Summary: A Church without discipline is in serious trouble. God has a few words to say about this that need to be heard today.
A young lady came to visit our services in Lancaster, NH. She was living with a young man. When we studied with her, she saw that she was living in a sinful relationship. She was resistant, but she continued to visit our services. Then one day she came and said she was ready to be baptized into Christ. Her boyfriend had left her and she said she was ready to repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord. The whole church rejoiced. She was baptized and for several weeks seemed to be growing. Then her boyfriend returned and moved back in with her. She didn’t tell anyone, but there was a change in her attitude. We were a small church of only 15 adults and about 18 small children. Everyone knew everyone else. It wasn’t long till we discovered the situation and I met with her. She defended her actions and the old resistance to God’s will came back in full force. After our meeting she made several calls to members to solicit their support. She also called some people who were regular visitors in our services. It was as if everything hit the fan. My phone started ringing too. Some were saying that we had no business getting into her private life. Some members were saying that we could not be judgmental as a church. Some were ready to cut off all ties with her. And I was ready to pull out my hair. We called a meeting of all baptized members of the congregation. No visitors allowed. We prayed together and then discussed the central purpose of our meeting. Were we going to do what the Bible said, or make up our own rules? Were we going to follow God’s directions in this case or decide for ourselves what is best?
It was a painful trying time. Lots of tears and lots of emotional turmoil. But the end result may have saved us as a church. We were learning the art of church discipline in its severe form.
It appears that in some homes and some churches, discipline is a dying art. Churches are called by God to make disciples. Do you know what a disciple is? A disciple is someone who is being disciplined. They are being trained.
I used to coach basketball. When we practiced, everyone was expected to be there and to work hard to improve their own game as well as improve their function as a team. If we had a slacker, it was my responsibility to deal with it. I learned soon that if you let one team member talk back or lay out or have a bad attitude, you could expect that to spread to the other team members. But if you dealt firmly and fairly with every player, and didn’t put up with bad actions or attitudes or laziness, it was better for everyone. The ultimate discipline for a team member was to be put off the team. The Bible shows us in 1 Cor. 5-6, that the same is true for the church.
God’s people are not perfect. In fact, Christians can and do sin. But not every sin has the same impact on the body of Christ. Notice the sins listed in 1 Cor. 5: 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
There are sins that God’s Word says are serious enough that if a member of the church practices them and does not repent, they must be put out of the church. They are off the team, out of the fellowship. You say, so what’s so bad about that? Well, if you are not in fellowship with Christ, you are in the clutches of Satan.
Look at these verses: 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Do you remember the names Ananias and Saphira? Luke records an event in Acts 5:1-11 that may be part of what Paul is thinking about here. Also, in 1 Cor. 11: 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.