Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, we examine the highly suppressed issue of church discipline.
7. Biblical Understanding of Church Discipline
What ever happened to church discipline? Once a normal part of church life (especially in Baptist and Presbyterian circles), biblical correction, admonition, rebuke, and excommunication have become all but extinct - dinosaurs on a contemporary horizon that is now more dominated by worship wars and polished programs than by biblical health and holiness. The flowering and fading of modernity has popularized a moral relativism and a mystic spiritual individualism that have combined to make "judgment" sound like the most recently coined four letter word. Jesus certainly wouldn't use such foul language…would He? He who said Do not judge, so that you will not be judged (Matt 7:1) also said Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement (John 7:24). And Paul queries the Corinthians Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1Cor 5:12-13). Evidently both Jesus and Paul really do want us to judge one another in some ways, even though they do not want us to judge one another in other ways. And with that, of course, we arrive at the matter of church discipline - Mark Dever
We will grow as disciples in a church that is willing to discipline members for sinful activity. What sin should qualify for church discipline – any sin unrepented of. Church discipline is meant to restore the true believer and remove the false. And unrepentance is the issue. We all sin and we always hope that if we have tender hearts then we will respond to correction in humility and gratitude. But unrepentant sin is a cancer that must be removed or it can kill the whole body. Jesus laid this out in Matthew 18:
"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. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:15-20)
It is interesting to note that verses 18 to 20 are verses that I have heard quoted so many times but never in the context of church discipline. Paul teaches that God deals with those outside the church but He gives church elders the authority on earth to deal with those within the fellowship.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
The following two videos feature a thirteen minute interview Todd Friel did with Pastor Jeff Noblit on the very subject of church discipline - an issue Pastor Noblit deems important enough to devote a whole conference to the subject:
Part 8 will continue this series and cover the subject of a biblical understanding of church leadership. There are some high profile pastors out there who will need to duck for cover!
Go On To Part 8
Go Back To Part 6
Go Back To Part 1
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