A Healthy Church Member Seeks Discipline (Part3)

August 17, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos


We are looking at the seventh mark of a healthy church member, which is,one who seeks discipline.

Last week we started looking at the more practical aspects of this topic. I discussed, for example,
  • How have Christians in the past handled church discipline?
  • Who should the church discipline?
  • What sins should be disciplined?
  Today, as I promised, we will continue to look at what sins should be disciplined. In particular, I want us to look at the four major categoriesof sin where corporate church discipline should be implemented.   But before we look at thesefour major categories, first allow me to share with you two things:
  • Some of the implications of this seventh mark and
  • An interesting discovery: church discipline is equivalent to accountability.

I.           The implications of the seventh mark

  Some of theimplications of the seventh mark of a healthy church member are the following:  
  1. Join and be committed to a church that disciplines its members biblically.If you want to become a healthy church member (or to put it differently, if you want to become a spiritually mature Christian), don't just join any church. Along with the faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word and the gospel, and the proper administration of the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, look for a church that disciplines its members because these are the three important marks of a true church.
  1. Willingly submit to the discipline in that church.If you want to be a healthy church member, it is not enough to join a church that disciplines its members; you mustalso willingly submit to the discipline in that church.Don’t undergo discipline grudgingly, being reluctant and resentfully unwilling to allow yourself to be disciplined when needed.
  1. Willingly submit not only to the positive aspect of discipline in the church but also to the negative aspect.
  There are two aspects of discipline that you must willingly submit to in order to grow spiritually. (The ideas below are taken from Peacemaker Ministries.)  
  1. Formative discipline.
  God’s discipline in the church, like the discipline in a good family, is intended to be primarily positive, instructive, and encouraging. This process, which is sometimes referred to as formative discipline,” involves preaching, teaching, prayer, personal Bible study, small-group fellowship, and countless other enjoyable activities that challenge and encourage us to love and serve God more wholeheartedly.  
  1. Corrective or restorative discipline.
  On rare occasions God’s discipline, like the discipline in a family with young children, also may have a corrective purpose. When we forget or disobey what God has taught us, he corrects us. One of the ways he does this when we fall into sin is to call the church to seek after us and lead us back on the right track. This process, which is sometimes called “restorative discipline,” is likened to a shepherd seeking after a lost sheep.   If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety- nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety- nine that never went astray” (Mt 18:12-13 ESV).   Thus, corrective or restorative discipline is never to be done in a harsh, vengeful or self-righteous manner. It is always to be carried out in humility and love, with the goal of restoring someone to a closer walk with Christ.   Jesus himself sets forth the basic process for exercising church discipline. In Matthew 18:15-20, he describes four basic steps we are to take to restore a straying brother or sister:  
  • If a sin seems too serious to overlook, we are to go to our brother in private and appeal to him to repent.
  • If he will not listen to repeated personal appeals, 2we are to take one or two other believers along, so that they too can urge the brother to turn back to God.
  • If the brother persists in his sin, we are to seek the formal involvement of the church, initially by seeking assistance from our elders, and if necessary, by informing and asking for the prayers and assistance of the entire congregation.
  • If even these efforts do not bring our brother to his senses, Jesus commands us to treat the person as an unbeliever, which means we no longer have normal, casual fellowship with him, but instead use any encounters to bring the gospel to him and lovingly urge him to repent and turn back to God.
    And so if you want to grow spiritually, if you want to be a healthy church member…  
  1. Join and be committed to a church that disciplines its members biblically.
  2. Willingly submit to the discipline in that church.
  3. Submit not only to positive aspect of discipline which is formative discipline; submit also to the negative aspect which is corrective or restorative

II.       Church Discipline is equivalent to accountability

  I had an interesting discovery while I was researching about church discipline. In the Peacemaker Ministries website, I read this paragraph:   Church discipline (which may also be referred to as “accountability”)1 is one of the most maligned ministries in the modern church. It is also one of our most desperately needed ministries and one of the greatest blessings God has given to his people.   In the footnote, it says,   1 “Church discipline” and “accountability” are used interchangeably. The former term is more traditional, while the latter is often more palatable to church members who have a negative view of discipline. Both terms may be validly used to communicate the concepts covered in this article.     I totally agree with thatview. Let me prove that by turning to Hebrews 3:12-13.   12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  13  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.   In this passage we see the accountability process and its effect. And when you compare that to church discipline, you will see that both have the same process and effect.   Context of the letter to the Hebrews: This epistle was written primarily for Jews who became converts to Christianity. When they were newly saved, they were willing to endure suffering and persecution (10:32-33 - But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.).   They showed compassion on those who suffered, maintained joy in the midst of loss, andexpressed confidence in the future (10:34 - For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one).   But now they were facing a great temptation. They were in danger of drifting away from their commitment to Christ (2:1; 10:39) because of increasing persecution. Their confidence in God’s promises had been shaken, and they were on the verge of losing faith in Christ and rebelling towards God (3:6-14; 10:35-36; 12:25). Some had already neglected attending their meetings (10:25). These readers were apparently tempted to abandon their Christian faith and return to Judaism.   To encourage the believers, the author of Hebrews expounds Scripture in order to show the superiority of Christ. He shows that Christ is better than the Prophets 1:1-3, better than the Angels 1:4—2:8; better than Moses 3:1—4:7; better than Joshua 4:8-16; better than Aaron 5:1-10.  He also gives a contrast between the imperfect and incomplete provisions of the Old Covenant, given under Moses, and the infinitely better provisions of the New Covenant offered by the perfect High-Priest, God’s only Son and the Messiah, Jesus Christ.   But in addition to all of his exposition of Scripture, he also exhorts them to be accountable to one another. This is where Heb 3:12-13 comes in.   12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  13  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.   In this passage, the author of Hebrews warns against allowing the unbelief of a hardened, sinful heart to cause one to fall away from God, or commit the sin of apostasy.The way to prevent this tendency was to call on the church to walk together in mutual encouragement, persuasion, and admonition, as long as it is called “today” (i.e., the day of grace before the coming of the day of glory and judgment at Christ's coming).   This passage reminds us that if we want to mature in the Christ, we need not only the exposition of God’s Word, but the exposure to other members of the body of Christ. We need other believers who will help us to grow. If we are to persevere in the Christian life and go on towards maturity, we need to be accountable to other believers.   What do we mean by accountability?   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 are not talking about coercive tactics, the invasion of privacy, or bringing others under the weight of someone’s preferences, restrictions, legalism and manipulative or dominating tactics.   Rather, 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 welive up to the standards of God.   Is that not what church discipline does? The process of church discipline that we see described by the Lord Jesus in Mt 18:15-17 is through relationships in the church and the effect is so that those who stray will be restored to a right relationship with others and with God.   And so in case you are struggling with the term “church discipline, think of accountability, as Hebrews 3:12-13 teaches.   Now, in the remaining time that we have, let’s look’s continue where we left off last week, looking at the more practical aspects of church discipline. We ended our study last week by look at what sins should be disciplined. Now let us look at the four categories of sin that warrant church discipline.  

III.    Four Categories of sin that warrant church discipline

  According to Scripture, there are four categories of sin that warrant church discipline. These are:    
  1. Violations of Christian love.
  This includes private offenses against a brother or sister.  
  • Matthew 18:15 "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.
  MacArthur: “If someone punched you in the nose because he was angry with you or stole from you, deceived you, lied to you, abused you, slandered you, or committed a crime of immorality against you, those would be sins directly against you. Jesus prescribed the method of discipline in such cases in Matthew 18:15–18. Refusal to repent and be reconciled is a severe aggravation of the sin involved and a continued breach of Christian love.   Included here are the following sins:  
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter [of sexual immorality], because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
  • Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
  • Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
  • Romans 1:29-31 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  30  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents.
  1. Violations of Christian unity
  This refers to divisive actions that destroy peace and unity of the church.This includes causing division among members and defiance of God’s established authorities in the church.     Peace and unity in the local church are essential. Paul warned believers that the deeds of the flesh such as rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy will not be allowed in the kingdom of God.  
  • Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  21  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  False teaching can cause divisions:  
  • Romans 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
  • 1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,  4  he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,  5  and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
  • Titus 3:9-10 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person whostirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self- condemned.
  Defiance of God’s established authorities in the church is also included in the violations of Christian unity.  
  • 3 John 1:9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.  10  So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
  • 1Th 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
  Paul warns that God will destroy those who divide the church of God:  
  • 1Co 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God 's temple and that God' s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God 's temple, God will destroy him. For God' s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
  Take not of the context of this warning. It is division in the church.   1 Corinthians 1:10-12    I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.  11  For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  12  What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."  
  • See what God did to Korah, Dathan, On, Abiram, and 250 chiefs in Numbers 16.
  1 Now Korah… and Dathan and Abiram … and On … took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well- known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord? …   8 And Moses said to Korah, “ Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”   12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”   15 And Moses was very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them. …   31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.      
  1. Violations of Christian standards.
  Christian standards are violated by those who lead scandalous lives. These include habits and activities which are harmful to the body, binding to the will, damaging to Christian witness, and not glorifying to God. Believers should not keep company with a so-called brother who is a fornicator or a drunkard.  
  • 1 Corinthians 5:11   But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, orswindlernot even to eat with such a one.
  Paul was stressing that violation of the standard of proper Christian conduct was not to go undisciplined in the church.    
  1. Violations of Christian truth -- teaching false doctrine or rejecting essential doctrines of the faith
  This includes the following:  
  1. Apostasy - a public denial of the essential truths of God's Word (i.e., a belief in the inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the final authority for belief and behavior; a belief in the Trinity; a belief in the complete humanity and the complete deity of Christ; a belief in the utter sinfulness of all humanity; a belief in the virgin conception of Christ and His Incarnation as the eternal Son of God; a belief in Christ's substitutionary atonement as the only way of salvation; a belief in the bodily resurrection and return of Christ; a belief in salvation by God's grace alone through faith in Christ alone; a belief in the eternal damnation of the lost and the eternal glorification of the saved).
  1Ti 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.    
  1. False teaching - a deliberate and persistent teaching that rejects the foundational doctrines of Scripture (Gal 1:8-9; 1Ti 1:20; 2Ti 2:17-18; 2Pe 2:1; also implied in Rev 2:14-16; Phil 3:2-3, 15-19; Ro 16:17-18).
  • Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  9  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
  • 2 John 1:7-11 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.  8  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.  9  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  10  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,  11  for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
    And in Tit 3:10-11 he urged, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”   Of course this does not mean that Christians should be censured for failing to understand and receive every doctrine revealed in the Bible, for all Christians are learning and growing. Rather, this refers to those who knowingly reject doctrines the church considers essential. For pastors and church elders the standard is more rigid, since they are especially responsible to teach and defend “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). They are to maintain all the doctrines of the Scripture, and are liable to discipline if they fail to do so.   In Titus 1:9–11 Paul wrote that an elder is to be “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”   In summary, any believer who teaches contrary to the apostolic (biblical) fundamentals, thereby causing dissension, is an offender. One who propagates a theological position that leads another believer to stumble (hindrance) in daily practice is to be disciplined. There is debate on what constitutes a false teaching, but certainly at minimum it includes anything contrary to the basic elements of faith. Paul emphasized, however, the results of incorrect doctrine (dissensions and hindrances). Anyone who teaches a doctrine that brings disunity and confusion into the church or an individual believer’s life is pushing the perimeters of corrective discipline.       Next time we’ll look at the spirit and the steps of church discipline.