Monday, February 11, 2008

CHURCH DISCIPLE: DISCIPLINE IN THE CHURCH

Many churches do not practice the church discipline that is seen and commanded in the Bible (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5). Perhaps they think it is an outdated practice or maybe they are afraid to confront sin.

What organization does not practice discipline? Being reprimanded or fired from a job position is essential discipline for the good of the whole organization. Civic organizations have charters and rules that members adhere to. When a person attempts a disruption, they receive correction or they are asked to leave. For the general welfare of all, a community as a whole has a vested interest in keeping things lawful and orderly. When someone breaks the law, the correction might be a warning, a ticket, or incarceration. God has provided that in the church there also be discipline.

The church follows the Bible and carefully teaches the Gospel and lives according to its precepts. When a false teacher enters the church, he or she is taught the truth in hopes of making a correction. But if the person is obstinate, that person must be put out of the church. "Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning" (1 Tim. 5:20). Paul also said to the Thessalonian church, "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame" (2 Thess. 3:14). And to the church at Ephesus he said, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph. 5:11).

One article1 giving the pros and cons of church discipline, called "excommunication" by some, offers the following reasons for the practice:
  • Cleans the church of hypocrisy. "You can't be anti-hypocrite and anti-excommunication."
  • Caring and Comforting. It's about tough love. "One of the perks of being a member of a church that practices excommunication is the guarantee of a response if you happen to fall into some egregious behavior. Love means caring enough to confront. A person joins a church in hopes of living by a certain standard. Since we all tend to lapse in keeping these standards, a loving confrontation is something we all need from time to time."
  • Consequences shouldn't be shielded. Sometimes people refuse to repent and the consequences can be helpful for learning. "It's wrong to let people ignore the consequences of their behavior. It is wrong to let a thief or adulterer think he can continue in that behavior and go to church like everything is fine."
  • We are all sinners, but church discipline is for those who have made the commitment to follow Christ, but then refuse to turn away from sin. "If excommunication were imposed on all sinners, every church on earth would be empty! Excommunication is for people who desired, and vowed, to attempt to live a godly life and then refuse to even make the effort at doing the right thing. Excommunication is not for people struggling with sin. Jesus said that you don't snuff out a flickering candle. For years I have sought to minister to those whose sin and addictions find them in and out of prison. Excommunication has never been on the table for these people. There is a difference between weakness and hypocrisy."
  • Discipline is a mark of the true church. "In richer theological times, Bible scholars determined that church discipline was one the marks of a true church. In other words, if a church doesn't practice discipline, it's not a church at all. In light of this, Alter's statistic that only 10 percent to 15 percent of Protestant churches practice discipline becomes enlightening.

    It can be easily argued that the church's lack of willingness to heed the counsel of Jesus (who was clear on the subject) in this matter accounts for its current woeful condition."
When the unrepentant are not disfellowshipped, other souls may be led astray by them. Elders have too much responsibility for the sheep to allow this to happen. To be the Lord's Church, we must follow what the Bible says on church discipline.
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1. Why Churches Need Discipline. Accessed HERE

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