Church Discipline (1)
CHRISTIANITY IS practised by the Word of God, the Bible. And the Bible is the standard for Christian living. The community of Christian believers with Christ Jesus as its King is referred to as the Church. And throughout the centuries, true Christians have been living their lives by the teachings of the Bible. These biblical teachings include discipline.
But Bobby Jamieson has, in an article, observed that “To some Christians, church discipline seems to contradict the whole shape of the Bible's story. Isn't the gospel all about Jesus welcoming tax collectors and sinners? Aren't we turning back the clock and putting believers back under the law if we start excluding people from the church for certain sins?”
To understand church discipline, an anonymous Christian minister writes, “Church discipline is the process of correcting sinful behaviour among members of a local church body for the purpose of protecting the church, restoring the sinner to a right walk with God, and renewing fellowship among the church members” (gotquestions.org).
In another article, Steven J. Cole posits that“… practising church discipline is neither easy nor pleasant. But the Bible, not our culture, must be our standard for faith and practice and it clearly teaches the importance of church discipline. Some of the Reformers viewed church discipline as the third mark of a true church, the other two being sound preaching of the Word and proper administration of the sacraments.”
Church discipline is training intended to develop or grow our inner man until it matures to the fullness of Christ. As Christians, our discipline starts right at our conversion or salvation. In a church environment where discipline is not actively enforced or practised, fleshly desires thrive. Satan is allowed to destroy the church with laziness, mediocrity, slander, lies, rumours, discords and malice.
Failure to enforce discipline in the church of God is an act of disobedience to God’s commands. God commands His servant-leaders to enforce discipline among Christian believers to make them sound in the faith, pure in heart and ensure their salvation. Church discipline is necessary to promote therapeutic benefit of the soul.
Three forms of church discipline are presented in an article. The author calls the first “formative discipline” which he says “helps to form the disciple through instruction.” He mentions the second form as “corrective discipline” which “helps to correct the disciple through correcting sin” (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:11; Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
“Preemptive discipline” is the last form he talks about and opines that this “disallows someone from participating in the fellowship of the church in the first place” (2 John 2:9-10; see an example of this in Acts 8:17-24) (thegospelcoalition.org).
Now, as Christians, the Word of God is the recommended source of instruction and inspiration for church discipline. God Himself disciplines His church for His ministers who serve in the ordained facilitating ministry to learn and replicate without fear or partiality. The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us about how God disciplines His children:
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.
“Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12: 5-11).
Clearly, the discipline of God is an act and expression of His genuine love towards the wellbeing of His children. God does not discipline or command discipline to be enforced for the destruction of His Church, but for its healing, restoration and salvation. While with His disciples in the days of His flesh, Jesus Christ told them: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him…” (Luke 17: 3- 4).
Christ Jesus was and is a Saviour of the world. It can be said that He served as a moral agent by enforcing morality and discipline when He walked the earth. He taught morality and actually lived a moral life. No sin was found in his lips. In Luke 23: 4, Pilate said: “I find no fault in this man”. And in 1 Peter 2: 22, it is written that Christ committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.
Christ Jesus was not corrupt so He had the boldness to reproof people who erred, went astray or sinned, especially those who claimed to be children of God. Recall how Christ Jesus drove out undisciplined Jewish believers who were trading in the temple. Clearly, Christ was a no-nonsense man and did not countenance wrongdoing, including hypocrisy.
By James Quansah
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