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An Unspoken Declaration of Church Discipline

June 1, 2016

The joining of a believer into the membership of the local church is an important and marvelous event. When a person is accepted into the membership of the church more is happening than the addition of another person onto the official church rolls. A new member has greater significance than the promise of another regular attender, another warm body in the resource pool or another steady contributor.

When a church accepts a person into its membership the congregation is affirming the confession of salvation of that person. Though the vote to accept a member is usually seen as a formality it is in fact a significant decision and an important declaration on the part of the church. By accepting an individual into membership the local church is announcing it accepts the person’s profession of salvation as a credible profession. The church is saying to the new member, to other churches and to the community at large that the member has a sound understanding of the gospel and shows Biblical evidence of conversion. No church should accept into its membership those who have believed a false gospel, who are knowingly living in gross sin or who give no evidence of having been converted. A healthy standard of membership also leaves ample room for those who do not understand anything more than the most basic truths of salvation and for those who have not yet forsaken habitual sins.

When church discipline takes place the church is removing its endorsement of a person’s salvation. The church is not removing salvation. No church has the power to confer or abolish salvation. By disciplining a person from its membership the church is announcing to the one being disciplined, to the church body and to the community at large that it can longer attest the credibility of the confession of faith of the person. When the church disciplines someone from its membership it is declaring that the person’s behavior is is contrary to genuine Christianity. Because the person is refusing to live like a Christian the church is refusing to treat him as a Christian. This is why Jesus instructs the church to treat the disciplined as a “heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:17)

Church discipline is a huge deal for the church and for the professing Christian because of what it declares. Church discipline is not a statement that the person has embarrassed the church or that the pastor is mad at an individual. Church discipline makes known that unrepentant sin or scandalous behavior is not Christian. Church discipline confesses that sin brings shame on the name of Christ, corrupts the body of Christ and can not be tolerated within the body of believers.


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