Thursday, February 25, 2010

Punitive Church Discipline

In what should be hoped would be only rare cases there are instances when the church should move to exclude a wayward member from the congregation. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 18, which was referenced yesterday, and Paul discusses it in 1 Corinthians 5. If a case of corrective discipline advances to the point where it must be brought before the whole church, then it is has become a very serious matter indeed. This is reserved only for those are remain unrepentant or in situations that private intervention cannot resolve. It is to be hoped, once the church hears all the facts and gives admonition to the parties involved, that a reconciliation will be achieved. However, if one or both parties fail to follow the instruction of the church, then Jesus said that such persons were to be treated as unbelievers-outside the fellowship and privileges of church membership.

Similarly, in the case of the incestuous marriage discussed yesterday, there are situations where the integrity of the church, the honor of Christ, and glory of the gospel compel swift and decisive action. It is not unloving or unkind to take such action. In fact, it is unloving to leave such persons in their sins and in the church, for it engenders a false assurance of spiritual well-being where none exists.

Even at this point the goal of church discipline is the eventual restoration of the one who comes under the church's rebuke. That a person is excluded from membership does not mean he or she should be told to "go away." Rather, they should be loved as any other unconverted person and encouraged to attend to the teaching and preaching of the word in the hopes that it will have its desired effect upon their lives.

I knew a young man once, a deacon's son, who took up a life of sin. His father moved to have him excluded from the church, and the church complied. Some years later I saw that same young man come before the church, confess his sin, acknowledge that he had been an unconverted church member but that through the ordeal of church discipline he had come to see his lost condition. God saved him, the church restored him, and he himself went on to become a deacon in the community. Done right church discipline works. It is another way we are commanded in Scripture to take a stand for Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I think we (me) are more worried about offending, than we are about the person. I hate for people to be mad at me and it seems every time I "take a stand" that happens. I begin to doubt my position and eventually just give up. I think the church pendulum has swung from legalism to lawlessness. So many issues are considered personal conviction.