The Expository Files

Church Discipline

The church where I attend tries to apply the teachings of the New Testament regardless of the what is politically correct and what is not. We recently had to withdraw our fellowship from a couple of our members who were not living according to the commandments of Christ. I am not talking about imperfections or momentary weakness, but ongoing chronic disobedience and a refusal to repent. I would like to share a part of the announcement that was read to the church. I will leave out the identities and the particulars, because neither are anybody else's business. I know that most of the world frowns on churches who would actually carry out the Scripture's teaching on this matter, but then, the world always has had very little regard for the Lord's doctrine. To discipline members of the body is required by the covenant of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that this article will help others understand the purpose, method as well as the Scriptural motives behind such action. The announcement went as follows:

It is our duty and goal to always bring honor to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This can only be done by respecting and obeying His word. We are all aware that our efforts in this regard are not perfect, but this does not relieve us of the obligation to our Lord to always seek to grow and improve in our service to Him as His body.

It is with sadness that we must acknowledge that some who are members of the body here are not walking according to the commandments of Jesus. Transgression in the case of two of our number has gone beyond human imperfection. Both have been approached patiently and with love, both have acknowledged their sin, but neither have indicated a desire to change their course.

The Covenant of Jesus Christ gives instructions to the local congregation concerning what to do in such circumstances. If we accept His lordship, then we will comply with His teaching. Here are a portion of some of the Scriptures which instruct us concerning the will of Christ:

First, from 2 Thessalonians 3
2TH 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2TH 3:14-15 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Also, this from 1 Corinthians 5:
1CO 5:1-7 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are
in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The teaching is plain. What is left up to our discernment is how long do we attempt to work with such ones before taking this prescribed action. It is sometimes difficult to reach a consensus on this, and so we must work together with brotherly consideration until we do. We have prayerfully and carefully considered this decision. In the past, if we have erred, it is more likely in that we have waited too long.

Notice that these passages give at least two reasons why one not walking in accordance with the teaching of Christ must be put outside the local church body. First, it is a message to them that their soul is in jeopardy and in hopes that the heart will be touched and that sorrow will lead to repentance. The second is so that the rest of the body will not be adversely effected. We hope that both of these divinely stated purposes will be achieved that we may rejoice with our brother and sister again.

Also notice that our erring brother and sister are not to be looked upon as enemies. They must be respected, loved and encouraged to do the right thing when the opportunity arises in the future to do so. They are not to be looked down upon, regarded as unworthy of our love or despised in any way. The Lord loves them, and so do we. Our future dealings with them should be such that make our concern for their souls obvious.

We hope that those things contrary to the will of Christ will be quickly rectified, and pray that both might turn again to the Lord.


By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 7.4; April 2000