Let’s talk about punishment in the Church:
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” -2Th 3:6
In a previous Theology Thursday we talked about what it looks like to “Enforce the Law of Christ”. And in that post we took a look at what the Lord says about discipline in Mat 18:15-20. In that passage the Lord says to seek discipline:
“If your brother sins against you…”
Now, that seems like a pretty broad statement. If we sin against someone by “failing to love them”, then Church Discipline could happen fairly regularly. However, Church Discipline only really happens when the people can’t resolve it themselves, or in a small group of fellow believers.
As broad as the statement seems at first when focused on individuals, it actually has an even broader application for groups of people (i.e. the Church). The examples of sins subject to Church Discipline in the New Testament are extremely diverse: divisiveness (Rom 16:17; Tit 3:10), incest (1Co 5:1), laziness and refusing to work (2Th 3:6-10), disobeying what Paul writes (2Th 3:14-15), blasphemy (1Ti 1:20), and teaching heretical doctrine (2Jo 10-11).
How Should Church Discipline Be Carried Out?
Knowledge of the sin should be kept to the smallest group possible (Mat 18:15-17)
Disciplinary measures should increase in strength until there is a solution (Mat 18:15-16)
Leaders who persist in sin are to be rebuked in the presence of all (1Ti 5:19-21)
The repentant should be immediately and graciously restored to fellowship (Mat, 18:21-35; 2Co 2:7-8 and Gal 6:1)
The purpose of Church Discipline is to purify the Church. This is extremely important because not only is the Church Christ’s representative while He tarries (1Co 12:27), but we are also His bride and we should want to be as beautiful as possible. Both inside and out (Rev 19:7).
See as sin will always happen in this fallen world, we should always endeavor to pursue the ideal situation. Which I think is nicely put by Augustus Strong when he writes:
“When a brother wrongs me, I am not to speak of the offence[sic] to others, nor to write to him a letter, but to go to him. If the brother is already penitent, he will start from his house to see me at the same time that I start from my house to see him, and we will meet just half way between the two. There would be little appeal to the church, and little cherishing of ancient grudges, if Christ's disciples would observe his simple rules… When a brother brings a personal matter before the church, he should always be asked whether he has obeyed Christ's command to labor privately with the offender. If he has not, he should be bidden to keep silence.”
What do you think about Church Discipline? Have you had to participate in it? Have you been sinned against by one of your brothers or sisters? Did you let it fester or did you bring it to their attention? Perhaps you are the one who sinned? Have you gone to your victim to seek restitution (Mat 5:23-24)? Things to think about.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine (Pg. 894-900). Zondervan
Strong, Augustus. Systematic Theology (Complete - Volume 1, 2 & 3 of 3) (p. 548). BZ editores. Kindle Edition.
Thiessen, Henry. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Pg. 433). Eerdmans Publishing Company 1951.