Apr 21

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Our God loves all men (those in the world; those in the church; those who have fallen away [John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9])–and so should the Christian (Mark 12:31). While God’s ideal Will is unity in the church (1 Cor. 1:10), unity with sin is condemned (Rev. 2:15-16, 20) and division with evil is upheld (Eph. 5:11). Thus, God, in His love for the church to keep it pure and His love for an apostate to save his fallen soul, has set forth His law of discipline (2 Thes. 3:6-15; 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
God’s law of discipline consists of both positive (directive; preventative) and negative (corrective; exclusive). Positive, in that, by means of instructions of the Bible (as in Bible classes, sermons, etc.) the church is to keep itself from becoming disorderly (Heb. 3:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:1- 5). Negative, in that, when Scriptural steps are taken, there is the exclusion of the disorderly from the fellowship of the church (Mat. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thes. 3:6-15; Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 5:11-12; 2 John 9-11: Titus 3:10-11).
The purpose of church discipline is three-fold: (1) to save the erring Christian (2 Thes. 3:14; 1 Tim. 1:20; 1 Cor. 5:5); (2) to save the souls of the church from being influenced to do the same (1 Cor. 5:6); (3) to save the world (Acts 5:11; Note: sin and hypocrisy will keep the world from being saved, Rom. 2:26f).
The motive of church discipline is love, for it is the attempt to save the soul (2 Cor. 2:3-4; Rev. 3:19; Prov. 13:26; Heb. 12:6), and is always to be done in meekness/kindness/gentleness (Gal. 6:1).
God identifies those who are to be disciplined: [1] Those who walk disorderly (2 Thes. 3:6). This is a general reference to anyone who persists in a transgression of God’s law (2 Thes. 3:6, 14; 2:15). [2] False teachers. Such are those who bring not the teachings of Christ (2 John 10), who are heretics (Titus 3:10) and who cause divisions (which false teachings do) (Rom. 16:17). [3] Those who practice false doctrine (2 John 9). [4] Those who are immoral or worldly (Eph. 5:11; 1 Cor. 5:9). [5] Those who sin against a brother but will not repent (Mat. 18:15-18). These are those who have already lost their fellowship with God (1 John 1:6) and are to be disciplined in love and meekness by the church for the purpose of saving souls.
After mourning and praying for the one in error (1 Cor. 5:2; 1 John 5:16), the church is to visit to seek to convert (James 5:19-20; 1 Thes. 5:14; Gal. 6:1; Mat. 18:15-17). If, following such visits the erring repents, we have gained our brother (Mat. 18:15) and are to forgive and greatly rejoice (Luke 15:11-32); however, after a fair period of time if there is no repentance, there is to be the withdrawing of fellowship. This means that: [1] he is to be noted and marked before the church (2 Thes. 3:14; Rom. 16:17); [2] he is no longer in spiritual fellowship with any member of the church (Eph. 5:11; Mat. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 John 9); [3] there will be the cessation of the engagement of social company and interchange (1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thes. 3:14; Rom. 16:17 [Note: this does not negate family responsibility, otherwise there would be the transgressing of God’s laws regarding these matters, 1 Tim. 5:8; 1 Cor. 7:3-5, 10; Eph. 5:22-25; 6:1-3]); [4] the offender (if he attends worship) is not to be asked to take a leading part in worship (Titus 3:10; Rom. 16:17); [5] whenever a member meets the offender, there is to be no greeting which conveys acceptance (2 John 9); and [6] when a member encounters the offender, the member, in love for his soul, is to reprove and admonish him (Eph. 5:11; 2 Thes. 3:15).
Truly, church discipline must be the most difficult thing a Christian is to do. However, with love for his eternal soul, the difficulty becomes a desire.

Gary Henson

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