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DISCIPLINE

Discipline is required by Scripture, meaning that within the Church believers must hold each other accountable. Examples are recorded throughout the New Testament; see: Matt. 18:15-18; I Cor. 5:1-13; II Cor. 2:5-7; 7:8-12; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:11; II Thess. 3:6-15; I Tim. 1:20; 5:19-24; Tit. 1:10-11; 3:10; Rev. 2:14-16, 20.

The proper procedure for discipline is given by Christ and is found in Matt. 18:15-17; at least three levels of dealing with the individual guilty of the offense are given.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

With these guidelines, the sin is kept to the fewest possible number of people: either between two individuals, the one offended and the one who offends; between several individuals, or a small group; or before the entire church. If each of these three attempts proves to be unsuccessful, then the person who is guilty is to be treated like a heathen or a tax collector. “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition” (Tit. 3:10).

Specific sins are stated in Scripture for which discipline is required; also, in Scripture there are sins which are mentioned in the lives of believers and the specific discipline that was applied by the Church in the particular case is recorded. The following list includes some of the specific sins which incur discipline: lying (Acts 5:1-11); causing division (Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10); deception (Rom. 16:18); incest (I Cor. 5:1-5); sexually immoral, covetous, idolater, reviler, drunkard, extortioner (I Cor. 5:11); causing grief (II Cor. 2:5-6); works of darkness (Eph. 5:11); disorderly conduct and laziness (II Thess. 3:6-12); disobeying instruction (II Thess. 3:14-15); blasphemy (I Tim. 1:20); sin of elders (I Tim. 5:20); insubordinate (Tit. 1:10-16); and heresy (II Jo. 10-11).

Note: There is instruction related to the discipline of leaders; see: I Tim. 5:19-21; two or three witnesses are needed; those who sin are to be rebuked in the presence of the entire group; and this is to be done in order that all might fear.

When discipline of a believer is in order and it is rejected by the offended individual or by the Church, the display of such hesitation is not love but sentiment. It reveals a refusal to take the Biblical instruction seriously and a parallel lack of understanding the seriousness of the sin committed by refusing to deal with it. In other words, the refusal to discipline reveals disobedience and flawed discernment.

When discipline is exercised because it is needed and required, then it is love that is operative on the part of the Church, rather than a display of inappropriate Christian sentiment and conduct. Other believers need to observe the operation of true love which deals with the sin that is in their midst and, thereby, each believer is taught important lessons and is made to be filled with appropriate fear. Ultimately, proper thinking is reinforced in the minds of all the believers in the group.

The purposes of discipline are varied; among them are:

Expose and Admonish (Matt. 18:15-17; II Thess. 3:15; I Tim. 5:20);

Exclusion from the Lord’s Table (I Cor. 11:27-34);

Excommunication (I Cor. 5:5, 11, 13; Gal. 1:9; II Thess. 3:14; Tit. 3:10);

Bring repentance to the sinner (II Cor. 7:8-9);

Reclaim and restore the offender (Matt. 18:15; I Cor. 5:5; Gal. 6:1; II Thess. 3:14; I Tim. 1:20; Tit. 1:13; Heb. 12:6; Jas. 5:20; see: II Tim. 4:2);

Deter others from sin (I Cor. 5:2, 6-7; Gal. 2:11; I Tim. 5:20; Heb. 12:15);

Guard the image of the Church in the world (Rom. 2:24; I Cor. 6:6);

Protect the Church from false teaching (Acts 20:28-31).

The benefits that accrue from proper discipline are multiple:

It reveals that the Church takes seriously the normative nature of the Scriptures and is willing to obey them;

The offender is punished;

The Church is taught the method of dealing with grievous sin in its midst;

It projects to the world the seriousness of the Faith;

It teaches other believers the consequences of willful and continual disobedience;

It creates within the Church resolve to do what is necessary but is not easy.

Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Cor. 14:40


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