Summary: What is church discipline? When is it appropriate? How long does it last?

Matthew 18:15-17

1 Corinthians 5:1-11

1 Timothy 1:18-20

Titus 3:10-11

1. Illus. of teenager gone wild

• Young man of about 18 went wild.

• Would drink, do drugs, come home raging and tear up the place.

• Would come to blows with mom and dad.

• Finally, parents had to administer “tough love.” They sat the boy down, told him, “son, we love you. However, our behavior is unacceptable. Until you clean up your act, you are no longer welcome in this house. Pack your things and leave.”

2. The Bible says that sometimes the church must practice tough love. There may be times when a church-member behaves so unacceptably that the body a whole has to do something about it. In essence they say, “we love you, but your behavior is unacceptable. Until you clean up your act, you can no longer be a part of this household of faith.”

3. I want to survey what the Bible teaches on this subject by asking five questions, and then answering them from the scripture.


1. Let’s see how the various passages we read describe it:

 Matthew 18:17- Let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector…In other words, you are to relate to him as if he were not your brother in Christ, but rather a lost person.

 1 Corinthians 5:5- Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of Jesus Christ… In other words, he is to be thrust back into the world, separated from the protection of the local church. Since Satan is the prince of this world, he will most likely suffer at the hands of Satan.

 1 Timothy 1:20- talks about being delivered to Satan…

 Titus 3:10- reject a divisive person

2. So, while the Bible teaches the essence of church discipline, it doesn’t exactly define the boundaries of it!

3. Illus. of K. K. in former church

• Man living in open and rebellious sin.

• Knew we had to discipline him, but didn’t know exactly what to do.

• Did it mean that we were to remove him from membership, leadership, fellowship, and worship (not allowed to attend church). Did it mean all of these, none of these, some of these?

4. Based on my study of the scripture at that time, I came up with the following personal conviction.

 They are excluded from membership (heathen and tax collector).

 They are excluded from leadership (cannot hold any job or position).

 They are excluded from fellowship (while people could send them a note saying they loved them and were praying they would come to their senses, they were not to continue to take them out, go to house and eat etc.).

 They were NOT excluded from worship. Hopefully the ministry of the Word would produce repentance in their hearts.

5. What is discipline? It is removing them from membership, leadership, and fellowship in the church, deliberately thrusting them into Satan’s world system in an effort to stop their sin.


1. Does every sin qualify as grounds for church discipline? No, it doesn’t! Only when two things are true does a sin qualify for discipline:

 It is stubborn and rebellious sin- Titus says the divisive person is to receive two warnings before he is rejected from the church. No doubt that is another way of saying what Matthew 18 does (one, two witnesses, then the church)

 It hinders the advancement of the church- False doctrine and division hinder from the inside by weakening the church. Certain sins, like those listed in 1 Corinthians 5, hinder by ruining the churches credibility with the lost world (sexual sin, greedy or dishonest business practices, partying, drunkenness, etc)!

2. Illus. of Grandfather’s church

• Had a "shouting committee." If you got up in church and shouted, they would investigate your life the next week. If you weren’t living it, they wouldn’t let you shout anymore!

• Shouting committee once investigated a man, and found out he was guilty of a heinous sin, and recommended him for church discipline. Do you know what it was? Playing cards!

• To me that sounds silly!

3. Not every sin qualifies for church discipline. But when a person stubbornly persists in behavior that hinders the advancement of the church, God says bring them under church discipline!


1. Over the years, I’ve had people suggest church discipline for some erring Christian. With very few exceptions, I’ve found the people who wanted to discipline these individuals had exactly the wrong attitude! They wanted to punish these people, or retaliate against these people.

2. What does the Bible say about the purpose of church discipline? 1 Corinthians 5:5 says the purpose of church discipline is that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus… Matthew 18:15 says the purpose of church discipline is that we may gain our brother. The purpose of church discipline is never punishment or retaliation. It is ALWAYS the restoration of the sinning brother.

3. You say, “Pastor, in 2 Corinthians Paul talks about the punishment inflicted by the majority on this sinning brother.” Yes, once he was disciplined by the church he did undergo punishment. But that was not the purpose of the discipline. The purpose was the restoration of this sinning brother.

4. Illus. of Charles Allen

• For many years pastored the largest Methodist church in the country.

• When he was in elementary school, had a teacher who deliberately humiliated him in front of the whole class. It left a scar. He vowed that one day he would get even.

• Years later, he got his opportunity. This same man applied for a principle’s position in the school system where Charles was pastor. Several people on the school board were members of his church. All he had to do was express some concern to them about this man, and he knew he wouldn’t get the job.

• Got in his car to go do so. Rationalized it this way: “He is not right for this job. I’m saving him, the school board, and the children a lot of trouble.”

• Deep in his heart, he knew he didn’t care about this man or the children. He just wanted revenge. He had a tug of war with the Holy Spirit as he sat in the parking lot of the school board. Finally turned around and went home without saying a word to anyone.

5. When we approach church discipline, we need to be absolutely sure we are approaching it with the right motivation. Are we approaching it with a heart that says, "oh, they need to PAY for what they did!” Are we approaching it with a heart that says, “they have hurt me, or someone I care about, and now I want to hurt them!” Or can we honestly say, “I want this brother to go through church discipline because that is the only way he will be restored to spiritual wholeness?”

6. The purpose of church discipline is always reconciliation and restoration.


1. Once you understand that the purpose of church discipline is restoration of a sinning brother, then the answer to this question is self-evident. Church discipline ends at the moment of genuine repentance!

2. See

 Matthew 18:15-17. If at any point the sinning brother evidences genuine repentance, then the process is immediately stopped and restoration takes place.

 II Corinthians 2:5-8. Once this sinning brother had repented, the Corinthians didn’t want to restore and forgive. Paul tells them if the man has repented, then they need to forgive and restore him.

3. When repentance is evidenced, the sinning brother should be brought out from under discipline, and a group of godly mentors should begin working with him for the purpose of restoration.