Title: Church Discipline
Text: Galatians 5:22-6:10; II Timothy 3:10-17; Matthew 18: 15-22; II Thessalonians 3:6-15; I Corinthians 5:1-13
FCF: In an age of love, tolerance, and relativity, it is difficult for us to rigidly apply church discipline as Christ tells us to.
Prop: Because Church Discipline is absolutely necessary for the purity of the gospel, we must practice church discipline.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 18 – not 8 – chapter 18. If you have been here for any length of time, you know a few things about me, the direction we are going with this ministry, and the overall commitment we have to the truth of God’s Word, and living by that Word. These three items will collide today in what will be a difficult sermon for me to give you.
First because you know me, you know that I would not preach a topical message unless I thought it was absolutely necessary to do so.
Second, because you know that the church leadership has been trying to re-develop a strong and unyielding commitment to doing what God’s word instructs us to do.
Lastly, because you know that the church leadership, from preaching to teaching, has been trying to emphasize that the gospel is not about choosing between heaven or hell but between holiness or death.
All this adds up to us exploring a topic that is somewhat, uncomfortable. It is unpopular. It is neglected or ignored in most churches. And even the churches that do practice what we are going to talk about today, do it poorly, incompletely, or contrary to scripture. I am in Matthew 18 and I will begin reading in verse 15. I will be reading from the NET but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
[Slide 2] We live in an age of tolerance, love and moral relativity. The moral compass of man is broken when he is conceived. Mankind is not good. They are not relatively good. They aren’t even relatively wicked. Men are desperately wicked.
All that has been turned upside down. Our world claims that men are good and that they are trustworthy to make their own decisions. Not just in the decisions that have no moral charge like what color shirt to wear or which protein to add to their meal – but even in moral decisions, because men are basically good, they are able to morally guide their own lives. But what happens when two men, who are good, disagree on a moral decision? That is when our world has concluded that the moral truth in question gains morality only to the person deciding. In other words – what is wrong for one person can be right for another. Indeed, they must conclude this, because they have already believed the doctrine of humanism. So to say that one man is wrong in his moral conclusion violates a core teaching of their faith. And as if that wasn’t mixed up enough… they add tolerance to the mix. Not only can there be different conclusions of what is true and morally pure – but we cannot punish, judge or otherwise shame any person who has chosen a different moral right than you. You must tolerate them. And even this will evolve, and is already, to eventually be that wrong will be called right and right will be called wrong.
I praise God today that He DID NOT TOLERATE MY SIN. I praise God that He gave us a book telling me, like a mirror, you are WRONG. You are out of order. You are messed up! I praise God that His Word is absolute truth. And in it we find a rigid moral expectation of all people.
Truth is not relative it is written.
Love is not natural it is chosen.
And tolerance for those who stand opposed to God’s Truth will eventually be denied.
[Slide 3] So in the church, as we are surrounded by teaching about love, moral relativity and tolerance, we are ALWAYS being tempted to incorporate such philosophies into our practice. But when we come to such passages in scripture, and we see intolerance. We see love through discipline. We see moral certainty… we say – surely not God. [Slide 4] Surely you would not have us kick people out of church? We have an epidemic right now of people not coming to church and you want us to kick others out? And in these statements we reveal yet another thing that we have gotten mixed up on. Because church is not a thing you come to it is a thing that you ARE.
[Slide 5] You see by what we are – we represent the gospel to a lost and dying world. But when people claim to be one of us, that do not live as though they are, the gospel is tarnished. And friend the gospel’s purity is more important than any person in this room. And one way to keep it pure is to keep the church pure through Church Discipline.
[Slide 6] But what is Church Discipline. It sounds serious and indeed it is. It sounds confrontational. It can be. It sounds bad… Oh but it can be immeasurably good too. So what is church discipline, well for starters, we must turn to Hebrews 12. Verse 4-13. I should warn you that we will be doing a lot of reading today. So have your fingers ready. We will not look at single verses today. I want to make sure to give the context of each passage we go to. And in a section talking about Living a life of faith, the writer of Hebrews has this reminder of what it means to be a child of God.
I.) Church Discipline should be a normal means by which sinning Christians can be restored to spiritual victory or by which the church can be purified of pretending Christians, So we must practice Church Discipline.
a. What is it?
i. Training by means of correction
1. From God –Hebrews 12:4-13 [Slide 7-11]
2. From Leaders God has ordained – Hebrews 13:17-18 [Slide12-13]
ii. It is corrective discipleship.
b. [Slide 14 What it is not
i. [Slide 15A] Not a negative term – not even really a feared thing – painful… yes, but good
ii. [Slide 15B] Not for retribution –
1. The bible tells us not to stand in judgment over others
2. Therefore it is not a single person that decides whether or not church discipline goes to its final step, but an ever growing group of people who corroborate the same findings about the person in question.
3. The goal toward the sinning party is not to humiliate the person but to restore them through fear, Shame, and love.
a. Fear of God
b. Shame of sin
c. Love of God given upon genuine repentance
iii. [Slide 15C] Not abnormal to occur in churches
1. Church discipline should not be something abnormal in church
2. When we say church discipline, of course, many run to the final step when someone is excommunicated from the fellowship. Which is unfortunate.
3. Counseling is Church discipline. Correcting your children if they are believers, is church discipline. Any time you rebuke another person for a sin they have committed, that is you exercising church discipline.
4. Therefore, church discipline, in all its steps, ought to be a regular occurrence.
iv. [Slide 15D] Not only for big sins
1. Many falsely conclude that it is only big sins that need to be addressed.
2. Actually, the bible addresses anything from small offenses among brothers all the way to sexual immorality.
3. The implication is that there is actually no sin that is too small or too big to be taken all the way to the final step of church discipline if necessary.
5. Because the issue is never the sin itself… it is the unrepentant heart. A genuine follower of Christ make a lifestyle of repentance. So if that is absent from a person who claims Christ – Something is not right.
v. [Slide 15E] It is NEVER for issues of preference
1. Biblical church discipline is not used to enforce matters of preference or tradition
2. Biblical church discipline is not used to force someone to conform to a certain standard that is not explicitly advanced in scripture
3. Church Discipline exists ONLY to confront, expose, and correct someone in sin, or someone promoting false doctrine.
c. [Slide 16] Why is it needed? – Galatians 5:22-6:5
&nbsnbsp; i. [Slide 17-18] The Fruit of the Spirit – Ultimately our goal is to be Spirit controlled people. When we are, we produce this fruit (singular) in our lives. 5:22-26
ii. [Slide 19] The overwhelmed Believer – However, occasionally we are overtaken by ambush or by slow slide 6:1
iii. [Slide 20-21] The Spirit of the corrector – 6:1-5
1. Gentleness and meekness
3. Fulfilling the law of Christ
iv. Restored to being able to produce the fruit again – 6:5
d. [Slide 22] What is its purpose?
i. [Slide 23A] Many have claimed that the purpose of church discipline is to restore the sinning believer. This is not entirely accurate. If this was THE purpose of church discipline then it makes little sense why God would command us to excommunicate them from the church. How can we restore them if we are cutting off contact? Wouldn’t we increase contact? Wouldn’t we wish to be around them even more? Wouldn’t we just smother them in attention and love and pursue them until we had them back? In fact many churches treat church discipline like this. People get more attention from their church family when they are wayward than when they are faithful.
ii. [Slide 23B] But can I submit to you that the primary purpose of Church Discipline is not about us at all. [Slide 23C] Instead it is about keeping the gospel pure, by keeping the church pure.
iii. Indeed, if this is the primary purpose of church discipline, we see that the restoration of the sinner is merely a means to that end. But if that fails, there is but one other option. And that is excommunication or literally a breaking of fellowship.
[Slide 24] But in this we must recognize our own sin bent heart. Because if church purity is the goal, then our natural impulse would be to excommunicate people left and right. We naturally do not give people as much mercy as we allot ourselves. So God gave us a rather lengthy process to go through to both keep the church pure, but also keep us from making hasty and unmerciful decisions. This process is full of mercy and compassion but is guaranteed to render results.
II.) Church Discipline is a highly detailed and exhaustive process full of love and mercy and guaranteed render final results, so we must practice Church Discipline.
a. [Slide 25] What is the process? Galatians 6:5; II Timothy 3:10-17; Matthew 18:15-22;
i. [Slide 26] Step 0 – Self Discipline - Gal 6:5 and II Tim 3:10-17
1. The first step in church discipline isn’t church discipline at all. It is self-discipline. The Spirit guides us through the Word, confronting our inconsistencies. We continue to repent and continue to depend on and surrender to Christ as we live out the fruit of the Spirit.
2. The goal is to be people who can carry our own burdens in Christ. In the Spirit. READ
3. [Slide 27-30] Paul tells Timothy to press on and follow His example by using the Word of God to be taught what is true about God and himself so he can see his own wickedness and repent of it. So that He can instead follow what God would have him to be and continue on that path with discipline. Until he is a man that lacks in no area, and is fully equipped to do all God asks of him.
4. No third party is needed. Just Timothy and the Word of God.
5. Personal growth, discipleship and bible study are absolutely invaluable. In most cases, if a believer studied God’s Word, repented when they needed to, corrected their behavior when they needed to, and continued to, as Paul put it, beat their bodies into subjection – then Church Discipline would rarely be needed.
6. Occasionally though, we are caught off guard.
a. Either we are ambushed, and suddenly find ourselves in a situation of great temptation that we were not prepared to handle. Or
b. We are slowly lulled into a state of security and before we know it, we are ensnared.
7. That is why church discipline exists. And it starts with Personal, Crisis Discipleship.
ii. [Slide 31] Step 1 – Personal Crisis Discipleship – Matthew 18:15
1. In this section of Matthew, Jesus is speaking exclusively to attempt to answer the question posed to him by his disciples in verse 1. Who is the greatest in the kingdom? He has already answered this in chapter 5 – those who obey the least command in the law and teach others to do so also. Specifically what follows is Jesus describing character traits of Kingdom citizens.
2. Compassion and forgiveness balanced with commitment to godly living is one trait of a Christ follower which is demonstrated by the process of Church Discipline. So let’s read verse 15.
3. [Slide 32] One on one
4. The witness of the believer committing the sin goes to the them to show them their fault.
5. And as we saw in Galatians, They do so humbly and in the Spirit. Demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit – in meekness.
6. If the offender confesses their sin, rejects it, and surrenders to follow Christ recklessly uprooting the sin from their life… you have gained a brother.
7. The process ends. Until the next time they sin. If it is in the same way or different, the process starts over since they showed fruit of repentance.
8. What if they say that what they did is not a sin?
a. What if they argue that the bible doesn’t mean what I am saying it means?
b. What if they say that they have liberty to do such a thing?
c. That is why there are more steps than just 1 before they are excommunicated.
9. If they do not repent.
a. They refuse to reject their sinful choice.
b. They express guilt but produce NO fruit of repentance.
10. If they do not repent, we go on to step 2. Small Group Counseling.
iii. [Slide 33] Step 2 – Small Group Counseling – Matthew 18:16
1. [Slide 34] Two or three witnesses come along to witness the confrontation.
2. They are there to provide witness to the proceedings and evidence of the offender’s repentance or lack of repentance.
3. It is implied that the two or three witnesses go with the first person who did the confronting. The circle expands.
4. The witnesses confirm the original confronter’s assessment that such activity was sin or they could potentially deny it seeing it as a matter of preference or opinion.
5. Assuming they side with the confronter, they plead with and counsel the offender to repent and return. If they repent and show fruit of repentance, even if it is small, then you have won your brother.
a. Small fruit of repentance must include a rejection of the sin and attempts to live a holy lifestyle in Christ no matter what the cost
b. Small fruit has less to do with success and more to do with the heart.
i. When someone is repentant, they are sorrowful over their sin
&nnbsp; ii. When someone is repentant they are humble and desiring righteousness
iii. When someone is repentant they recklessly trust in the Spirit to obey
iv. These are fruit of repentance. Therefore repentance is not simply stopping the sin – but a change of heart.
6. If, however, they do not repent, or show no fruit of repentance, the process continues to An added measure of mercy and unity.
iv. [Slide 35] Step 3 - An added measure of mercy and unity – No where…
1. While the bible does not include this step, it is probably wise to interpret this as a pre-church era command. Pre dating church leadership as a whole.
2. Adding mercy is certainly not unwise.
3. So the offender would be brought before the church leadership rather than the entire church.
4. Another good reason for this to be done is to insure that the church leaders are united. Having a split governing board may cause more issues. To prevent this, this added step can be easily implemented.
5. The board, the two or three witnesses, and the original confronter are all a part of this confrontation.
6. If they refuse to repent, or show no fruit of repentance, it carries on to the Fourth step. Which is Family Rebuke and Counsel.
v. [Slide 36] Step 4 – Family Rebuke and Counsel – Matthew 18:17
1. [Slide 37] Tell it to the church
2. The sum total of the church membership is made aware of the offender’s sin. The original confronter, the two or three witnesses, the church leadership all give account of their dealings.
3. The offender is invited and encouraged to attend this public service. And even encouraged to give an account.
4. If the offender does not repent, then the process progresses to one of two ends that we will talk about next
b. [Slide 38] What is the guaranteed end? - Matthew 18:17c; I Corinthians 5:1-10; II Thessalonians 3:14-15
i. If they are genuinely saved
1. Treat them like a gentile and tax collector - They are handed over to Satan, so their flesh may be destroyed but soul saved. Remove them from among you–
a. [Slide 39] So we are to treat him as a gentile and tax collector – the short version of this is to treat them as though they were never part of the community of Christ.
b. Flipping over to I Corinthians 5 now, in context we see Paul correcting various problems in the Corinthian Church. One of which is a distorted view of love and tolerance to allow a man who is sleeping with his father’s wife (step-mother probably) to remain in the church. Paul confronts this issue head on and paintas us a picture of what treating someone like a tax collector and gentile looks like. Let’s read verses 1-5 of I Corinthians 5.
c. [Slide 40-42] I Cor 5:1-5 Some say that this would mean that his flesh as in his sin nature would be destroyed
d. Others would say that it is referring to his physical protection would be removed.
e. I support the latter simply because Paul says turn him over to Satan. If the sin nature is to be destroyed he must be turned over to Christ not Satan. But we all know from Job that Satan can receive power to afflict our bodies.
f. Thus, the excommunication of a church member is not simply excluding them from the local church, but excluding them from the universal assembly of believers and the protection of God.
g. They are treated as if they were never a part of the community of Christ, and thrown back to the world of which they seem to desire, and if they are genuine believers, they will be exposed to the providential judgment of God as he allows Satan to destroy their entire life so there may yet be a chance for them to return before God's final judgment.
h. In other words, God is going scorched earth on them. He will not allow them to further defame His name. And He will do all that He must to prevent that
ii. Annanias and Saphira
iii. Corinthians who got drunk at Communion
i. Turn with me now to II Thessalonians 3:14-15
2. They are admonished as brothers – II Thessalonians 3:14-15
a. Paul is encouraging the church of Thessolonica to continue to stand firm in their faith against persecution. In that they may be tempted to let those living ungodly lifestyles to continue among them because they do not want to chase people off. Indeed, Paul reveals that he knows that there are some who call themselves believers but are not working and instead are mooching off the church. Paul then commands those claiming brothers to work for their wage and earn their keep. Then to the leadership of the church he has this to say. Look in verse 14.
b. [Slide 43] We are not to closely associate with them. We don’t play a round of golf or go out to the movies with them. We don’t invite them over to our homes for a board game night.
c. But they are also not our enemy. We don’t say good riddance or shun them. We don’t give them the silent treatment or never contact them.
d. Neither friend nor foe. They are a mission.
e. But we are to admonish them like a brother – or warn them as if they are a believer.
f. So we treat them as though they are unsaved, but when we speak to them about their sin, we do so as if they were a brother. In other words expecting them to yield to the authority of scripture and being compassionate and loving toward them.
3. [Slide 44] They will repent
a. Jude 24-25
b. Philippians 1:3-11
c. His true children never stay fallen away. He is much too sovereign to allow that to happen.
ii. [Slide 45] But if they were never genuinely saved…
1. They re-enter the world system and are like a fish to water. Now they do not have to pretend anymore. There may even be a sense of relief. And…
2. According to Hebrews 6 – they will probably never return.
[Slide 46 (blank)(end)] So now that we have seen what Church Discipline is, and how important it is, what then must we do?
I will tell you what we will do. Because we are a church who clings to the Word of God. Because we believe that it is the authoritative infallible words of the only living God, creator of the universe. Because we have submitted to following His Word with reckless abandon. Because we know that God demands that His followers live a life of repentance and belief, self-denial and surrender. I tell you that Columbus Baptist Church will practice Church Discipline. That is not a threat to fear the church leadership, it is a promise so that we all fear God.
Why do you need to know this?
Because you need to know that we a church leaders will not let the gospel be tarnished by any person’s life of disobedience. And we expect our church membership to desire the same for us. No person’s dignity is worth allowing sin to fester here. We will keep this church pure by removing all that pollutes it.
But I want to tell you another reason that you need to know that we will do this.
We will not abandon those that we once called brother to the darkness of sin. We will not cede our friends to their own wicked lusts. We will not desert those who once fought alongside us, so they can be brutally destroyed by their own flesh and the lies of this world. We will not allow sin to go unchecked here, because we will not allow you to face the judgment of God without doing everything we possibly can to turn you back. And again, as church leaders, we hope you would do the same for us.
You say well I am a believer, I am a member of the body of Christ… what does this mean for me? How do I live based on this?
If you know of someone who is living in sin. You cannot allow them to continue. In meekness, love and humility – RESTORE THEM! A moment of embarrassment in private is a worthy trade to one more day lived opposed to God’s Kingdom.
And Know that if you can’t get through to that person that others will help.
And know that if we can’t get through to them that God can providentially through pain and heartache lead them back to Himself.
And when we do this… when we execute church discipline to the final step, mourn. Mourn over the fact that either there is a brother who is going to go through hell on earth to be chased back to His King
Mourn because the one you thought was a brother… was a beautiful coffin with dead men’s bones. Their faith was dead.
And pray for them either way. That God might providentially move quickly to bring the brother back – or that God would mercifully call the false brother to true conversion.
What would happen if we would do this?
I have two stories.
First is a story of a man and his wife who were, seemingly, the only two in an entire family, who wanted to live for Christ. They came to church each week. They had occasional issues martially, but not anything insurmountable. They had a couple of young kids, and brought them to AWANA and Sunday School.
All on the surface seemed fine – but they were hiding a secret.
Their home was filled with debauchery. A room away from where their children slept, the husband of that home engaged in adulterous relationships with prostitutes, while the wife of the home stood in full agreement.
They were confronted privately. Two or three witness were taken to confront them, but the husband attempted to defend his actions siting biblical examples of Old Testament saints that had many wives and concubines. They were brought before the church leadership to account for their actions, but they refused to come.
Finally, after many pleadings and urgings, they were disciplined out of the church. And they have not returned. And calamity did not strike them. They are still married. They still have two children. And to my knowledge. They still think they are believers.
The Second story is a similar one. Their family was attending a large church in the area. On the surface everything seemed fine. They were your average American church attender. Until one day, it was discovered that the husband was having an affair with his secretary.
His wife confronted him, but he told her that he did not love her anymore. That he loved this woman instead and that he wanted a divorce.
Three people stopped by the house the following week. The pastor and two elders of his church. They had a long talk, with many tears. The husband expressed regret for his actions and told the leadership that he would sever ties with the woman immediately.
A week later, his wife discovered, that the communication between him and the woman had not stopped. At that point the entire elder board was made aware of the issue. Each member of the elder board attempted to contact the man. However, he entrenched himself in his original position and would not stop communicating with this woman. He even started to defend his actions slandering his wife for all the bad things she had done to drive him to this.
Then the church met and invited him to attend a disciplinary meeting. He did not come. He was unanimously removed from the church.
For the next 15 years, this man lost everything. His marriage crumbled. The relationship with his secretary quickly disintegrated when it was not wrong or thrilling for them to be together any more.
Even though his wife was financially merciful to him in the divorce, he was already struggling financially due to some poor purchase decisions, when his job was sent overseas.
The process for looking for work was long and strenuous. He called his ex-wife a few times asking for financial help and to chat. By her pastor’s instruction she did give him some money to get him through the week, but did not speak long to him. The only words she said to Him was that Jesus’ name is still tarnished by his lifestyle choices. That He should repent and return to the Lord. He felt convicted by her words, but did not want to endure the shame it would be to return.
He managed to get a job in a factory but had to quit a few months later with difficulty breathing. It got so bad that he had to go to the doctor and it was there that he discovered that he had lung cancer. It was still early, but it was a very aggressive form and they had to begin treatment immediately.
As he sat in the doctors office enduring his second round of chemo, he had forgotten to bring a book. Thoughtlessly he looked in the drawer next to his bed and there lay a bible. Still feeling like he was a Christian he opened it up, quite thoughtlessly to Job. He read there about Job’s righteous heart being afflicted by Satan to prove that He was faithful to God.
He noticed that there was a footnote next to the section about God allowing Satan to harm Job. That footnote took him to 1st Corinthians 5.
He read about the incestuous man. He read about his flesh being handed over to Satan. All of a sudden he was overwhelmed. He saw that this man was him. It all came rushing at him at once. It was so heavy that he cried out NO! A nurse came rushing in to a weeping and broken man.
A week later he stood before the church and confessed his sin and asked for help to restore what he had broken.
He became good friends with his ex-wife again – but their marriage was never restored because she remarried.
He never went hungry but never got a job quite like he had prior to this.
And just a few years later, he died of the cancer that never went into remission.
But the breaking of this man by Satan, through the providential hand of God, ratified by the obedience of his church as they faithfully did what God had commanded them to do, led him to restoration.
We must trust the Lord and do as He has instructed with those who claim Christ, but refuse to live as the bible instructs.