Discipline is one of those terms that for most people creates a negative feeling. After all, isn’t discipline punishment? This podcast will discuss a brief look at the necessity for church discipline as a corrective promise, not a punitive coercion. Church discipline is how the Church handles problems, disputes, error, false teaching, and sinful behavior. Most of all, church discipline’s primary purpose is to prove those who are in the faith and those who are not, no matter their profession, church discipline will establish a judicial expression of God’s sovereign election.

  1. Discipline is commanded by the Lord
  2. Discipline is corrective by the word
  3. Discipline is private and public
  4. Discipline proves her are the church. Those that stay in fellowship vs. those that do not.
  5. Discipline is exercised only on the matters commanded by Scripture: Violations of Doctrine, Unbelief, Sin against another, judgment hearts, willful disunity, abandonment, pride, being unkind, harsh words, self-righteousness, bearing false witness, covetousness and any other sin listed and revealed by the Scripture that causes disunity and harm to the church.   
  6. Discipline in the end for the church is purifying; for the lost, identifying.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

Let’s begin with this scripture. It’s a good reminder of our OBLIGATION toward each other in the power of Christ.

Conflict is unavoidable, it will always be before us and only death will bring an end to our relational conflict in this life. The good news is that we who are in Christ Jesus are no longer bound to the ways of the world. We are no longer unable to deal with the feelings that go along with our desire to avoid problems. We understand that one evidence of the gospel is that we work out our differences for the glory of God, and most assuredly, by His power. The time involved to exegete every passage relating to conflict and resolution between individuals would take a lifetime to complete. So, we’ll just look at a few basics that will get us thinking in the right direction.

CONFLICT LIVES

I’ve already said this, but it’s worth repeating. It is going to happen. And if we are involved in each other’s life, we will surely find the opportunity for hurt, confusion, poor words, misunderstandings, blatant sin, fights, malice, and strife. The Gospel reveals that these matters provide an occasion for the reconciliation, which is our duty and our empowered existence. Any conflict that goes unhealed is one of the common division among the church. Greater than grievous acts of sin and even greater than false doctrine. As a matter of face, the lack of reconciliation is proof of a lack of genuine, Christ-empowered love. So in the living element of conflict, let’s embrace its reality but more so, let’s embrace the glory of reconciliation.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

I’ll put this here and then move on to the actions of properly dealing with conflict. Scripture speaks to how to handle when someone sins against you in Matthew 18. Jesus says that our first response is never to avoid, run or dismiss sin, but to confront it with hopes that the offender will be restored to intimacy. The major dilemma with this section of scripture is that it is often difficult to determine what the “sin” of offense actually is. If one has sinned against us, it is an action of word or deed that is a personal affront toward us, not a pet peeve from which we hope to escape. And it is surely not a heart of, “I wish they would be holy like me.” If this is an offense, then YOU are the offender, not the other person.

DAMNABLE ACTIONS

Why use such a harsh wording? Because that is what poor response to disunity actually is; a reflection of the old man, which is condemned or either dead in Christ. When the church doesn’t work to make things right, it proves that God is not among them, much less in them. It is vitally necessary for us to bear with other’s failings and not to hold anyone to a standard that is not prescribed in scripture. There is no place for the lack of teaching each other in the church. If we are obedient and mature, we know that God shows us other’s weakness and in doing so He has: given us pause to see if it is in our own lives, and has given us the opportunity to inquire and offer help to the weak.

DELIGHTFUL RESPONSE

Consider these.

  • Instead of hiding from the conversation, prayerfully ask God for help and make yourself available to be a catalyst for maturity. (1 John 5:16)
  • Stop looking at the weaknesses and ‘off’ areas of each other’s lives and start waiting to see how they handle them. Maturity is never gained in perfection, but in doing what is necessary, even if it seems to be a repeatable matter.
  • If you are in a church, you cannot just leave, expecting to honor the Lord. You must confront the problem and be reconciled. In a true church, one who abandons the flock is brought under discipline. Let’s not find ourselves in the Hebrews 6 camp.
  • Do not speak about the matter to anyone else. Even your pastor in detail. By speaking ill of someone before confronting them you’ve become a murderer at heart through gossip. There is no such thing as non-gossip counsel except when you seek counsel on the response without giving details, names or offenses. This is one of the most heinous areas of division in the church in my lifetime and I have seen good reconciliation come between people only to have others left in the wings to be bitter and suspicious toward the offender.
  • If you are the listener and do not stop and rebuke the aforementioned murder, you are also guilty of such sin. It takes about 10 minutes to correct this problem and another 5 minutes for that person to get in touch with the offender and start reconciliation. Recognize that when we sin against the church and the word, it is not a personal offense, but a matter that can be directly taken to the church.
  • Delight in the beauty of God’s power in bringing divided people together. Because out of reconciliation comes a strong intimacy and a stronger worship toward the Lord. After all, it is HE who brings people back together.

A few final thoughts. When we fret, we sin. When we live in anxiety, we sin. When we are burdened beyond prayer, we sin. So, our only hope is the beautiful grace of God through Jesus Christ who is our righteousness!  Hold on to Him who is granting you to live in harmony with His people!  Lord have mercy, the Lord be praised!

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7 ESV)

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Taking a poll would likely reveal that most everyone who has ever been around church folks has seen nasty, negative, nit-picking abrasiveness that has caused relational strive and separation among the brethren.  Well, that’s not what we should see in any form among the people of God as the scripture says:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

So, a treatise on the above mentioned attitudes and actions would be as necessary as writing a song about gossip, which is murder.  The point is that there is a time, place and practice for a rebuke and the scripture not only reveals in narrative, but commands it in doctrine.  A quick look at Titus and Timothy (both) would suffice along with a jog through Galatians.  To stick on a particular wave on this subject, I propose looking first at the occasion of rebuke and correction and then the tools of correction closing with the practice of correction.

The Occassion

Anytime any sin or weakness is revealed affords a good opportunity for correction among the fellowship of faith. However, the attitude on every matter is to be done in humility, knowing that except by God’s grace, each would be in the same station of error and may very will be there in the future.  Later on this.  For now, let’s quickly examine a “few” but not “all” thoughts:

  • Sinful Actions
  • Sinful Affections
  • Sinful Attitudes
  • Wrongful Doctrine, False Teaching, Poor Preaching
  • Rebellion of God’s Commands
  • Evidence of Unbelief, Lack of Trust in Scripture
  • Doubt, Fear and Anxiety
  • Divisiveness, Cliques, Favortism
  • Unforgiveness, Resentment, Bitterness
  • Gossip, Slander and Giving Ear to either
  • Anything that is unbecoming of the Lord’s Name or the Holiness of Christ’s Body
  • Anything that puts a stumbling block
  • Legalism, Self Righteousness, Moralism
  • Lack of Joy
  • Hatred
  • “Your List Here”

You see, there is a never ending list of reasons for correction and training and rebuke.  And never forget that correction is part of the purpose of the church, not to modify behavior, but to make much of Christ who has given His life for the holiness of His people.  True love is love that says hard things and does hard things, it isn’t “utopia” la, la, la happy-town, but sometimes tearful quests of challenging relationships for the good of everyone.

As each Christian looks deeply into their own lives to remove the log from their eye, they are also helping their Christian siblings get the specks from theirs.

The Tools

Well, this portion could be done in one phrase: The tools of correction and rebuke are the words of God.  The Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

See, there is no need for “counseling” or “programs” or the like in order to work through sinful issues among God’s people.  His word is enough.  Take this to the bank of Truth, that if God’s Word is not enough, then those who consider it in need are not in the faith at all for only through God’s word can one even be given the grace to believe. (Ro 10:17, John 3) Nuff Said.

The Practice

The meat and potatoes of Christianity are found in the application of theology and doctrine of scripture. So, here we’ll take a quick succession of snapshots on several places in order to get a “feel” for what the bible teaches.  One of the most beloved places in scripture for the purity of the church is Matthew 18 where Jesus strictly resolves conflict between “TWO PEOPLE” in the fellowship by telling them to work it out together.

“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 ESV)

If they don’t listen, get some help.  If they still don’t listen, let the whole church help. If then they don’t listen, kick them out until they come to faith and repentance through God’s grace.  We don’t have time to pull out the full theological implications here, but simply that this text is written to people who have been SINNED against by another. It doesn’t include aggravation (sin) or “feeling” slighted, but obvious sin.  So in the first matter of practice, individuals should KEEP SILENT and work it out with no one else finding out in an attempt to keep things between them.

This text does NOT however have anything to do with PUBLIC sin or PUBLIC error in doctrine.  Public sins, divisive teaching that is public, bearing false witness in gossip, community known actions and behaviors and the like are not counted as personal offenses and are immediately and publicly rebuked before the church. While wisdom and affection are paramount to these matters, the protection and unity of the flock is severe and must be upheld at all cost.

Scripture commands such things as revealed through the example of Peter with Ananias and Sapphira even though their sin was “hidden, God the Spirit revealed it to him. Paul did not require a meeting with the brother engaged in incest in 1 Corinthians 5 neither did he meet with Peter privately in Galatians when he rebuked him in front of everyone. Paul openly expresses rebuke toward Euodias and Syntyche in Philippi and warns Timothy about Alexander due to doctrinal errors. He tells Titus to reject any erring individual in matters of doctrine. Many other places such as 3 John and Jude do not follow Matthew 18 in regards to private rebuke.

In the end, the purpose of correction and rebuke is that this is nearly half of all true discipleship and if the church is to bring life into its heart as a people, then the word of God must be true in its full counsel among them.  Church discipline then is the training of God’s people by God’s people through His word for the sake of their holy and healthy pursuit of life together for His glory.  When people continually rebuke the gospel message and evade detection while leading others astray, they are to be publicly outed until they publicly repent and correct their error.  After all, isn’t love for the good of others?  Corinthians 12:7 through 15 teaches that it is.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

A few thoughts on the point of the shepherd’s job and calling can be read here.

RELATED: In an recent visit to Rome, Dr. Rick Warren made some very grievous statements about the gospel as it relates to Romanism. Many prominent leaders have given public rebuke to these statements.

Crisis of Faith CoverAs the Lord allows, I plan to release this book in January 2016.  It chronicles my journey of faith, theologically, from birth to date and reveals just how harshly Reformed doctrine has affected me, my life and my family as well as my ministry.  In the last ten years or so a movement has ensued that seems to be taking large groups of Evangelicals and dividing them from fellowship.  I have experienced this first hand and in all honesty, have experienced hatred, hurt, death threats and the like while keeping quiet and tending to my own business.

My hope in this writing would be to allow the reader to journey with me, see what I see and then realize that everyone, no matter who they are, at one time or another has had a crisis of faith.  During these times believers are to stand together, work with each other, pray for grace and reconciliation and see God work through it.  Sadly, it hasn’t been the case.  So, my crisis of faith resulted in major growth for my good, but it has been painful.  Pray for me as I put the final touches to this text and pray that the message of the gospel would be paramount to it all.

For His Glory,

James

This series contemplates the reality that in so many circumstances, the people of God act and live as though the Gospel has no power in their lives and in as much, the Gospel must not work.  Over eight weeks in preparation for the “Horrors of Christmas” (wrath, judgement, horror and hell) series, we have discovered that the Gospel IS power in the life of the church and when we fail to rest by faith in the gospel of Christ, we are the problem, not Christ.  Worship with us through this look and pray as God prepares us to move into Titus in January.