Church Discipline?

May 21, 2016

Growing up I had some really great youth coaches in baseball and basketball. Men like Bob Stafford, Art Shea, Armand Gendreau, and Bob Cabral. At the High School level I was blessed to be taught baseball by Larry Thomas and Jim Sullivan at Somerset High School. What these men understood was the value of discipline.
There are two types of discipline I’d like to speak of. One is formative. It is instruction and mentoring in what to do right. There is also corrective discipline. It points out our error. These men knew what was important to be successful.
I remember Mr. Stafford in Little League yelling at me on the mound over and over “Keep it at the knees Tommy” (FD). Armand Gendreau would take us to Bristol Aggie and teach us lay ups using the correct form. By 9 years old I could make a left handed layup because someone cared enough to correct me IF I did wrong (CD).
In High School one time Jim Sullivan came out to the mound and told me to walk a batter at the end of a game to set up a double play. I told him NO. He rebuked me and said “if you don’t walk him, you’re out of the game”. I humbly honored his request. The next batter hit one back to the mound and a double play ensued ending the ball game and resulted in a win for our team..
Just as discipline helps us in sports it is imperative that discipline exist in the local church. Teams crumble when the players can do as they wish, and churches will eventually crumble when church discipline is not enforced.

The bible speaks of church discipline. Church discipline is put in place when sin is repeatable and repentance is not observable. The key is repentance. When repentance happens the person is humbled, and accountability can help that person move away from certain sins that harm the masses. When it remains and no repentance is made it will eventually destroy the church and must be exposed. This is the job of the local church, NOT the leadership alone.

Matthew 18:15-18 shows us how to practice church discipline. “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.

The bible tells us that not only is this to be done among the congregants but the leaders can be rebuked IF they do not repent when confronted (1 Timothy 5:19-20). This is put in the place so that the church does not become worldly.
The church is supposed to practice church discipline because it is part of the fabric and character of God and the true church.

The goal in church discipline is not so much to denounce a sinner, but to save a saint. A true follower of Jesus needs accountability because each of us is blind to sin in certain areas of life. A loving friend and church would want to see its members and leaders live holy lives. It preserves the name of Jesus in a society that has thrown off moral constraint.
Through the centuries, the true church of God has drifted from its mission, and at key times God has raised up key people like Martin Luther and Guido de Bres, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567. These men saved the church from destruction.
De Bres was the primary composer of the Belgic Confession in the midst of a dark period of church history. The confession was sent to King Phillip II in 1561, and those who put together this document stated they were ready to obey the government in anything that was lawful, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.
The Belgic Confession of 1561 which was the earliest confession of the reformed church mentioned 3 distinguishing marks of the true church. A portion of article 29 says this “The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks:1-The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; 2-it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; 3-it practices church discipline for correcting faults…….As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself …… bases itself on humans, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry”.
Does your church practice these marks? The true church recognizes that without church discipline the church would be just another social institution.
Mark Dever in his small booklet Church Discipline says that churches should practice church discipline for 6 reasons. One, its biblical (Matthew 18:15-18). Second it’s an implication of the gospel, Third it promotes the health of the church. Fourth, it clarifies the churches witness to the nations. Fifth it warns sinners of a greater judgment to come. Last it protects the name and reputation of Jesus Christ on the earth.
I’m glad I had men in my youth who loved me enough to enforce discipline when necessary, and it is imperative for the local church to also practice both formative and corrective discipline.