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February 24, 2015, 8:00 AM

Church Discipline


Often in conversations with Christians across denominational lines, I have noticed a disturbing level of passivity or disengagement concerning the area of church discipline.  Sometimes, an elaborate but shaky support for the failure to act is offered. Interestingly, when other Christians carry out this biblical mandate, they are often branded as “angry” or “unloving”.  Although it is entirely possible to carry out biblical mandates in an unbiblical manner, obedience to biblical directives should not be automatically construed as “unloving” or “angry”.  Notwithstanding, church discipline is an essential and should be a non-negotiable Christian practice. 

In Matthew 18:15, Jesus Christ gives a clear command.  He said, “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”.  Interestingly, Jesus Christ gives the responsibility to the one who has been offended.  Even if one has not been offended, a Christian should attempt to encourage a brother or sister to repentance.  The apostle Paul teaches in Galatians 6:1: “If a brother [or sister] be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted”.

One reason often cited for the failure to obey this command is the belief that the effort would not be successful.  Yet, Christ gives instructions for the potential failure.  He says, in verse 16, “If he does not [listen with the intent of repentance], take with you one or two more; so in the presence of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  These should be mature Christians who have redemptive motivations for engaging in the efforts. 

Church discipline is not only a mandate for the individual Christian; it is mandated for the congregation.  Sometimes, it is necessary to bring a matter before the entire congregation, as Jesus taught.  If a person is unrepentant after being admonished by a Christian Brother or sister and by a group of well intended, loving, humble, and mature Christians, then the matter is to be brought before the entire congregation.  

Obedience to the Lord, Jesus Christ, demands that a Christian and a congregation be a proponent and practitioner of Church discipline! 


 

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