No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
In many churches around the world today, the subject of church discipline is marginalised, downplayed or ignored. Many modern churches worried about the excesses in church discipline that have occurred throughout history, have regrettably allowed a severe relaxation of biblical principles and liberal theology to damage the enforcement of biblical Christianity.
The issue for the modern church is that Jesus himself set out the basic principles of church discipline. His expectation, desire and command is that we would act on His words and be obedient to them. Our Lord expects that where the Word of God is preached, we would abide by the principles and ordinances of His words. Also in the whole arena of biblical counselling, effective church discipline is a necessary integral part of the process.
So what is church discipline? The terms “disciple” and “discipline” have a common Latin source from a word family that is about education (Source: Jay Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline). Simply put discipline is the means by which God’s people are trained in godliness.
Broadly speaking there are two categories of discipline, preventative and corrective:
Preventative discipline. This involves the teaching truth in a way that emphasises the importance of godliness and walking in God’s will and purpose. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”
Titus 2:11-12. The principles set out in Titus 2 state some of the fundamentals of church discipline that provide the framework of education and teaching that needs to exist to ensure both the spiritual growth of the individual and of the community of believers.
Corrective discipline. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17. The words of Jesus have four identifiable components, the first two could be defined as “Informal” (One-on-One, One or two others), the others as “formal” (church leadership, the people).
Church discipline needs to be embraced as an essential biblical principle that as believers we must follow, and it must be firmly embedded in biblical truth: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.