Discipline With A Purpose – God’s Way In Any Circumstance
I hear often that God’s people within different situations (online chat, blogsphere, writings, etc.) and within other churches, especially if they are not geographically located in the same area cannot follow practices of Church Discipline. This is a grave error. There has been some writings on this, there has been no scripture that give Christians the right to lay aside God's directive and process for reconciling beleivers. false teaching comes into the church a little ata time. To indicate and intimate that one can lay aside God's process brings in error concerning living in the church of Christ.
Now I am not questioning the intent of some of these people to want to love other beleivers and to fellowship with them but I do call on them to give the scriptures and its instruction and explaination where we can lay aside God's directive. IF it is not in the Bible to do other than God has prescribed is to sin. Remember sin is 1) doing what God has said we are not to do and 2) omitting and not comforming to the directives of God in His word.
Note that Carla at http://carla_rolfe.blogspot.com/ does not beleive that Matt 18 can be used in some situations. Now her heart is to reconcile with others she has offended and / or sinned against and with those that have offended and / or sinned against her. As she states she will go privately, listen to his/ her statement, etc. and then finally "if possible work it out". Note that she has a good motivation but a non fulfilled and therefore wrong process and conclusion since she will not bring in the church to help reconcile. Therefore she omits God's directive and is in error. "Last November I wrote a bit about online dispute resolution, and why Matthew 18 (applied) doesn't work outside of a physical context." By the way the church is a physical context as we work with one another.
MAny have thought processes which go something like this: Online chat, blogs,people in other church or fellowship groups, etc not being connected in any manner are not the church, or are have no connection with the Church therefore church discipline cannot happen. In these diverse situations what I hear is that each person must be good as a Christian as possible, love one another if possible but if a difference and or offsense happens you are on your own and have no help of God’s process of Church Discipline (Matt. 18).
HERE IS THE TRUTH: All Christians are in the Church. Therefore God’s process and the construct of discipline amongst God’s people cannot be set aside. It is God’s process. Outside of this process there is none unless it is a man made process. A man made process is not the way of Christianity. Now what do you do? Follow God’s process. You may need to call the brother or sister on the phone and talk with them. You may need to do a three way calling if someone will not repent if they are in sin or are deficient in doctrine. If the sin continues then you and the witness may need to contact the pastor or elders of the persons church and bring formal charges. Below I set forth the basics of church discipline. .As has been set forward in another writing there are three things which identify the church. We are people that
1. hold to the word of God;
2. partake of the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism; and
3. practice God’s process of church discipline.
The practice of church discipline has been established by God “tell it unto the church” (Matthew 18:17). Our Lord taught that this is the way of unity and peace in the church. It is the true church that maintains discipline over believers guarding their souls (Heb 13). Any group that calls itself a church, or is part of the body of Christ and does not exercise love for the people in helping restore them to righteous living, guiding them in their life, is not maintaining the practrice of a true church or church member in the body of Christ. It is only the true church that cares enough to help restore the believing brothers and sisters in a desire to honor God bring forth purity.
Matt. 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ , To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
.The authority of the church does not rest in the personal and individual authority of the elders or pastors. The authority of the church leaders is a derived authority. Christ is King and Head of His church (Eph. 5:23; Col 1:18). He has given the Bible as the rule of all faith and practice. The leaders of the church must learn how God’s process of discipline is established. Then they are to to, teach the laity how to proceed in God’s process so that when needed there is discipline being directed in its processes from the Word of God alone. In the church there can only be a speaking where the Bible speaks and teaching what the Bible teaches with authority. Therefore the church and the members are to be directed by the Word alone in all matters in life and godliness. This truly glorifies the Lord and maintains purity in His, one and only church.
Church discipline has a lofty goal. It is properly administered for the maintenance of the the glory of God, the purity of the church and the reclaimation, restoration and reconcilation of the erring brethren. Therefore as you approach a brother and sister that is erring either in life or in doctrine you need to include these levels and aspects of church discipline as needed:
Teaching = It is is teaching the person what the Bible says concerning their sin, and how to change
Convictiing = It includes the need to convince or persuade of the need to turn from sin to loving the living Lord unto holiness ;
Admonishing = Discipline through admonishment includes all three of these encouraging, rebuking, warning,
Excommunicating = Hopefully restoration will be accomplished before this step is taken. This is the farthest end of an extreme measure which includes expulsion from the Lord’s table
Restoring = This is the goal of church discipline. It is an acceptance and compassion for a Christian brother or sister that has repented in order for there to be no grief.
.From the teaching of Scripture there are four major steps in the practice of church discipline. The following are the biblically steps of church discipline and restoration from Matt. 18:15-17. Read the passage from the gospel of Matthew and see if you can pick the three steps..
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
.Did you identify them? If not here you go:
Step 1. Private meeting = there is to be a private meeting between you and the person that has caused an offense concerning doctrinal error or delinquent in proper Christian living. “…., go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone”.
.Step 2. If restoration fails in step one then you must move to a second step where you “take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. The taking of others with you is for the purpose of supporting you in persuading the person to be restored. But sadly if the persuasion fails and the brother or sister does not repent the they are there in order to establish witnesses if the person does not repent and does not want restored in this second step.
.Step 3. If this fails the discipline of the non-repentant brother gets very serious. It is here that you must get all of the information together and “tell it unto the church”. This does not mean that you tell the issue to the congregation but it is simply that you tell it unto the church leaders, i.e. elders. They must take up the process of discipline from this point forward. They are the church court and have the spiritual oversight of the people of the church. The church members are to “Obey … leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ( Heb 13:17). They are the leaders who speak the word of God and watch over the souls of the congregation. Perhaps the person will obey his or her leaders and submit to them and be restored. And if the person does this discipline ends since restoration would have been accomplished.
.Step 4. If sorrowfully the above steps fail and “if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” This is the final discipline step that must be done, called excommunication. It must be accomplished for two major reasons: a. in order that the spirit of the person may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5) and for the purging of sin out of the church to keep it a pure as humanly possible (1 Cor. 5:7).
.The person that is delinquent in doctrine or in godly living, the person that has been sinned against, those brought in for support and witness and the elders of the church are all to be directed and guided not by their own thinking but by the word of God. If this is not done then there is no evidence that the people or the church leaders are Christian but show themselves to be self judging and at best just pragmatic people whether they stumble upon doing what is wrong or right. When one fails to be directed by the word, judged by the church and found to be in sin they are not to partake of the Lord’s supper They are living as the unsaved. Where there is no church discipline there are all kinds of evil. Humanism prevails, sin is in the camp, the leaders have no place to stand, doctrine can go anywhere since it is not checked, there is no growth at all and no watching over the souls of the people of the church. .Church discipline by the word of God and by the church and its people following the above steps is a must. A congregation or faith group that does not practice church discipline is missing a critical mark of being a true church.
Do you need to rethink how you are approaching others in your church or online in chat rooms or across the country where you may have lived and or visited and there are unresolved sin? Go ahead, put you plan in place and use God’s process. After all this is how peace, unity and the glory of God and the purity of His church is maintained.