Today we are talking about everyone’s favorite topic, besides carpet color, Church Discipline.
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 5, we are looking at Verses 1-13.
Let me first off read the statement in our proposed By-laws, then lets see how this played out in a first century church.
Section 4 – On Church Discipline
(a) Formative discipline is inherent in the preaching, teaching, and exercise of other ministries in the church. When formative discipline fails due to unrepentant sin, corrective discipline is then necessary. Corrective discipline is for the good of the church and the member who has sinned. It is never to be entered into lightly or rashly. The goal of corrective discipline is always remedial, that is, the goal is always the salvation and holiness and good of the one being disciplined.
(b) Any member consistently neglectful of his or her duties or guilty of conduct by which the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be dishonored, and so opposing the welfare of the church, shall be subject to the admonition of the elders and the discipline of the church, according to the instructions of our Lord in Mt. 18:15-17 and the example of Scripture. Church discipline, then, should ordinarily be contemplated after individual private admonition has failed. Church
discipline can include admonition by the elders or congregation, removal from office, and ex- communication (see Mt. 18:15-17; 2 Th. 3:14-15; 1 Tim. 5:19-20; 1 Co. 5:4-5).
(c) The purpose of such discipline should be:
(1) For the repentance, reconciliation, and spiritual growth of the individual
disciplined (Heb.12:1-11; Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Co. 5:5; Gal. 6:1);
(2) For the instruction in righteousness and good of other Christians, as an
example to them (1 Co. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20; Heb. 10:24-25);
(3) For the purity of the church as a whole (1 Co. 5:6-7; Eph. 5:27; Rev. 21:2); (4) For the good of our corporate witness to non-Christians (Mt. 5:13-16; Jn.
13:35; Ac. 5:10-14); and
(5) Supremely, for the glory of God, by reflecting His holy character (Dt. 5:11;
Jn. 15:8; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 2:12).
(d) It is desirable in the case of public sin that a confession be made at an appointed meeting of the church, so that the church can freely extend forgiveness. Such public confession is especially necessary in the case of elders and deacons (1 Tim. 5:19-20; Gal. 2:11-14).
Section 5 – Termination of Membership
(a) Membership shall be forfeited if the member is inactive for a six-month period, excluding health, job, or other extenuating circumstances. A Member may withdraw their membership by written request or verbal request to at least two members of the Board of Elders and Deacons.
(b) Termination of membership shall be recognized by the church following the death, transfer of membership, or voluntary resignation of any church member who is in good standing. Membership may also be terminated as an act of church discipline (ordinarily, but not necessarily, at the recommendation of the elders) and with the vote of 51% of the members present at any regular or special meeting of the members, recognizing that members of Christ’s church should strive for unity in all things (Eph. 4:1-6).
Now, I don’t know your background, but for me growing up as the son of the pastor’s best friend, the term Church Discipline meant that anyone in the church was free to discipline my brother and I. And believe me they did, and believe me, I deserved it. now, as I read in this statement, discipline has two uses. Think of it as active and passive. When you use the active voice in discipline, you are self disciplined, determined, focussed. Typically, this is seen as a positive thing. All Christians are called to be involved in the active discipline. Think about the word Disciple for a second, do you hear any familiar sounds in that word? Now, if you are a disciple of Christ, and you have committed to be submitted to the authority of a local church, you have committed to both active and passive voice discipline.
Now, let’s look briefly at a time when that played out in the local body in Corinth.
What I want to look at today is the necessary elements that are present for church discipline to take place
- Outward sin: in this text, it is clear that there is sin taking place that people have recognized and reported to Paul. In this case it is a man having sexual relations with presumably his step mother. This is in direct violation of Leviticus 18:8 and Deut. 22:30 that forbids sexual relations with close relatives. This is Gods way of marking his own people as holy. They are not to partake in the ways of the pagans that they live among. Here we see a sin that is not only wrong in Gods eyes, but the eyes of the pagans as well. While I believe that outward sins always have an inward root, the sins that should be confronted and dealt with by the church are outward. For instance, pride will have many outward manifestations…
- Confronted: now, my guess is that because the report reached Paul that someone in the Corinthian Church had confronted the person. We learn from Matthew 18 that the process for this is to go first one on one, then take two or three, then take it to the church.
- Unrepentant: we see in verse two that not only are they unrepentant, but they are also arrogant about it. One of the characteristics of sin is that it blinds you to reality and is easy to justify in your own mind… Now. Here is an important thing. We deal with people who are struggling with sin differently than people are are struggling with sin. If someone recognizes the danger and damage of their sin, or patterns, and is actively trying, by Gods grace to fight that sin, we deal with that differently than someone who has been confronted and refuses to recognize the damage they are causing and fighting their sin.
- Removal: when a person is unrepentant after being confronted by one, then three, then the whole congregation, they are put side of fellowship of the body…
That is what happened in Corinth, and at Pauls instruction, that is what was done.
Now let’s look at the outcome.
Turn a few pages over to 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.
Now some people have suggested that this might be the sinner that we just referred to, but it is mo likely the case that this was someone who led a rebellion against Paul. In any case, what we see here are the instructions for the church to forgive the repentant sinner who was at one time put out of the fellowship and has now come back.
This is the picture we have of discipline and restoration.
I think it is important to emphasize that this process is not one that we should take lightly, or without great care to keep the cross in full view when we do so. There are clear admonish ions to those who confront sin. We must do it with humility and patience and with the goal of restoration always in focus.
We do it while recognizing that sin corrupts, it is dangerous for the one singing and for the body, and for the Glory of God.
Jesus has made a way to be free from the eternal consequence and the present power of sin in our lives. That way is through repentance and forgiveness.