In turning to the fifth and sixth plagues, the pattern of Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness continues. This is extraordinary given how horrific each plague is. As we’ve noted before, it would seem that the rational response to God’s warnings would be to acknowledge that the only way of stopping this onslaught of plagues is to let the people of the LORD go to worship him. But we are not always rational creatures. Therefore, despite the terrible suffering that each plague brought upon Pharaoh and his people, his heart remained hard. Neither concern for himself nor his people were able to move him. Each time a particular plague was removed by the LORD—and we’ve noted four thus far[1]—Pharaoh returned to his default position of unbelief, of a hardened heart. This morning we’ll consider the fifth and sixth plagues.

As Exodus 9 opens, the “plague pattern” repeats itself. As we read in verse 1, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”’”:

First, as in the past, God had Moses tell Pharaoh precisely what he wanted, namely, that his people—notice that he again has identified himself as God of the Hebrews[2]—be allowed to go and worship him;

Second, also as in the past, beginning with verse 2 we see that the LORD made clear the consequences should Pharaoh refuse God’s request: “If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats.” As was the case in two previous instances in which objects worshiped as gods by the Egyptians, the Nile River and frogs, became instruments of God’s judgment, so it was with this fifth plague. As one scholar notes, “The Egyptians worshiped many animals and animal-head deities, including the bull-gods Apis and Mnevis, the cow-god Hathor and the ram-god Khnum. Thus Egyptian religion is again rebuked and ridiculed.”[3] Indeed, these animal-gods were no match for “the hand of the LORD” for in this plague, the price for refusing to allow God’s people to go and worship him was the death of all of Egypt’s livestock;

Third, a component in this plague that occurred for the first time with the fourth plague of flies,[4] was that God’s people would be spared from having to undergo it. As stated in verse 4, “But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.”

Fifth, yet again a specific time for the plague’s arrival was determined by God. As stated in verse 5, “The Lord set a time and said, ‘Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.’”

Sixth, as always, God did as he said he would, verse 6: “And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.”

Last, yet again and tragically, the plague had no effect upon Pharoah. As stated in verse 7, “Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.”

As with the third plague,[5] for the most part the sixth plague is presented without explicitly stating the “plague pattern” details we’ve just noted. However, we can assume that the prelude—in particular the command presented to Pharoah to let God’s people go to worship him followed by a warning of what would occur should he refuse—took place prior to the plague’s description. For notice that verse 12 states, in part, that Pharaoh “would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.” In other words, though not explicitly stated, Pharaoh had once again been warned by God but had refused to do as he had asked.

This sixth plague is described in verses 8–9: “Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land.’” The fulfillment of this plague of “festering boils”[6] is found in verse 10: “So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on people and animals.” Given the mention not only of people but also of animals, presumably these animals are non-livestock, that is non–farm animals, since all of the livestock—the horses, donkeys, camels, sheep and goats (verse 3)—had been destroyed by the fifth plague. Alternatively, some commentators have put forward the possibility that the previous plague was limited to livestock left outdoors. If this is the case, then the purpose for the LORD setting a time and saying that the fifth plague would arrive “tomorrow” (verse 5),[7] was so that some of the livestock of the Egyptians might be spared. Thus, “The day’s notice suggests that God provided time for God-fearing Egyptians to put their livestock in a place of shelter.” Therefore, “Not all the Egyptian livestock succumbed to this plague.”[8] Or, again, this one day notice was provided “To give those Egyptians who feared God time to bring their livestock in from the fields and out of danger.”[9] In this instance “All the livestock” in verse 6 would be understood to mean “all kinds of livestock” or all the livestock that were out in the field.[10]

Now with the plague of festering boils, we again find a mention of the magicians concerning whom verse 11 states, “The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.” As summarized by one scholar,

The defeat of the magicians was clear from the start, when Aaron’s staff-become-serpent swallowed up the serpents they produced (7:12).[11] They were able to imitate turning water to blood and producing frogs, but they could only add to, and not reverse, these plagues (7:22; 8:7).[12] When they could not imitate the production of lice [or gnats], they told Pharaoh the plagues were divine judgments, not magic (8:18, 19).[13] Finally, the magicians are struck with boils and retreat in discomfort and disgrace (9:11).[14]

Thus do we see the waning power of the magicians. But regardless, as has occurred with every other plague thus far, the end result was the same. Again, as stated in verse 12, “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”

Now we’ve noted various components comprising the “plague pattern.” But in reading through these various plagues, another theme has continued to impress itself upon me, namely, how important it is to the LORD that his people gather together to worship him. And if gathering together for public worship is important to the LORD, then it should also be important to his people.

But, one might ask, if God is everywhere; if he is ever near, doesn’t this mean that we’re able to worship him anywhere, anytime, with or without others being present? Yes, of course! For the Scriptures clearly teach that after God made this world, he continued to govern and care for every single inch of it. In fact, there’s nowhere we can go in heaven or on earth that is absent of his presence. As David declares in Psalm 139,

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.[15]

Knowing that there is nowhere we can go that God cannot should provide great comfort, encouragement, and even conviction for it means that he sees everything we do and knows everything we even think. Now we may speak at times of “wilderness” experiences of suffering when we have felt that God was nowhere to be found. However, though the suffering was no doubt real, the absence of God was not. The suffering was compounded not by God’s absence but by our inability to sense his presence. As expressed so beautifully in our opening hymn, “Holy, holy, holy! tho’ the darkness hide Thee, Tho’ the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.”[16] But though our ability to see or sense God’s presence may be faulty at times, like the sun on a rainy or cloudy day, he is nonetheless always there behind and above the storm and clouds. As David goes on to note, God who created our inmost being, who so fearfully and wonderfully made us, is worthy of our praise.[17] As already noted, God is so great that he’s able to  know and search our every thought.[18] Jesus even teaches that our heavenly Father knows our every desire and prayer even before we ask.[19] He know the hairs on our head, every sparrow that falls.[20] Therefore, knowing that God is ever near, that there is nowhere we can go where he is not; knowing that he knows and cares for us so intimately, should give us courage and strength at all times and does indeed to make it possible for us to worship him at all times.

However, we ought not conclude that we therefore have no need to gather each week as his family for corporate worship. For the Scriptures also clearly teach that an important way for us to cultivate and develop a relationship with him and each other is by gathering to learn about him—and pray to him—and confess our sins to him—and receive forgiveness for our sins from him—and express our concerns to him—and have our hears lifted by singing our praise and gratitude to him. In all of these ways, we acknowledge that he has made us for himself and each other; In all of these ways, we let him know that we seek to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength and each other as ourselves;[21] In all of these ways we embrace the truth that God calls us to be holy as he is holy;[22] that he calls us to holy relationships with him and each other. And worship of him is one of the key ways he has established for those holy relationships to take root and flourish.

Think about it. As we’ve considered each of the six plagues that the LORD warned Pharaoh about thus far, the reason for threatening Egypt with each plague has been the same: Because God desired his people to go and worship him. Thus:

He warned Pharoah that he must “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness” (Exodus 7:16b) lest he turn the Nile River into blood. But Pharaoh didn’t listen;

Then he warned Pharaoh that he must “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Exodus 8:1b) lest he send a plague of frogs on his whole country. But Pharaoh didn’t listen;

Then he sent gnats on the people and animals throughout the land with the result that even Pharaoh’s magicians rightfully acknowledged, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). But Pharaoh didn’t listen;

Then he warned Pharoah that he must “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Exodus 8:20) lest he send a plague of flies. But Pharaoh didn’t listen;

Then, as we’ve considered this morning, the LORD again warned Pharaoh that he must “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (Exodus 9:1) lest he send a terrible plague that would kill all of his livestock. But Pharaoh didn’t listen;

And the LORD caused festering boils to break out on the people and remaining animals throughout the land. But Pharaoh still didn’t listen.

It’s astonishing to pause and consider that our Maker and LORD brought all of this suffering upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt because that’s how much he desired his people to go and worship him; that the primary reason for this severe judgment from God was because Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people of the LORD go and worship him. This should sound a warning to governments like China in our own day that forbid people from gathering to worship Jesus Christ, their Savior and LORD.

But it isn’t only governments that should take heed. Again, we often hear people say things to the effect of, “Well, I don’t need to go to church. I worship God in my own way.” Now make no mistake, worshiping God “in our own way” can be a wonderful thing! Would that all of God’s people would acknowledge his goodness and greatness and holiness and compassion as we shop at Market Basket—or go to the bank—or clean our homes—or care for our families—or cook—or do laundry—or exercise—or work—or walk our dogs—or play with our children—or gather with friends and family—or wake in the middle of the night. As we’ve noted, because there is nowhere we can go that God is not also present, we can worship him anywhere, anytime. At any time we can—and should—express our awe and adoration and devotion to him.

But this type of worship–as–we–go should be in addition to, not in place of, the corporate worship of our dear and precious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each week. As the author of the Book of Hebrews so eloquently exhorts Christ’s Church, “23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”[23] This admonition is one that is supported in a different manner by Jesus himself. Corporate worship is so important that the punishment Jesus prescribes for those who break fellowship with God and his people by not repenting from their sin is, ultimately, to keep them from the enormous privilege, responsibility, and joy of gathering to worship the LORD with his people each week.

For although God is a holy God and apart from him all are sinners, in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, he has covered those who believe in him with his righteousness[24] in such a manner that Christians, those who have placed their faith and trust in him, are now considered to be saints or “holy ones” in his eyes.[25] But if any saint, if any holy person sins, fellowship with God and other believers is broken for sin is “a transgression against divine law.” It’s anything that goes against God’s teaching as this has been disclosed in his Holy Old and New Testament Scriptures. Therefore, if a believer sins, in order for fellowship with God and other believers to be restored, that sin needs to be addressed. Ideally, when we sin, we will sense and respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and repent by turning away from that sin as we ask and receive God’s forgiveness. This is why part of our weekly corporate worship includes a time of “Asking for God’s Help and Confessing Our Sin” for Scripture teaches that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[26]

However, if we don’t heed the Holy Spirit’s prompting, then our family in Christ is called upon to step in to help us. This is what is meant by church discipline. The dictionary definition of such discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.”[27] In our New Testament passage from Matthew 18, Jesus provides instruction for such training, correction, and punishment. Since believers are converted from being old creatures marred by the Fall to new creatures[28] indwelled by Christ’s Holy Spirit,[29]  they need to be taught what holy behavior, what behavior that is characterized by love for God and others, looks like in practice. But should a believer choose to behave in unloving ways, in sinful ways, in ways that are harmful to themselves and others, then it’s the responsibility of another believer to gently confront them in love.

Jesus addressed the painful situation of what believers should do if a brother or sister, that is, another follower of Jesus, commits such a fellowship-breaking sin. As stated in verse 15, he taught that “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” Ideally, the result of such confrontation will be positive or, as stated in the second half of verse 15, “If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Winning a brother or sister over is the best of all outcomes as the one who has sinned and had their sin privately pointed out to them, acknowledges their sin, turns away from it, and thereby has their relationship with God and others restored. For, as noted by one commentator, “The goal [of church discipline] is to bring about repentance while keeping general public awareness of the sin to a minimum.”[30] This is what our holy relationships with one another have the power to do: holy relationships have the power to nurture and restore our relationship with God and one another.

However, this positive outcome doesn’t always occur. If a person doesn’t repent of their sin, a more forceful approach needs to be taken. As Jesus went on to teach, verse 16, “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” Jesus, good rabbi that he is, grounded his teaching in the Old Testament law that God gave Moses, specifically, Deuteronomy 19:15.[31] And once again, truth-speaking in love should characterize this meeting between the one who has sinned and their one or two brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, once again, the desired outcome is that the person involved in said sin will see the error of their ways, repent, and thereby have their fellowship with God and other believers restored.

However, “If they still refuse to listen,” verse 17, Jesus taught that the next step was, “tell it to the church.” Since believers are one body in Christ,[32] the hope is that the individual involved will repent before Christ’s Church; that they will confess and turn away from their sin and, again, return to fellowship with God and other believers rather than remain in their sin. But Jesus who was tempted as we are yet without sin,[33] knew full well how strong a hold sin can have upon our lives. So he noted the final step that needs to be taken if, even at this point, a person involved in sin refuses to repent. As stated at the end of verse 17, “and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” To be treated as “a pagan or a tax collector” is a way of saying that an individual is no longer welcome to worship with his or her family in Christ.[34] As one scholar states, “Such individuals are to be cut off from fellowship and suspended from full social relations with other Christians.”[35] This severe punishment, as in previous steps, is taken in order that this brother or sister might be won over from their sin; that they will be so horrified at the thought of not being able to gather to worship God with their church family each week, that they’ll be enabled to see and turn away from their sin.

But here’s the tragedy: Although it’s essential for all followers of Jesus Christ ever to learn and obey his teaching, in the case of church discipline, I don’t know how effective it would be today. For, as already noted, there are people who self-identify as Christians, who self-identify as followers of Jesus, who don’t value corporate worship with God. We can joke about the “twice-a-year” Christians, that is, believers who primarily make the corporate worship of God a priority on Christmas and Easter, but this is a joke that breaks the heart of our heavenly Father. For our gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desires us to worship him as a family every Sunday; he desires us to worship him as a family fifty-two weeks of every year.

Why do I say this? I say this because of everything we’ve been considering this morning:

In the time of Moses, God desired so strongly for his people to be allowed to go and worship him that he was willing to shower down severe plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians each time Pharaoh refused to let them go worship. God sought to remove Pharoah, this barrier to corporate worship from his people, by means of miraculous, horrific plagues;

In Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, he considered corporate worship to be so vital to the life a believer, that the punishment for someone who was involved in sin and refused to repent of their sin after being approached by a brother or sister; and by two or three brothers or sisters; and by their entire local church family, was to cut them off from corporate worship. This confrontation by a loving church family is a means God seeks to use to remove our sin, the barrier to corporate worship. For surely the very act of cutting someone off from corporate worship, from relationship with our holy God and one another, should lead that individual to repent. Yet because many believers view weekly worship as an activity that they can take or leave—as something akin to going to a movie or watching a sports game or reading the paper or relaxing with family and friends—such cutting off from corporate worship may not be effective in our day.

Dear sisters and brothers, let us ever remember that we have been created to be holy, to be and live without sin, even as God is holy and wholly without sin. Let us remember that our corporate worship is a foundational means God has established for developing holy relationships with him and one another:

As we call one another to worship each week, as a family we invoke and invite his presence and are reminded that we belong not only to him but to one another as well;

As we sing songs and hymns, we’re able together to join and share our love and praise for our dear Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

As we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we’re reminded of our deep roots and foundation, of the essence of our faith in our awesome Triune God;

As we present our tithes and offerings, we’re reminded that all that we are and all that we have is on loan to us and we have the great privilege of returning to our Lord a portion of what he’s so generously given us in order that his work here on earth might continue;

As together we pray, we bring our sins—and our needs—and our loved ones—and our anxieties before our dear heavenly Father knowing that he hears and cares for us;[36]

As we read from the Old and New Testament Scriptures he’s revealed and left us, his Holy Spirit works through that Word to encourage and convict and draw us nearer to him;

As we receive the proclamation and exposition of that Word, we learn more about how wonderful our Maker, Savior, and LORD is and of how he would like us to live and love him and each other better;

As we end each time of worship, we bless one another, commending and entrusting one another into his care for the remainder of that week.

For corporate worship reminds us of our identity in Christ;[37] it reminds us that we were created to live our lives with and for him; that we were created to live our lives not alone but in and with a family of believers; that we were created to be holy as he is holy. So let us live.

Now let us pray.

Benediction: 1 Peter 1:13–15: 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

 

[1] The first plague was the Nile River turning into blood (Exodus 7:14–24); the second plague was the multiplication of frogs (Exodus 8:1–15); the third plague was turning the multiplication of gnats (Exodus 8:16–19); the fourth plague was the swarm of flies (Exodus 8:20–32).

[2] See also Exodus 3:18: “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’” Exodus 7:16: Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened.

[3] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Exodus 9:3.

[4] Exodus 8:22–23: 22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’”

[5] The Plague of Gnats, Exodus 8:16–19: 16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.

[6] As the LORD was able to cause Moses’ hand to become leprous as a sign of his power over all things, so was he able to do with the festering boils. Exodus 4:6–7: 6 Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.

7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

[7] Exodus 9:5: The Lord set a time and said, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.”

[8] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 9:5.

[9] Zondervan NIV Study Bible on Exodus 9:5.

[10] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 9:6. The Zondervan NIV Study Bible on the same verse similarly states that “All the livestock of the Egyptians died” means “all that were left out in the fields. Protected livestock remained alive.”

[11] Exodus  7:12: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

[12] Exodus 7:22: “But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.” See also Exodus 7:24: And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.; Exodus 8:7: “But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” See Exodus 8:8: Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”

[13] Exodus 8:18–19a: 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.

Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”

[14] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 9:11: The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.

[15] Psalm 139:7–12.

[16] Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty, verse 3.

[17] Psalm 139:13–14: 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

[18] Psalm 139:23–24: 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

[19] Matthew 6:8: Do not be like [babbling pagans], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

[20] Matthew 10:29–31: 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.; Luke 12:6–7: 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

[21] Matthew 22:34–40:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” and Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

[22] Exodus 19:5–6:Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”; 1 Peter 1:16: 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” [quoting Leviticus 11:44–45: 44 I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. 45 I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.; Leviticus 19:2: Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.]; 1 Thessalonians 4:7: For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

[23] Hebrews 10:23–25. Emphasis added.

[24] Romans 3:22–24: 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.; 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

[25] The word for “holy” in the Greek (ἅγιος, -ία, -ιον) is an adjective that is being used as a noun (holy person/people = saint(s)). Various translations reflect this difference, e.g., 1 Thessalonians 3:13: “so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (RSV); May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones (NIV). Greek “τῶν ἁγίων.”

[26] 1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

[27] As the Westminster Confession (30.3) states, “Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Chris, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof [the sacraments] to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.” (p. 1391, Reformation Study Bible).

[28] Colossians 3:9–10: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.; Ephesians 4:22–24: 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

[29] 2 Timothy 1:14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.; Galatians 4:6: Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

[30] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Matthew 18:15.

[31] Deuteronomy 19:15: One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

[32] Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.; Romans 12:5: so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.; Ephesians 4:3–6: Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.; John 17:20–21: 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

[33] Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

[34] In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul states the believer in Christ involved in an incestuous relationship should be handed “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (verse 5). Similarly in 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul says of Hymenaeus and Alexander who have made “shipwreck” of their faith that he has “handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”

[35] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Matthew 18:17.

[36] 1 Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

[37] 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; The old has gone, the new is here!