CHURCH DISCIPLINE

 

THE SCRIPTURAL PROCEDURE AND PRINCIPLES

© Dr John Bond

Ongoing sin in the life of a believer obstructs their walk with the Lord, threatens the unity and fellowship within the body, and ultimately weakens the witness of the church among non-believers. (1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Paul said in … 2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.)

Based on this then, the Bible clearly encourages believers to be concerned with each other’s spiritual well being, and teaches them to confront in love where there is evidence of sin. We acknowledge the following Biblical procedure for such confrontation (Luke 17:3,4 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.).

1. If one has knowledge of ongoing sin in the life of a fellow believer, they should go promptly and confront the individual in private (Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.).

2. If there is no expression of repentance, they should reprove the individual in the presence of 2 or 3 witnesses (Matthew 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’).

3. If there is still no repentance, Scripture teaches that the – matter should be brought before the church. In our structure, the matter should at this point be brought before the elders, as representatives of the church (Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.).

4. If there is no evidence of genuine repentance after confrontation by the elders, the elders will bring the matter before the whole congregation if it is possible and if there is still no evidence of repentance, Scripture teaches that the individual should be removed from the body and believers should break fellowship with him, until such time as there is genuine repentance (Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 2 Thessalonians 3:4-7 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. 1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. Titus 3:10,11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.).

5. In 1 Corinthians 5:1 and 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul refers to the climax of the disciplinary procedure as the “handing over to satan for the destruction of the sinful nature”. This refers to exposing the erring person to the devil outside the protection of God’s people. Paul expects them to suffer in a way, which will stimulate repentance and a return to the safety of the congregation.

6. The procedure for admitting a person back into the fellowship of the church will mirror the steps taken in their discipline. Readmission will be as public as the discipline exercised.

Healing Space from Ministry

Where ongoing sin of a serious and public nature has occurred, our policy of is that individual concerned will not be permitted to exercise public ministry for a minimum period of 12 months. This is to allow for appropriate counsel, healing and reconciliation to take place. Readmission to public ministry cannot occur unless such help is sought.

In addition to the above procedure, the Scripture teaches us that confrontation should be approached and carried out with an attitude of love, concern and humility, and should be motivated by the sincere desire to see repentance and restoration of fellowship.

Reflecting Christ’s grace and forgiveness, believers are taught to be quick to forgive when there is the genuine expression of repentance on the part of a fellow believer (Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Matthew 18:21 ff, Matthew 6:14,15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.).

NOTE: The same Biblical principles and procedure for confrontation apply in attempting to resolve relational conflicts within the body. In such cases Scripture indicates that it is the responsibility of the believer to go promptly to his brother/sister when he has been offended, or when he has reason to believe that he may have done the offending (Matthew 5:23-24, Ephesians 4:26-27).

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