New Testament evangelists make it easy to get into the church “that very hour,” but they also make it mean something to stay in. We, in contrast, make it hard to get in, but once in the body a member usually is secure for life regardless of his beliefs or lifestyle. It is easier to remain a member of the average church today than it is to continue one’s membership in a lodge! If we exercised biblical care and discipline, we would have little or no difficulty in adopting and following the biblical pattern.
Prudence must be exercised in the proceeding, lest we do more hurt than good…we should deal humbly even when we deal sharply.
The principal use of this public discipline is not for the offender himself, but for the Church. It exceedingly tends to deter others from the like crimes, and so to keep the congregation and their worship pure. Seneca could say, “He who excuses present evils transmits them to posterity.” And elsewhere, “He who spares the guilty harms the good.”
I confess, if I had my will, that man should be ejected as a negligent pastor, that will not rule his people by discipline, as well as he is ejected as a negligent preacher that will not preach; for ruling I am sure is as essential a part of the pastor’s office as preaching.
This is quite essential for maintaining the purity of doctrine and for guarding the holiness of the sacraments. Churches that are lax in discipline are bound to discover sooner or later within their circle an eclipse of the light of the truth and an abuse of that which is holy. Hence a Church that would remain true to her ideal in the measure in which this is possible on earth, must be diligent and conscientious in the exercise of Christian discipline. The Word of God insists on proper discipline in the Church of Christ (Mt. 18:18; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 14:33, 40; Rev. 2:14, 15, 20).
There are three things that [necessitate] church discipline: 1. Major moral issues, 2. Major doctrinal issues and 3. Major lawlessness characterized by divisiveness.
The judgment of the Church is the instrument of God’s love, and the moment it is accepted in the sinful soul it begins to work as a redemptive force.
Greg Wills has written that, to many Christians in the past, “A church without discipline would hardly have counted as a church.” John Dagg wrote that, “When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” If we can’t say what something is not, we can’t very well say what it is.
Biblical church discipline is simple obedience to God and a simple confession that we need help. We cannot live the Christian life alone. Our purpose in church discipline is positive for the individual disciplined, for other Christians as they see the real danger of sin, for the health of the church as a whole, and for the corporate witness of the church to those outside. Most of all, our holiness is to reflect the holiness of God. It should mean something to be a member of the church, not for our pride’s sake but for God’s name’s sake. Biblical church discipline is a mark of a healthy church.
Church discipline is a powerful tool in evangelism. People notice when our lives are different, especially when there’s a whole community of people whose lives are different- not people whose lives are perfect, but whose lives are marked by genuinely trying to love God and love one another. When churches are seen as conforming to the world, it makes our evangelistic task all the more difficult. As Nigel Lee of English InterVarsity once said, we become so like the unbelievers they have no questions they want to ask us. May we so live that people are made constructively curious.
Certainly, in Matthew 7:1, Jesus did forbid judging in one sense… But for now, note that if you read through that same gospel of Matthew, you’ll find that Jesus also clearly called us to rebuke others for sin, even rebuking them publicly if need be (Matt. 18:15-17; cf. Luke 17:3). Whatever Jesus meant by not judging in Matthew 7, He didn’t mean to rule out the kind of judging He mandated in Matthew 18… If you think about it, it is not really surprising that we as a church should be instructed to judge. After all, if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how a Christian should live?
I reviewed some of the church growth material coming from our denominational headquarters. One publication said that, in order to get our churches growing again, we should “open the front doors and close the back doors”… What we actually need to do is to close the front door and open the back door! If we really want to see our churches grow, we need to make it harder to join and we need to be better about excluding people. We need to be able to show that there is a distinction between the church and the world – that it means something to be a Christian. If someone who claims to be a Christian refuses to live as a Christian should live, we need to follow what Paul said and, for the glory of God and for that person’s own good, we need to exclude him or her form membership in the church.
Loving engagement in each other’s spiritual lives must be normalized in a positive and formative way before corrective discipline can be sustained. Without this context of deeply interpenetrating spiritual relationships, corrective discipline will be like walking up to a child whom you see only once a month and spanking him in the street. It will likely be perceived as harsh, if not abusive, rather than the tough but responsible outworking of loving concern for another’s spiritual good.
Members shall be liable to the discipline of the church for the following causes: For any outward violations of the moral law. For pursuing any course which may, in the judgment of the church, be disreputable to it as a body. For absenting themselves habitually without good reasons, from the church at the seasons set apart for public worship. For holding and advocating doctrines opposed to those set forth in (the statement of faith). For neglecting or refusing to contribute toward defraying the expenses of the church according to their several abilities. For treating the acts and doings of the church contemptuously, or pursuing such a course as is calculated to produce discord. For divulging to persons not interested, what is done in the meetings of the church. For pursuing any course of conduct unbecoming good citizens and professing Christians.
Church discipline is one of the primary means God uses to correct and restore His children when they fall into sin. It is also one way in which He maintains the unity, purity, integrity, and reputation of the church. Through private or public instruction, warning, counsel, or rebuke, and in some cases even social avoidance or expulsion from membership, God corrects his disobedient children or removes those who are not truly His. Christ Himself declared the church to be heaven’s instrument in carrying out this difficult but necessary function (Matthew 18:15-20).
We should not aggressively hunt for offenses or opportunities to enact discipline (Matthew 13:28-30), but we must be vigilant, ready to address sinful behavior when it becomes known.
There is admittedly a certain tension between the different principles involved in church discipline. On the one hand there is the gentleness of Galatians 6:1, on the other, the severity of Titus 1:13. While we may never be judgmental in our attitudes (Matthew 7:1), we must nevertheless judge among ourselves (1 Corinthians 5:12). Just as we are called to love in a manner that is willing to overlook certain sins (1 Peter 4:8), we must also “exhort one another daily” so that none will be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). The tension is seen most clearly in that we are to love our brother as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35), yet remain willing to consider him an unbeliever and cast him away if he continues in sin (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11). We might be tempted to use the word “balance” in describing our desire to manage this tension. But as it is all-too-commonly understood, “balance” means compromise – easing away from convictions and obligations in order not to appear unbalanced or overly zealous. The problem with this understanding is that Scripture never tells Christians to be “balanced” people in this way. On the contrary, we are told to be zealous and fervent, both in our love for one another (Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8), and in our pursuit of holiness and purity (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 12:14-17).
To be part of the community of faith entails a responsibility to hold each other accountable to Christ as judge, under whom and in whose name we care called to a growing obedience and to an open admission of our faults. Such a responsibility will also entail punishing those who continual and flagrant sins cast scorn on Christ’s call and character as the Lord of the church.
The way to preserve the peace of the church is to preserve the purity of it.
Discipline which is so inflexible as to leave no place for repentance and reconciliation has ceased to be truly Christian; for it is no less a scandal to cut off the penitent sinner from all hope of re-entry into the comfort and security of the fellowship of the redeemed community than it is to permit flagrant wickedness to continue unpunished in the Body of Christ.
Though church discipline is a very difficult area of doctrine and one hard to practice, it nevertheless rests upon the divine authority of Scripture and is vital to the purity, power, progress, and purpose of the church. The responsibility and necessity for discipline is not an option for the church if it obeys the Word of God, but a church must be equally concerned that Scripture is carefully followed in the practice of church discipline.
Discipline in the church is not punishment. It is discipline and discipline is designed to train and restore.
The key concerns that guide us (in church discipline) are: the holy character of God, the testimony of the flock, the effect upon the unity and purity of the flock, and the edification and restoration of the individual.
We have numerous passages of Scripture which both command and give us God’s directives on the how, why, when, and where of church discipline. Again, a failure to exercise this responsibility demonstrates a lack of obedience and belief in the authority of the Bible.
Sin in the life of the church grieves the person of the Holy Spirit and quenches His power. If sin remains unchecked by the loving application of church discipline in a body of believers, the Holy Spirit must abandon such a church to its own carnal resources. The unavoidable result will be the loss of the Lord’s blessing until the sin is dealt with. The defeat of Israel because of the sin of Achan in Joshua 7 illustrates the principle.
The Purposes of Church Discipline:
1. To bring glory to God and enhance the testimony of the flock.
2. To restore, heal, and build up sinning believers (Matt. 18:15; 2 Thes. 3:14-15; Heb. 12:10-13; Gal. 6:1-2; Jam. 5:20).
3. To produce a healthy faith, one sound in doctrine (Tit. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:19-20).
4. To win a soul to Christ, if the sinning person is only a professing Christian (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
5. To silence false teachers and their influence in the church (Tit. 1:10-11).
6. To set an example for the rest of the body and promote godly fear (1 Tim. 5:20).
7. To protect the church against the destructive consequences that occur when churches fail to carry out church discipline.
Many people fail to make a clear distinction between punishment and discipline, and there is a very significant difference between these two concepts. Punishment is designed to execute retribution for a wrong done. Discipline, on the other hand, is to encourage the restoration of the one involved in the wrongdoing. Punishment is designed primarily to avenge a wrong and assert justice. Discipline is designed primarily as a corrective for the one who has failed to live according to the standards of the church and/or society.
Church discipline has at least five purposes. First, discipline aims to expose. Sin, like cancer, loves to hide. Discipline exposes the cancer so that it might be cut out quickly (see 1 Cor. 5:2). Second, discipline aims to warn. A church does not enact God’s judgment through discipline. Rather, it stages a small play that pictures the great judgment to come (1 Cor. 5:5). Third, it aims to save. Churches pursue discipline when they see a member taking the path toward death, and none of their pleading and arm waving causes the person to turn around. It’s the device of last resort (1 Cor. 5:5). Fourth, discipline aims to protect. Just as cancer spreads from one cell to another, so sin quickly spreads from one person to another (1 Cor. 5:6). Fifth, it aims to present a good witness for Jesus. Church discipline, strange to say, is actually good for non-Christians, because it helps to preserve the attractive distinctiveness of God’s people (see 1 Cor. 5:1).
Formal church discipline from the entire congregation is reserved for sins of such significance that the church no longer feels able to affirm a person’s profession of faith. The person continues to call himself or herself a Christian and a Jesus representative, but his or her words are no longer believable because of the nature of the sin… I believe we can say that formal church discipline is required in cases of outward, serious, and unrepentant sin.
The underlying purpose in every act of discipline, of course, must be love: love for the individual, love for the church, love for the watching world, love for Christ. God, after all, “disciplines the one He loves”; and “He chastens everyone He accepts as His son” (Heb. 12:6). By abstaining from discipline, we claim that we love better than God.
Removing a person from church membership is what a church must do when the reverberating of God’s Word appears to have grown utterly silent in someone’s heart. Given a choice between obedience to God’s Word and a particular sin, the individual chooses the sin. And he shows no sign of wanting to do otherwise. It’s not any sin, of course. It’s an unrepentant sin. It’s a serious sin. And it’s a sin that can be seen with the eyes or heard with the ears. The Lord has not given us the ability to judge the heart, so a church should not discipline for suspected sins of the heart, like pride or greed. We can only assess by external fruit (Matt. 3:8; 7:17-20). But based on that external fruit, discipline must happen when a person’s profession of faith in God’s gospel Word no longer appears credible.
Churches should practice discipline for love’s sake: love for the sinner, love for weaker sheep who can be led astray, love for non-Christian neighbors who need to see a holy Christian witness, and love for Christ and His reputation.
There is no purpose in having a basis or a confession of faith unless it is applied. So we must assert the element of discipline as being essential to the true life of the church. And what calls itself a church which does not believe in discipline, and does not use it and apply it, is therefore not a true church.
Unless the public sin of a believer is dealt with publicly, people will think the church does not take sin seriously and therefore gives tacit approval of it. A church that does not discipline sinning members (including the most prominent members) loses its credibility, because it does not take seriously its own doctrines and standards. A child who is not disciplined when he does wrong soon concludes that his parent’s standards are not really very important, because they are not enforced.
[Nothing] guarantees biblical success like church discipline. You read that correctly – when it comes to growing a godly, biblical church, purity must be the first priority.
[Church discipline is] vital to the spiritual health and the testimony of the church. Ignoring church discipline is the most visible and disastrous failure of the church in our time, because it conveys to the world that we’re not really serious about sin.
Discipline is difficult, painful, and often heartrending. It is not that we should not love the offenders, but that we should love Christ, His church, and His Word even more. Our love to the offenders is not to be sentimental tolerance but correcting love (cf. Pro. 27:6).
No church is healthy enough to resist contamination from persistent sin in its midst, any more than the healthiest and most nutritious bushel of apples can withstand contamination from even a single bad one. The only solution in both cases is separation.
Discipline is not inconsistent with love. It is lack of discipline, in fact, that is inconsistent with love. “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). The Lord disciplines His children because He loves them, and we will discipline our brothers and sisters in the Lord if we truly love Him and truly love them.
Discipline sometimes must be severe because the consequences of not disciplining are much worse. Sin is a spiritual malignancy and it will not long stay isolated. Unless removed it will spread its infection until the whole fellowship of believers is diseased.
Some churches have gotten so far away from the biblical pattern that they view church discipline as an unloving, judgmental, and divisive practice. That couldn’t be further from the truth – there’s nothing more loving you can do for a fellow believer in sin than to call him or her back to repentance and purity. For the sake of the individual and the rest of the church, you want to see fallen church members restored to a right relationship with Christ.
The results of ignoring church discipline are catastrophic. Gross public sin is overlooked, ignored, and tolerated. The fellowship of believers deteriorates to the point where it’s indistinguishable from the unbelieving world. God’s people forfeit the credibility of their testimony. And self-deceived sinners happily remain in the local church, unaware of their need for true repentance and faith.
Excommunication…means to be delivered over to Satan (1 Tim. 1:18). How is this so? It’s so because being outside the church is being in Satan’s domain. The Bible indicates that Satan is the “god of this world,” whereas the church is the expression of God’s kingdom on earth and is ruled by Christ, not Satan. Those who are in the world (i.e., outside of Christ) are in Satan’s domain and under his authority. Those who are in the church are under Christ’s authority (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; I John 5:19). Consequently, because Christ reigns supremely in the local church, it’s a dangerous thing for a believer not to be identified with one. When we function on our own, outside the church, we’re asking to be knocked around by Satan.
Though it may seem a completely unloving thing to put someone out of the fellowship of the church, Jesus commanded us to do this when someone refuses to repent of his or her sin… In reality, since Jesus commanded it, it would be unloving not to do it.
Church discipline is not a “witch hunt,” nor a way to be vindictive, nor even a means to justify rumors in the church. Rather, it is an orderly and honorable way to deal with alleged or well known patterns of sin. It is to be practiced with gentleness (Gal. 6:1), humility (2 Tim. 2:25), and a view towards restoration (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1).
The major purposes of church discipline are:
1. To deal with sin in the church before Christ has to step in and deal with it personally (Rev. 2-3).
2. To restore offending believers to a place of unhindered fellowship (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1).
3. To warn and deter others from sin (1 Tim. 5:20).
4. To prevent desecrating the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:27-32).
5. To purify the church (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
6. To glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).
We read not that Christ ever exercised force but once, and that was to drive profane ones out of His Temple, and not to force them in.
Church discipline is neither popular nor a common practice in the church, and this is to be regretted. Its absence indicates that people have lost sight of the love and tenderness that is always to be behind it and of its necessity if those who err are to be restored (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg).
[Church] discipline has three primary purposes. The first is to restore fallen Christians to usefulness to God and fellowship with His church (see Matt. 18:12-14; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; 7:8-10; Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20). The second is to guard and preserve the honor of God (see Rom. 2:24; 1 Cor. 10:31). And the third purpose is to protect the purity of the church (see Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:6; 1 Tim. 5:19-20) (Wayne Grudem and Dennis Rainey).
The desired result of church discipline is always repentance and the restoration of the offender. Our private and public disciplinary measures should always be undertaken in a spirit of love, gentleness, and humility as we seek to bring about this positive end (Galatians 6:1-2). When restoration does not occur and expulsion becomes necessary, we are glad to see the purity of Christ and the church upheld, but we should be grieved, individually and corporately, that someone we loved as an apparent brother or sister in Christ is now understood to be an unbeliever (Jim Elliff and Daryl Wingerd).
It is neither obedient to Christ, nor in the church’s best interest, to permit an expelled person to attend the meetings of the church so that he can be exposed to biblical preaching. He was expelled because he has already heard, and rejected, the biblical message of repentance. The determination to exclude such a person from all church functions is primarily based on the command for Christians not to keep company with those who are under the discipline of expulsion (1 Corinthians 5:11), which in turn is based on the principle that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). Leaven (sinful influence) can only be prevented from spreading throughout the whole lump of dough (the church) when the two are not allowed to come into contact with each other. It cannot be right, therefore, to give a person who is openly unrepentant the opportunity to exert an immoral and/or divisive influence on the other members of a local church (Jim Elliff and Daryl Wingerd).
No church has a choice about obeying Christ, therefore our church must practice church discipline. But there is also beauty and value in disciplinary action that we may not immediately see. It is beautiful because it is about love. Our discipline toward a professing Christian in sin may be the most loving act he has ever experienced. However uninviting or difficult discipline might be, and however severely we must act, God has made church discipline valuable because it will either produce a holier life or a holier church, or both, when carried out obediently and harmoniously (Jim Elliff and Daryl Wingerd).
The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction.
The ultimate form of church discipline (excommunication) is never a simple response to past sin. It is always a response to sin that a person continues to affirm or practice. No past sin that is renounced, confessed and forsaken is a ground of church discipline.
Approaching a disciplinary situation, the leader must remember five guidelines:
1. First conduct a thorough and impartial inquiry.
2. Then consider the overall benefit to the work and to the individual.
3. Do all in the spirit of love and in the most considerate manner.
4. Always keep the spiritual restoration of the offender in view.
5. Pray it through.
What is church discipline? In the narrowest sense, it is the act of excluding someone who professes to be a Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper for serious unrepentant sin – sin they refuse to let go of. More broadly, church discipline is the act of excluding an individual who carelessly brings disrepute onto the gospel and shows no commitment to doing otherwise.
Sin in the church, left unaddressed, hurts our evangelism, leaves the proud unchecked, confuses young believers, hardens the unrepentant, and, worst of all, brings shame on the name of Christ.
It’s clearly foolish to say discipline is unloving. And it’s clearly foolish to say because a church practices church disciple as commanded that they know nothing about forgiveness.
Reasons why church discipline is ignored or neglected? 1. Ignorance of biblical teaching on the subject (many believe that it is infrequently mentioned in Scripture and therefore unimportant; others are ignorant of the purpose of discipline and see it only as destroying the person). 2. Calloused, insensitivity toward sin (unsanctified mercy). 2. The spirit of individualism (“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Discipline is costly because my brother’s/sister’s business now becomes mine). 3. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (misunderstanding and misapplication of Mt. 7:1-5). 4. Fear of rejection (i.e., fear of being told by the offending party: “Mind your own business. You have no authority to tell me what I can and can’t do”). 5. Fear of reprisal (lawsuits). 6. Dislike of confrontation (talking directly about personal sin with an offender is difficult; it makes us feel uneasy and uncomfortable; why rock the boat?). 7. Fear of driving the person away (especially if the offending person is a major financial contributor to the church). 8. Fear of church splits. 9. Preference for avoiding problems (just ignore it long enough and it will go away; time heals all). 10. False concept of discipline because of observed abuses (discipline is associated in the minds of many with heresy hunts, intolerance, oppression, harshness, mean-spiritedness, self-righteousness, legalism, etc.). 11. Belief that preaching alone will be a sufficient remedy. 12. Fear of being labeled a cult. 13. Fear of change (the power of tradition: “We’ve never done it before and we’ve done o.k. Why risk messing things up now?”).
Why is discipline necessary? 1. To maintain (as far as possible) the purity of the church (1 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 5:25-27). 2. Because Scripture requires it (Mt. 18; 1 Cor. 5; etc.). 3. In order to maintain a proper witness to the world; the church corporately, as with the elder individually, is “to have a good reputation with those outside the church” (1 Tim. 3:7). 4. To facilitate growth and to preserve unity in the body (Eph. 4:1-16). 5. To expose unbelievers (1 John 2:19). 6. To restore the erring brother/sister to obedience and fellowship (1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:6,7,10; Gal. 6:1; 2 Thes. 3:14-15). 7. To deter others (1 Tim. 5:20). 8. To avert corporate discipline (Rev. 2:14-25). 9. Because sin is rarely if ever an individual issue: it almost always has corporate ramifications (2 Cor. 2:5); the whole of the body (or at least a large segment of it) is adversely affected by the misdeeds of one member. 10. Evidently Paul believed that the willingness to embrace the task of discipline was a mark of maturity in a church’s corporate life (2 Cor. 2:9).
In what instances or for what sins should [church discipline] be exercised? 1. Unrepentant moral evil (1 Cor. 5). 2. Divisiveness and serious doctrinal error (Rom. 16:17-18; Titus 3:9-10). 3. General offenses (such that are not included under the above two categories; see Gal. 6:1; 2 Thess. 3:6-15).
What procedural steps are to be taken? Matthew 18:15-17 recommends the following steps: First, private rebuke (Mt. 18:15) – do it gently, in love, out of compassion, seeking to encourage; the purpose for private rebuke is to resolve the problem without fueling unnecessary gossip. Second, if private rebuke is unsuccessful, plural rebuke (Mt. 18:16; see also Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Num. 35:30) – who are these others? church leaders? people who know the person? people who know of the sin? Third, if plural rebuke is unsuccessful, public rebuke (Mt. 18:17). Fourth, if public rebuke is unsuccessful, “excommunication” (Mt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:11; Titus 3:10; possibly 2 Thes. 3:14). Fifth, if repentance occurs, restoration to fellowship and reaffirmation of love (2 Cor. 2:6-8; 2 Thes. 3:14-15; Gal. 6:1). Sixth, verses 18-20 affirm that whatever decision is made in the matter, whether the offending person is “bound” or “loosed”, reflects the will of God in heaven. The promise “is that God will provide wisdom, guidance, and power for decision-making to the church that is united in its powers regarding the matters of church discipline” (Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline, 76). Thus, the verdict of heaven, so to speak, is consonant with that of the church, before whom the matter was adjudicated.
By whom is discipline to be administered? The elders of the church (Acts 20:28ff.; 1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 3:17)and…the congregation (Gal. 6:1; 2 Cor. 2:6).
Who is subject to church discipline? Any member of the body of Christ [and] even elders, but with special requirements (1 Tim. 5:19-20).
Love is not just happy smiles or pleasant words. A critical test of genuine love is whether we are willing to confront and discipline those we care for. Nothing is more difficult than disciplining a brother or sister in Christ who is trapped in sin. It is always agonizing work – messy, complicated, often unsuccessful, emotionally exhausting, and potentially divisive. This is why most church leaders avoid discipline at all costs. But that is not love. It is lack of courage and disobedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself laid down instructions for the discipline of an unrepentant believer (Matt. 18:17-18).
This is in no way to imply that love ignores or condones sin. Love covers a multitude of sins, not all sins. At times, love requires exposure and discipline of sin for the welfare of an individual as well as the church. Love knows when to cover and when to expose for the purpose of redemption and restoration.
When church discipline is being carried out properly there are several additional attendant responsibilities:
1. Confidentiality. At every step the matter is to be kept confidential at that level. For example, in step two the only parties who are to know about the matter are the individuals bringing the charge and the witnesses. This is vital. Violating this principle can cause great damage.
2. The sin being confronted must clearly be a sin, not some vague complaint or personal preference. There must be a clear violation of a biblical command or principle.
3. One must always approach a brother who is in sin with true humility and love (Galatians 6:1-5). To approach one with a spirit of pride is both unbiblical and counter-productive.
4. The church must be consistent and show no partiality in carrying out church discipline. Each member must be treated equally with complete fidelity to the Word of God.
5. Earnest prayer should attend every step. God is the one who grants repentance and He must be approached regularly.
6. Disclosing lurid details of sins is not helpful and is often very destructive to both the charged brother and the church body. Great care should be taken in the public disclosure of such matters.
7. The entire church is to be involved in the final steps, the urging of repentance and if there is no repentance, the actual discipline process. It does no good for the church to finally withdraw fellowship from the person if many of the individual members continue to fellowship with him as if nothing had occurred.
8. Forgiveness should be immediate when the brother repents. Full restoration should take place when the matter has been cleared up. If the discipline process has been public, the forgiveness and restoration must also be a public matter. The whole church can then express the wonderful joy of seeing the process work and a brother restored. (In a case where church leaders have fallen, restoration to an office may take some time for trust in them to be restored. In some situations, a leader may never be placed back into a position of leadership).
9. Church discipline is very seriously frowned upon and often criticized or made fun of, not only by the public but also by a number of evangelical churches. Yet, it is Christ’s command to His church. Our allegiance should be to the Sovereign One over our church body – Christ. We must be zealous to carry out His commands rather than fearing criticism by those who are not aware of these biblical responsibilities or by those who simply ignore them.
10. Finally, it should be clearly taught that the immediate purpose is to recover our sinning brother, but that is not the only intent. A church that practices church discipline demonstrates to the world its desire for holiness. It is also a deterrent to sin among the remaining members and it brings glory to the Head of the church – the Lord Jesus Christ.
To what type of sins is Jesus referring which would lead is to eventually exclude a non-repentant brother? 1. Divisiveness (2 Thes. 3:11; Tit. 3:10-11; Rom. 16:17-20). 2. Unruly, disorderly and undisciplined living (1 Thes. 5:14; 2 Thes. 3:6, 11, 14). 3. Conflict between members (1 Cor. 6:5; Phil. 4:2-3). 4. Sexual impurity (1 Cor. 5 and 6). 5. Denial of the great doctrines of our faith or advocating heretical teachings (1 Tim. 6:3, 5; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; Tit. 3:10; 2 Jn. 1:10-11; Rev. 2:14).
Church discipline has as its objective to recover the brother to a position of obedience, to protect the integrity of the name of Christ, to purify the church, to deter sin in the congregation and to reconcile the brother to the body.
It is interesting to note that secular approaches have embraced an approach to confrontation that mirrors church discipline. It is technically called intervention. In essence it says that we can no longer wait for people to destroy themselves and others. They must be presented with the facts about their problem. They are out of touch with reality and need others to present it to them. Furthermore, this is best done by a group of people who deeply love the substance abuser. Curiously, intervention is hailed as one of the most significant advances in drug treatment. Yet church discipline is the original and intervention the imitator.