I remember the first time we implemented church discipline in my former church. It was the greatest spiritual challenge the church had faced. The process took over a year, and it ended with a young lady having to be removed and others leaving because of her removal.
But that was not to be the end of the story. Sometime later, I received a call from the young lady. She said she needed to come and repent before the church. She came and shared her story. She told how she had been saved subsequent to being disciplined by our church, and that it was the discipline of the church that God used to bring her to that salvation. She said she had always gotten away with everything she wanted—a pattern developed because of a lack of parental and self-discipline. The church had made her really examine her life and through that, she came to realize that she was not a true Christian. Correspondingly, she bowed her heart before our wonderful Lord, and He gloriously saved her. We welcomed her back to the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of the body. Continue reading →
I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.
It was abused in the past
When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.” A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication. Continue reading →
The term discipline, both in the Bible and in everyday usage, displays various nuances depending on the particular biblical or life context. The ideas communicated by discipline are that of chastening, instruction, nurturing, training, correction, reproof, and punishment. In the negative sense, the idea of punishment is most prominent. In the positive sense, things like nurturing, training, and instruction come to mind. However, since all discipline is based on the perfect character of God, all discipline is actually positive even though it is not always immediately apparent. Just as the Scripture says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The reality is that discipline and discipleship are so closely connected that to minimize discipline is to minimize discipleship. Lynn Buzzard notes, “To separate discipling from discipline is not only to tear words from their etymologically common roots, but also from their organic relationship.” Continue reading →
“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him” (1 Corinthians 3:17a)
“Under the Old Testament any person, other than the high priest on the Day of Atonement, who dared to enter the Holy of Holies, would drop dead on the spot. He would not need to be put to death by the people. God would strike him dead. Even less does God look kindly upon those who threaten or defile His holy people (Matthew 18:6–10).” The things that destroy the temple of God were present in Corinth: pride, jealousy, unjustifiable elevation of human relationships, prolonged infancy, human wisdom, and milkoholism, all of which are the products of imposing human wisdom upon the temple of God.  By supplanting divine wisdom with human wisdom, they placed themselves under the patient but sure judgment of God. Using human wisdom to build the brick and mortar church building is fine, but building the church—the spiritual temple of God—with human wisdom is sin. Continue reading →
The word for church, ekklasia, appears in the Gospels only twice. The first time is Matt 16:18, where Christ says, “I will build My church.” In this first mention of the church, Christ speaks of the universal church and establishes that it is His church, which He purchased with “His own blood” (Acts 20: 28; 1 Cor 11:24–25). He never abdicates His headship or ownership of the church to any self-enthroned human monarchy or oligarchy. Continue reading →
On one occasion, the chief priests and elders approached Jesus while he was teaching and asked him, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” (Matt 21:23). While it is obvious that the priests and elders were disputing rather than making careful inquiry, the question they asked is good and deserves being asked and answered. Many indeed ask by what authority does the church practice church discipline? In answering this question, I will seek to briefly demonstrate that we not only practice church discipline because of explicit commands to do so (Matt 18:15–20; Rom 16:17–18; 1 Cor 5:1–13; 1 Tim 1:19–20; 2 Thess 3:6–15), but also because church discipline is inextricably related to the gospel, evangelism, and the Great Commission. Continue reading →