A Healthy Church Member Seeks Discipline (Part4)

September 7, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

The Practice of Church Discipline   We are looking at the seventh mark of a healthy church member, which is, one who seeks discipline.   So far we have covered these major areas:  
  1. What is Church Discipline?
Nowhere in the Bibledo we find a definition of church discipline, but we do find instructions from Jesus and from the apostle Paul regarding how it should be practiced and for what purpose. Here is a suggested definition from Carl Laney, “Church discipline may be broadly defined as the confrontive and corrective measures taken by an individual, church leaders, or the congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a believer.”Discipline in the church is not punishment. It is discipline and discipline is designed to train and restore.    
  1. What are the purposes of church discipline?
  • To reclaim or restore offending brethren. When we discipline, weseek the sinning person's repentance, reconciliation and if necessary, restoration to the fellowship of the local church.
  • To deter others from sin. It will warn other members about the dangers of sinful behavior or teaching (Dt 19:20; Ac 5:11; 2Co 7:11).
  • To purge out of the evil influence that might infect the local church.
  • To maintain the corporate witness of the church.
  • To prevent giving cause for God to set himself against the local church.
  • To glorify God, as we reflect His holiness.
  1. Who should the church discipline?
The apostle Paul says that is those who claim to be believers inside the church and yet continue in sin receive the benefit of church discipline. In 1Co 5:9-13, we read,I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brotherif he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.    
  1. What sins should be disciplined?
According to Scripture, there are four categories which warrant church discipline. These are:  
  1. Violations of brotherly love. This includes private offenses against a brother or a sister.
  1. Violations of Christian This includes apostasy which is a public and open rejection or denial of the essential truths of God's Word. This also includes false teaching - a deliberate and persistent teaching that rejects the foundational doctrines of Scripture.
  1. Violations of Christian Unity. This includes causing division among members and defiance of God’s established authorities in the church.
  1. Violations of Christian Standards. These include habits and activities which are harmful to the body, binding to the will, damaging to Christian witness, and not glorifying to God.
  In our last study we have learned that church discipline is part of being accountable. To be accountable is to be liable to be called to account; it is to be answerable to another person; it is to be subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; it is to be willing to explain one’s actions; to be open, unguarded and non-defensive about one’s motives; to supply the reasons why. By accountability, we mean developing loving relationships with one another in the church that allow others to teach, exhort, encourage, correct, admonish and rebuke us so that we live up to the standards of God. This makes it obvious that if you want to be a healthy church member, you need to submit to the both the formative and restorative or corrective discipline in the church.    

Today’s Study

How is the church to discipline its members? (The practice of church discipline)   Let’s divide the practice of church discipline into two parts: the first is the spirit and the second is the steps.  

The Spirit of Church Discipline

  Discipline does not entitle the elders to abuse their authority over the members of the church (1Pe 5:1-3). Scripture is clear that the motives of the individual(s) or the elders dealing with the erring member must be pure before our Savior, His Church, and the world.  
  1. It is to be done prayerfully. Bring the matter before the Lord in prayer before the confrontation takes place (1Sa 8:6).
  2. It is to be done with gentleness and humility (Gal 6:1; 2Ti 2:24-25). We can do this by remembering how we too have sinned in the past and received grace from God (Ti 3:1-5).
  3. It is to be done with love. Church discipline should not to be motivated by hostility or anger but by a heart-felt sorrow and loving concern for the erring member (1Co 5:2; 2Co 2:4).
  4. It is to be done without pride, Matthew 7:1-5.Jesus rules out pride that views oneself as better than others.
  5. It is to be done without partiality, 1Ti 6:20-21. Church discipline must be consistently applied regardless of an individual’s position in the church or community.
  6. It is to be done with patience. There are four specific steps that you must go through to practice proper biblical church discipline (Mt 18:15-17)
  7. It is never to be done with vindictiveness. Paul reminded the Christians in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
  8. It is to be done with the objective of restoration (Gal 6:1). Joshua Harris: “When a person who claims to be a Christian lives in a way that blatantly contradicts all that it means to be a disciple of Christ, a faithful church’s responsibility is to begin the process of removing that person from membership and to treat him or her like an unbeliever in the hope that he or she will repent and ultimately be restored.”
  9. It is to be done with a readiness to forgive and to grant full restoration to the erring member upongenuine repentance (Lk 17:1-10; 2Co 2:6-8).

The Steps of Church Discipline

Mt 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.   According to Matthew 18:15-17, the procedure for church discipline includes the following steps:   Step 1: One-on-One First, seek private correction and/or reconciliation with the offender. (Mt 18:15 - “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.) Don’t gossip or even talk to others about it in the sense of Matthew 18:16 until you have talked to the sinning believer privately. In our church manual we have these guidelines:  
  • It shall be the duty of any member of SDGCC who bears knowledge of erring individuals engaged in heresy or scandalous conduct (i.e., sin that can no longer be overlooked, Pr 19:11) to warn and correct such sinning individual in private, with the view of bringing him to repentance and restoration.
  • This step in the process of corrective discipline is informal and does not require the involvement of any elder or staff member of the church. This disciplinary process will not advance beyond this point if the person acknowledges his sin and repents.
  • This step may occur over several meetings, whatever the offended party think is prudent.
  1. Hampton Keathley gives these suggestions when confronting privately:
    • Begin by expressing your genuine appreciation for the person and their good qualities to show you are genuinely concerned about their welfare. Then and only then bring up the matter which is of concern.
    • In some situations the sin is apparent and there is no question, but we must allow for the possibility that we have misjudged or have wrong information. We must listen to the other person’s side of the story and seek the facts in the interest of truth and fairness.
    • If the person fails to respond, warn them that, according to the instructions of Scripture (Matt. 18:16), you will have to get others as witnesses and return with them to deal with the problem.
  Step 2: Bring Along One or Two Others If the first step fails, take witnesses to strengthen the effect of the discipline. Here is a procedure we could use according to our SDG Church manual:
  • The confronting member shall again go to the sinning individual, still seeking his repentance, but accompanied by one or two others, preferably spiritual leaders (Gal 6:1), “that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Mt 18:16).
  • They will serve as witnesses who shall affirm that the sin has indeed occurred, or is continuing, and/or that the erring individual has been appropriately confronted and has refused to repent.
  • They may also be the first counselors who will seek to reconcile the two estranged parties.
  • As in the first step, Step 2 may occur over several meetings, whatever the reconciling party think is prudent.
  • If the sinning individual still refuses to repent, then
  Step 3: “Tell it to the Church” Since the Bible does not give us details how to go about this step, we will apply the following guidelines:  
  • The matter shall be brought to the attention of the Board of Elders (or a duly-appointed committee of the Board). If the Board of Elders (or the same duly-appointed committee) determines—after thorough investigation and consideration according to the procedures prescribed in the Scripture, including Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Timothy 5:19—that there is corroborating evidence that the sinning individual has indeed sinned or continues to sin, he shall again be confronted. If the sinning individual still refuses to repent, then
  • The Elders shall inform the Church in order to publicly call him to repentance. The Elders will announce his name to the members of SDGCC in a special business meeting called for that purpose. (Only members in good standing shall be permitted to attend such a special business meeting.) The Elders will provide a brief and discreet description of the sin so as not to cause stumbling to others or to bring undue embarrassment on any family members. They will then give the congregation two months to seek out the sinner and call him or her to repentance.
  • If the sinning individual still does not repent in response to the Church's collective call to repentance, then
  Step 4: Disfellowship (aka Excommunication) and Disassociation
  • He shall be dismissed from the fellowship and/or membership of the Church. Disfellowship and disassociation will be announced publicly in a special business meeting for members called for that purpose, and, consequently, his name shall be stricken out from the official membership register.
  • When Christ said, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17), what He meant was to regard the unrepentant sinner in a way the Jews of that period regarded Gentiles and tax collectors. Perhaps the attitude that Jesus had in mind was no different from the way He wanted His disciples to relate with the proud and unrepentant Pharisees. In Matthew 15:14 Jesus said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides.” Christ’s stern words are equivalent to Paul’s in the following excommunication passages:
  • “have nothing more to do with him” (Tit 3:10);
  • “have nothing do with him that he may be ashamed” (2Th 3:15);
  • “avoid them” (Ro 16:17);
  • “not even to eat with such a one” (1Co 5:11);
  • “Purge the evil person from among you” (1Co 5:13); and
  • “deliver this man to Satan” (1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20). MacArthur Study Bible says, “‘Deliver’ is a strong term, used of judicial sentencing. This is equal to excommunicating the professed believer. It amounts to putting that person out of the blessing of Christian worship and fellowship by thrusting him into Satan’s realm, the world system” (cf. 1Jn 5:19).It should be noted, however, that even in excommunication the purpose is to effect the person’s correction, restoration to the church, and eventual salvation (1Co 5:5, “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” See also 1Ti 1:20)
  • The word “you” in the phrase “let him be to you as,” is singular. “This suggests that each member of the church is to abide by the corporate judgment and reminds the reader of the individual responsibility each believer has toward the others” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised Series).
    Mark Dever: [Excommunication] was not meant to express their belief that the man was unregenerate; rather, it affirmed their knowledge that we was living as if he were unregenerate, which he may therefore have been.  
  1. Hampton Keathley writes, “This is, in essence, the Lord carrying out discipline through the action of the entire body under the leadership of the elders or the spiritually mature (1 Cor. 5:4). Similar heavenly authority is seen in the ratification of this disciplinary action as spelled out in Matthew 18:18-19.”
  Joseph Flatt, Jr., in his article, “How Shall I Respond to Sin in the Church?” in the book Reforming Pastoral Ministry, writes about the responsbilities of members after an exclusion.
  • the discipline process is not over simply because a member has been excluded. The congregation must realize that it bears ongoing responsibilities such as the need for prayer, Christian courtesy, compassion or continued confrontation.
  • More insight is given to us in 1Co 5:9-13. This tells us to restrict association with the unrepentant individual.
  • What this means is not that the individuals in the church are to have nothing to do with the individual in the absolute sense. But we must send the message to the unrepentant, “I deplore what your are doing. Change!” The church does this by avoiding common social interchange that denotes fellowship and recognition as a Christian. Therefore a Christian can accept a dinner invitation from a non-believing neighbor, but not from an unrepentant professing believer.
  • Mark Dever: This precludes spending casual time with the excommunicated on. Basically , we are not to act in any way that will cause him or her to think little of the church’s action.
  • The broader principle must be that any contact with the excluded person must be without acknowledgement of him as a brother in Christ and must be undertaken with a view to his restoration.
  Step 5: Restoration and Reinstatement (2Co 2:5-11)   Here are some procedures for restoration from J. Hampton Keathley:  
  1. Forgiveness. In keeping with the goal of restoration, the role of the church must change after there is repentance. This means accepting the person and forgetting the past (2 Cor. 2:7a).
  But how do we know when repentance is genuine? What is our responsibility when the sinning party acknowledges their wrong and claims repentance? The following two passages answer this for us.  
  • When the crowds came out to be baptized by John the Baptist, he said in Lk 3:8,10-14“…Bear fruits in keeping with repentance…. 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
  • Acts 26:20,“. . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
  Genuine repentance will make itself evident by its deeds and attitudes. The repentant person will:  
  • Freely acknowledge his sin (1 Jn. 1:9; Prov. 28:13a).
  • Cease the activity for which he was disciplined or at least seek help if it’s a case of life dominating patterns (Prov. 28:13b; Gal. 6:1f; Jam. 5:19-20).
  In the SDG Church Manual we have this guideline: In the case of repentance after excommunication, it should be ascertained that the person in question is willing to submit to discipleship counseling and whatever parameters or requirements deemed necessary to ensure spiritual restoration set by the Elders of the church.  
  • Make restitution and/or ask for forgiveness from those hurt as it is applicable (Phil. 18-19; Matt. 5:23-24).
  • He/she will demonstrate a genuine change of heart, a real concern and godly sorrow over his actions, not in order to be forgiven [or restored to full rights and privileges of membership], but because of the harm caused to the glory of God and the hurt caused others (2 Cor. 7:8-11; Ps. 51:17).
  • He/she will begin to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and a concern for the things of Christ (Gal. 5:22f).
  1. Comfort. This means reaching out to them, assuring them of your support, and encouraging, exhorting, and challenging them to move on (2 Cor. 2:7b).
  1. Love. This means including them, drawing them close, doing for them that which will aid their growth and complete recovery (2 Cor. 2:8). This would include encouraging them to get involved in ministry (Luke 22:31-32). For positions of leadership, there should be a time of testing to demonstrate their qualifications after the analogy of 1 Timothy 3:10.