, in his SECOND letter (1 Corinthians)… he set up a TEST (under the guise of being a tad bit more “loving” on the matter - “I’m only telling you this for YOUR good, so that YOU’RE not culpable!”).
But that didn’t work, either. Again, the CONGREGATION handled the matter the way THEY saw fit… as Christ DIRECTED they should, which hadn’t been good enough for PAUL up to that point. Until the congregation almost imploded. THAT made him REALIZE that if he pushed the matter, there would BE no congregation. To listen to HIM… or to follow Christ! Uh-ohhhh… how’m I gonna explain THAT to the Lord??
And so… Paul had a “change of heart” (albeit, presented with all kinds of excuses, but that’s a natural human reaction, so we can’t blame or judge him for that).
Now, don’t get me wrong, dear ones: Paul IS my brother in Christ. BUT… the TRUTH… is that he had to LEARN Christ… PROGRESSIVELY… as ALL must. Even the APOSTLES, who literally walked with my Lord had to LEARN, and over time. They STILL didn’t have it all down pat AFTER literally walking with him. Their “education” continued… well after. Why? Because… holy spirit does not DROP us smack down into “all” truth: it LEADS us… into all truth. Including me, your servant.
Thus, as to Paul, my Lord said to Ananias:
“For I must SHOW him plainly the things he must suffer for my name.”
That “showing” took place over a period of close to 30 years.
I hope this helps and again, I bid you all peace!
A slave of Christ,
SA, who was also “expelled from the synagogues”