The Right and Duty of Excommunication
Leviticus 13:46
All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone…

He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be. The right of expulsion from the Jewish camp would be founded, in the mind of Moses, on the Divine commandment (text; Numbers 5:2, etc.). That was all-sufficient for the great legislator. We may, however, "justify the ways of God to men" to our mind by the considerations:

1. That if the disease were not positively contagious, the dread of contagion would be most harmful to the community.

2. That the exceeding repulsiveness of the leper was ample reason for his being kept from the sight of men, women, and children.

3. That the most important and salutary lesson concerning sin was thereby vividly enforced, viz. that the sinner is, through his iniquity, separated from all that is purest and best. Unquestionably, with this and other clear commandments from Jehovah, it was both the right and the duty of the Hebrew commonwealth to expel the leper from the camp. Excommunication from human society is a sad and severe measure; but it is, in many cases, lawful and even obligatory. The foul and the "unclean" must be separated sometimes, even now and here, from the holy and the pure. Excommunication may be -


1. The nation has a right to transport or imprison those of its members who have committed crime, and who have shown that their presence "in the camp" is noxious and dangerous to the rest.

2. The nation is bound to exclude from town and city those who endanger its morals. The opium-seller, as such, is righteously excluded; the man who would sell poisons without restriction is disallowed; and an unlimited number of dramshops, with their terrible enticements, is (or, surely; should be) prohibited. A community has the right to say, "We will not allow any man, for the sake of gain, seriously to imperil the morals, the health, and the lives of the people; if you want to practice these things, you must go 'without the camp.'"


1. We ought not to admit to our intimacy any "unclean" human spirit. We should fence our social circles so that no man sits down to our table or our hearth to infect and poison our own minds.

2. But it is, in an especial degree, both cur right and our duty, as parents, to guard the family circle from the intrusion of "the unclean." What untold evils, what unimaginable sorrows, have befallen family life, because parents have not, with holy vigilance, saved their sons and daughters from the companionship of the corrupt! Of every "unclean" soul let the human father say, with sternest inflexibility, "Without the camp shall his habitation be."

III. THE RIGHT AND DUTY OF THE CHURCH. There can be no doubt of this.

1. It is the divinely appointed way. It was instituted by our Lord himself (Matthew 18:17, 18). It was enjoined by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 5:2, 5, 11; Titus 3:10); it was also practiced by him (1 Timothy 1:20).

2. It is the legitimate and becoming method. Any interference by a Christian Church with civil rights goes beyond the Word of the Lord, brings the Church into conflict with the secular power, and is likely to lead to confusion and trouble. Exclusion from its own fellowship is a natural and incontestable right.

3. It is sometimes the only course that is open. It is needful for the purity of the Church itself; the leaven must not injure the whole lump. It is needful also for the offender. And it is well to remember these two things in such a sad necessity: viz.

(1) that excommunication was resorted to in apostolic times with a distinct view to the benefit of the offender (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20); and

(2) that of two cases reported in Scripture, one relates the restoration of the excommunicated member (2 Corinthians 2:6-8). Let the Church make paramount the preservation of its own purity, but let it encourage, expect, and welcome penitence. - C.


Parallel Verses
KJV: All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.

WEB: All the days in which the plague is in him he shall be unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell alone. Outside of the camp shall be his dwelling.

A Picture of Sin
Top of Page
Top of Page