Weekly Bible Study

Tuesday 27th October 2020

Topic: Church Discipline 2
Text: 1 Tim. 5:19–21

Today as we continue with our study on Church Discipline, let us look at how Church Discipline should be carried out. In the local Church, the followings should be noted concerning the implementation of Church Discipline.

1. Keep the Knowledge of the Sin to the Smallest Group Possible
This seems to be the purpose in Matthew 18:15–17 behind the gradual progression from a private meeting, to a meeting
with two or three others, to telling the entire church. The fewer people who know about some sin, the better, because repentance is easier, fewer people are led astray, and less harm is done to the reputation of the person, the reputation of the church, and the reputation of Christ.

2. Disciplinary Measures Should Increase in Strength Until There Is a Solution
Once again in Matthew 18 Jesus teaches us that we cannot stop simply with a private conversation if that has not brought satisfactory results. He requires that the wronged person first go alone, and then take one or two others (Matt. 18:15–16). Moreover, if a Christian thinks that he or she has wronged someone else (or even if that other person thinks that he or she has been wronged), Jesus requires that the person who has done the wrong (or is thought to have done the wrong) go to the person who considers
himself the victim of wrongdoing (Matt. 5:23). This means that whether we have been wronged or others think they have been wronged, it is always our responsibility to take the initiative and go to the other person.

Jesus does not allow us to wait for the other person to come to us. After a private meeting and a small group meeting, Jesus does not specify that the elders
or officers of the church are next to be consulted as a group, but certainly this intermediate step seems to be appropriate, because Jesus may simply be summarizing the process without necessarily mentioning every possible step in it. In fact, there are several examples of small group admonition in the New Testament which are carried out by elders or other church officers (1 Thess. 5:12; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10; James 5:19–20). Moreover, the principle of keeping the knowledge of sin to the smallest group possible would certainly encourage this intermediate step as well.

Finally, if the situation cannot be resolved Jesus says to “tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:17). In this case the church would be assembled to hear the facts of the case and to come to a decision. Since Jesus allows for the possibility that the person “refuses to listen even to the church” (v. 17), the church may have to meet once to decide what to say to the offender, and then meet again to exclude that person from the fellowship of the church. (v.18)
When Jesus gives these directions about church discipline, he reminds the church that his own presence and his own power are behind the decisions made by the church: “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:19–20). Jesus promises to be present in church gatherings generally, but specifically here with respect to the church being gathered for discipline of an offending member. And Paul similarly tells the Corinthians to discipline the erring member when they are assembled “with the power of our Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4).

This is not an activity to be taken lightly, but is carried out in the presence of the Lord, the spiritual component of it actually being carried out by the Lord himself. If this ever must be done, the whole church will then know that the erring person is no longer considered a member of the church, and that person would not be allowed to take Communion, since partaking in the Lord’s Supper is a sign of partaking in the unity of the church (1 Cor. 10:17: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”).
There are other passages in the New Testament that speak of avoiding fellowship with the excommuncated person. Paul tells the Corinthians, “I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor. 5:11). He tells the Thessalonians, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).

Moreover, he says,
“If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thess. 3:14–15). 2 John 10–11 also prohibits greeting or welcoming into the house anyone who is promoting false teaching. These instructions are apparently given to prevent the church from giving to others the impression that it approves of the disobedience of the erring person. In some Churches, the offender might be ask to sit at the back bench, suspended from office or denied some leadership role as the case might be. Excommunication is the highest level of Church discipline.

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