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Church Discipline

September 11, 2017

Church disicpline ought not be thought of as mere punishment. Discipline is not the response of an angry or vengeful church. In fact, a church or Christian that is mad at someone will not bother with the process of church discipline. They may jump cast someone out of the church but they won’t take the time to go through the Biblical process.

Genuine church discipline is preventative and restorative. Church discipline seeks to correct the problem, not just remove the person. Because church discipline is therapeutic in nature it is not slammed down upon the individual without warning. Church discipline is a relationship with believers that begins long before sin becomes evident. Church discipline must involve a commmitment to care for one another’s spiritual wellbeing. Restorative church discipline involves encouragement, comfort, teaching, correction, warning and rebuke. The removal of someone from membership is the final, extreme measure when all other attempts at restoration have failed.

Matthew 18 is the foundational teaching on church discipline which lays out the reason for discipline, the goal of disicpline and the process of discipline. The first step is goign to a brother who has sinned agaist you. The offense and the correction is personal. Go in private to that person to address the sin between you and he alone. No one else should be a part of this process, no one else needs know about the wrong. If the sinning brother heeds your correction then you have gained your brother.

If the sinning Christian doesn’t hear private rebuke then others need to be brought into the process. This is not to gang up on the sinner, but to bring greater weight to the importance of the sin, to offer wise counsel in the matter and to exercise loving care for the sinner. The others will testify to the sin and add their voice to the call to repent.

If the person does not hear the small group, then the sin needs to be communicated to the entire church. The church then has opportunity to call the person to repentance. If the sinner refuses to hear the correction of the entire church, then the church is to remove that member.

See how much interest there is reconciliation and restoration! The process gives multiples avenues of exhortation calling the sinner to repentance. Except in certain cases of heinous sin, the sinning Christian is to be removed only after repeated rejections of Godly admonition. When a Christian is removed from the church the church is to be ready to forgive. If repentance follows, then forgiveness and full restoration should be extended immediately.

Why does a church practice discipline among its members? The Bible gives at least six reasons.

  • First, is for the repentance of the sinner (1 Corinthians 5:5; Titus 1:13)
  • Second, is for the restoration of sinning brethren (Matthew 18:15)
  • Third, is for the purity of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6; Hebrews 12:12-15)
  • Fourth, is for the protection of the unlearned (Romans 16:18)
  • Fifth, is for the protection of the unity of the church (Titus 3:10; 1 Timothy 6:4)
  • Sixth, is as a warning to all (1 Timothy 5:20)


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