SIN IN THE CAMP

sin-in-the-camp“But there was sin among the Israelis. God’s command to destroy everything except that which was reserved for the Lord’s treasury was disobeyed. For Achan… took some loot for himself, and the Lord was very angry with the entire nation of Israel because of this.”  (Joshua 7:1).

This has become one of the most archaic and avoided terms in the present day church: “sin in the camp.” The actual term is developed from Joshua chapter 6-7. It was early in Israel’s military campaign against the land of Canaan. Israel just experienced a tremendous victory against Jericho. God instructed his people that after the battle there were certain things were to be left in Jericho they were not to be brought into the camp of Israel.  Those things were to be devoted to destruction, they were cursed by God and taking them would bring destruction upon Israel (Joshua 6:18).

The Bible goes on to say, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.”  

Notice what it says Israel committed a trespass. Israel betrayed the Lord. It did not say the double-dealing Achan sinned but it said Israel as a nation sinned because one person sinned. Israel did not even know about this.  In many ways this was not the nation of Israel’s fault.

Yet, we should point out that Israel went to battle against Ai without seeking the Lord. If they would have prayed God would have spoken to them about this issue. But they saw Ai as a small easily defeated city but God wanted to make it clear to them that all their victories came from him not by their swords. So because of their arrogance and their ignorance their battle against Ai was a miserable defeat and thirty six men died. Then of course, they prayed and that is when God revealed to Joshua that Israel sinned (Joshua 7:7-13). So Joshua examines all the families of Israel one by one and Achan confessed to the crime. He stole a Babylonian robe, 5 pounds of silver, and 20 ounces of gold and buried them.

Without reading much into this it would seem that only one of these items-the Babylonian garment was under the ban of God. The other things were silver and gold they were of value but the point was is that he took them for himself instead of setting it aside for the Lord’s treasury (Joshua 6:19). So Israel had to exterminate him and his family and everything he owned and God’s anger was extinguished against Israel. It was an awful price he paid for his sin.

So this is what sin in the camp is: one individual’s unrepentant sin brings open defeat to God’s people.  Sin in the camp is referring to someone who is practicing a sin that is unknown to the church body. It is a sinful practice or false doctrine that is affecting the community of the church spiritually and hindering its ability to fulfill their call in operating in the gifts of the Spirit, worship and reaching the lost. I believe this is why so many Christians and churches are frustrated and lacking today and it makes me weep.

We are not talking about a person who struggles with sin or some thing in his or her life that he or she is attempting to get help for. This is not talking about a person who is grieved over their sin and desires freedom.  Galatians 6 tells us what to do with such a person. We are to help them, encourage them bear their burdens until they are able to walk maturely in the Spirit on their own. But in the church of today there are many people who have no understanding of how their actions affect the testimony of the people of God (1 Cor 12:25).  WE ARE TO HAVE A GOOD WITNESS IN THE SIGHT OF THE WORLD.  God is serious about the corporate purity and unity of his people and the Bible says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:17).   People should realize that what they do as individuals they do as a church.

In Bible days, people claiming to be Christians were visiting the temple prostitutes in Corinth. Paul reprimands them, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:15-20).  The church has failed to insist continually and dogmatically that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ and his body, the church.  The church is made up of individuals that are not islands to themselves (1 Cor 12).

It is important especially during the time of the Lord’s Supper that the church prepares and examines the mettle of their hearts corporately. God offers forgiveness and healing through the celebration of the Lord’s supper.  THE LORD’S SUPPER IS ONLY FOR PRACTICING CHRISTIANS. It is an opportune time to have people embrace in love their brethren and check their hearts. But like any principle, this can be abused by overcritical legalistic, fault finders and we want to avoid that. But it is my firm belief in the scriptural teaching of the apostle Paul that people should be banned from the Lord’s Supper or asked to leave the fellowship of Christians (after a proper careful application of Matthew 18) until they are willing to repent for their sin. Then they are restored without question.  This is not referring to the uncommitted unsaved person. Paul says there is no other choice! Anyone who calls themselves a Christian and refuses to repent of open sin even after the hard work of others lovingly and patiently confronting them should be expelled from the community of believers. So there will no longer be sin in the camp and we can do our job as a Church.

 © 2014 Stephen S. Gibney

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