“…Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges….” —1 Corinthians 5:13 (emphasis added)
Church discipline is one of those aspects of church life that is all-too-often kept hidden away until it’s needed and then brought out to blast people. The New Testament (NT) encourages just the opposite. In the church, as well as in our homes, certain consistent standards promote peace and harmony. Our children flourish when their boundaries are clearly communicated and consistently upheld in an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Webster’s Dictionary defines “discipline” as “training that develops self-control, character, orderliness, and efficiency” – this is congruent with the NT perspective of discipline. The NT invites us to take careful aim at the biblical standards for church discipline, both for ourselves and our loved ones. The Greek word for the word “judge” in the above passage is KRINO and basically means to distinguish, decide, or assess (see 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 for how the situation in the above passage was resolved). An excellent working description of NT discipline might be:
“The action taken by a body of believers toward a sinning member.”
The following is the result of a series of studies of New Testament concepts of church discipline…
THE PURPOSES OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE
- To MATURE a church (Eph. 4:12-16; 1 Cor. 3:1-30)
- To PROVE that the servant-leaders love and care (2 Cor. 2:4)
- To AFFIRM obedience to God’s authority (2 Cor. 2:9)
- To DENY Satan any advantage in the church (2 Cor. 2:11)
- To CONFIRM individual responsibility for one another (Heb. 3:13)
- To PRODUCE the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11)
- To INTENSIFY self-evaluation in the church (2 Cor. 7:11)
- To PURIFY the spirit and message of the church (1 Cor. 5:6)
- To JUDGE those within the church (1 Cor. 5:12)
- To PROTECT Scripture from perversion and/or error (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:13; Titus 1:10,11)
- To RESTORE repentant believers (2 Cor. 2:5-8)
- To CUT emotional ties with unrepentant believers (1 Cor. 5:11; 1 Sam. 16:1)
SINS THAT REQUIRE DISCIPLINE BY THE CHURCH
- Irresolvable disputes between members (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Cor. 13:1)
- Persistent teaching of false doctrines (Titus 1:9-11; 3:10,11; Jude 1; Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Tim. 4:2-4)
- Continuing immorality and/or disorderliness (Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Cor. 5:11; 3 Jn. 1:9,10).
SPIRIT OF NEW TESTAMENT DISCIPLINE
“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:1-3)
- Restorative – Greek word KATARTIZO meaning to complete thoroughly; prepare, adjust, or mend. KATARTIZO is translated in Eph. 4:12 as equipping God’s people for the work of the ministry.
- Meekness/Gentleness – recognizing our own vulnerability.
- Bearing one another’s burdens – meaning “to lift” with a great variety of applications: accept, arise, bear up, bring forth, carry, desire, exalt, extol, forgive, go on, help, hold up, magnify, stir up, swear, and yield.
- Let no one think s/he is anything –“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12)
CONVICTION vs. CONDEMNATION
- Conviction will focus our attention on the adequacy of Jesus. “The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin.” (John 16:8)
- Condemnation will focus our attention on our own hopelessness. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Consequences of Not Exercising Proper Church Discipline
- Evil spreads throughout the body of Christ (1 Cor. 5:6-8)
- Relationships are disrupted (Titus 1:10-11)
- The Church exercises poor stewardship (2 Thess. 3:10-15)
- Ministry in the church is hindered (Mt. 5:13-16; John 15:19)
THE Matthew 18 PROCESS
- The Context of Church Discipline (18:6-14;21-35)
- Seriousness of sin. (6-9)
- Sacrificial love. (10-14)
- Endless forgiveness (21-35)
- The Steps of Church Discipline (18:15-18)
- Loving confrontation One-on-One (15)
- Loving confrontation by 2 or 3 Witnesses – “that every word (RHEMA) may be confirmed” (16)
- Loving communication to the Church Body (17a)
- Disassociation (17b)
- The Authority of Church Discipline (19)
NT Passages on Disassociation
“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.” – Romans 16:10-11
“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:10-11
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” – 2 John 10-11
“We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:11-14
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. An you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of the fellowship the man that did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolater. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5
Yet do this in:
Humility “. . . lest you also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)
Love “. . .Lord disciplines those He loves.” (Heb. 12:6)
“. . .reaffirm your love for him” (2 Cor. 2:8)
Gentleness “. . .should restore him gently” (Gal. 6:1)
Forgiveness “. . .forgive and comfort him” (2 Cor. 2:7)
Remembering the GOAL: TO: RESTORE, WIN OVER, BRING BACK!!!