This is not an easy question to answer. I’m assuming that the minister, who is a man in a position of spiritual leadership, has repented. If he hasn’t repented then he not only would be unfit to lead other believers, but he would be the subject of church discipline and should be put out of fellowship. In 1st Corinthians 5:11 the Apostle Paul wrote this concerning one who was guilty of adultery, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral…not even to eat with such a person” (NKJV). If he has truly repented and his repentance has been manifested to all, we are to forgive him. After the brother in Corinth repented of his adultery, Paul wrote these words to the saints in 2nd Corinthians 2:6-7, “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.” The Lord Jesus also exhorts us to forgive one who has repented: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

We have just looked at verses which speak of “forgiving a brother” and “restoring them back into fellowship,” but this still falls short of “restoring them back to a position of spiritual leadership.” I can’t think of any case in Scripture where a local church is given the responsibility to do this. I trust we are all familiar with the grievous fall of the Apostle Peter when he denied the Lord three times. Though he truly repented (with tears—see Mark 14:72), Peter did indeed “step down from the ministry” and returned to his life as a fisherman. But in this case, the Lord saw fit to restore Peter to public service in front of all the other apostles. We read of this in John 20:15-17 where the Lord commissioned Peter with these words: “Feed My lambs…Tend My sheep…Feed My sheep.” The other apostles would not have dared to restore Peter to the ministry; though we can be sure they had forgiven their brother and enjoyed fellowship with him. Peter went on to serve the Lord faithfully until, at an old age, he was called upon to lay down his life for Christ.

Perhaps the example of Peter is the exception and not the rule. In saying this I’m thinking of what Paul said on this subject in 1st Corinthians 9. After speaking of how we must serve the Lord faithfully and with a disciplined life in order to please the Lord and to earn a reward, he ended on this note in verse 27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Some have mistakenly taught that Paul used the word “disqualified” to teach that if one doesn’t discipline their body (which would certainly include keeping it morally pure) they would be “disqualified from heaven”; in other words, they would lose their salvation. We know that cannot be, for just as salvation is not earned by what we do, it is also not lost by what we do. The context in this whole chapter is speaking of “service,” not “salvation,” and thus Paul is speaking of the very real possibility of a servant of Christ being “disqualified from service.” It is most solemn to read of some who have served the Lord for many years, only to fall into a sin of immorality (or some other sin) and as a result they lose their reputation and their position of leadership and service (even though they had repented). And as we have seen, unless the Lord restores them to the place of service they once occupied and manifests it in a way that  will convince others, the church does not have the right to restore him, nor does the man himself have the right to assume his former position of public service.  (213.5)  (DO)