Can a brother be told not to participate in the meetings of an assembly?

Can you give any Scripture for the “silencing” of a brother? For what “crime” is he to be “silenced”? and who is to do it?

This is an important enquiry. I suppose the questioner does not mean literally a “crime,” for surely no one guilty of a serious moral offence against the law could be allowed to preach or teach, even if he were allowed for the time being to remain in the assembly, which could hardly ever be the case. But I suppose what is meant is some brother, against whom, perhaps, no real accusation can be made, but who has been requested not to minister the Word.

Now, of course, we cannot judge of any particular case without knowing the details. I believe in general that no one would be silenced, unless there were good reasons—some manifest lack of gift, some recognised inability to edify the saints, some habit of too lengthy and unprofitable ministry, which had wearied hearers, or some clear moral defect. Sometimes a man may insist on reading and commenting on long chapters of the Bible, or always the same chapter, as we have known in one case, or always the same disputed doctrine, which in an unruly way he persists to inflict upon the saints.

Perhaps Paul refers to some such men in Titus 1:10 as ”unruly and vain-talkers and deceivers . . . ,“ and then adds, “WHOSE MOUTHS MUST BE STOPPED.” It is not necessary to fill every line of this indictment, to deserve the form of discipline here prescribed. A man would seem to fall within it, who is known as an unprofit able talker, or as pushing some doubtful or controversial teaching. I do not think this silencing ought to be done by an individual acting on his own responsibility. It is a case where “two are better,” and they should act only as representatives of the assembly.

The phrase, “the liberty of the Spirit,” is sometimes quoted to show that the Spirit gives liberty to anyone who likes to teach, but in their context the words only refer to seeing Christ without a veil. Certainly the Spirit does not give liberty to those whom He has not qualified to speak. However, it does not always follow that the one silenced will never again be able to minister, for sometimes it may be that a young man may have been too quick to come forward into this service, and may develop a true gift later. I know of one such case, where the one silenced (and he submitted himself humbly to the ruling of his elders) became afterwards universally recognised as a true minister of the Word.

W.H.