Thursday, November 24, 2011

Modern March | a Christian blog

Modern March | a Christian blog

For the love of God – Part 5: Reflecting God’s Love in… Church Discipline

Posted: 23 Nov 2011 07:21 AM PST

Part 5: Reflecting God’s Love in… Church Discipline

I once worked at a church in which there was a major sin being committed between multiple members. These sins were rebuked by the pastor behind closed doors but never made public or disciplined formally by the church. Even as a wet behind the ears youth pastor, I felt as if there was something wrong about how it was handled. Sadly, this lack of discipline is running rampant in churches across the world. Sins are either overlooked or the offenders are slapped on the wrist and told to "do better."

In reading the New Testament, there seems to be no such thing as a church without discipline. This principle is taught by Jesus (Matt. 18:15-20) and is seemingly commonplace for New Testament churches, most clearly described in Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 5). Jesus and Paul both agreed that where there is church, there is discipline.

In his fantastic book, Christian Fellowship, John A. James lists five Biblical instances that require church discipline:

  1. Scandalous vices and immoralities (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
  2. Denial of Christian doctrine (Gal. 1:8, 1 Tim. 6:35).
  3. Causing division (Tit. 3:10).
  4. Failure to provide for near relatives (1 Tim. 5:8).
  5. Unreconciled enmity (Matt. 18:7).

Of course, this list does not fully cover or typify the random issues pastors deal with. Many times there are areas that require personal discernment based on conscience. Regardless, discipline has an essential role in church affairs according to Scripture.

Let's look at the two most particular ways that church discipline is an act of love between the church and its members.

To Keep the Body Pure

Paul makes it clear that any sin that occurs in the body of Christ can be devastating to the whole body (1 Cor. 5:6-8). Jesus came to die on the cross in order to save His people and present them as pure and without blemish (Eph. 5:27, Col. 1:22). How can His church be pure and beautiful, the way He designed it to be, if there is unrepentant sin being flaunted and unchallenged?

Simply put, the real problem is that church discipline is seen as hurtful instead of helpful. Christianity is often portrayed, and rightly so, as a faith of grace but widely ignored is the deserved wrath that believers are saved from. Perhaps the ignored and downplayed Final Judgment causes us to overlook the more minute judgments in the church is given authority to make as the representative of God's Kingdom (Matt. 18:18, 1 Cor. 5:12).

To Return the Offender to Repentance

Paul is also very forthright in his belief that removal from the church is carried out in hopes that the person removed will realize the severity of their sin (1 Cor. 5:5). This act of "turning him over to Satan" gives the offender the opportunity to see what it is like outside of the grace and love of God's assembly.

It is not loving to allow a brother or sister to wallow in their sins undisputed. As God judges those who sin against Him, He lovingly convicts His people through the Holy Spirit in order to produce mature fruit in us. Discipline in the church results in life within the body. As we are holy internally, we display holiness externally as a declaration of love to the world. There is no greater way to display God's love than to radiate His very character for all the world to see. Some of the greatest stories of repentance and rejuvenation began with a person being held accountable for their actions.

Christians are largely seen as hypocritical and no different than society. One possible solution to this evangelism-wrecking persona is to glorify God's justice while simultaneously bringing to light the destructive nature of unrepented sin. Consider yourselves challenged.

May we model God's love both in grace and in justice.

Filed under: Articles, Church, Gospel


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