Because God loves us, He disciplines us…
(Heb 12:3 NKJV) For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
(Heb 12:4 NKJV) You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
(Heb 12:5 NKJV) And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
(Heb 12:6 NKJV) For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."
(Heb 12:7 NKJV) If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
(Heb 12:8 NKJV) But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
(Heb 12:9 NKJV) Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
(Heb 12:10 NKJV) For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
(Heb 12:11 NKJV) Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God loves us.
Hebrews 12:6 also tells us that because God loves us, He chastens or disciplines us.
By considering Hebrews 12, and coming away with a greater appreciation of God’s love and care for us exhibited in His disciplining us, then we are better able to grasp why a truly loving church will discipline straying sheep (as Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 5).
We discipline straying sheep not because we think ourselves righteous but rather because God commands us to in His Word.
We discipline straying sheep not because we think ourselves "having arrived," but rather because we love our brother or sister and we will push through the difficult process of discipline that they might be led to repentance and forgiveness for their sins.
Last week we discovered that Church discipline is never to get even or to expose sin. “Brother so-and-so is in sin—we’re going to nip it in the bud!” No! Church discipline is always restorative.
It exists for one purpose— to lead God’s people to repentance and faith that they might experience the grace of Jesus Christ found in the true Gospel and be restored to full fellowship and joy in His church.
This week we will be introduced to the steps or the process of church discipline. In summary, here they are:
The sinning Christian is first to judge himself. If we all did that regularly, there would never be any need for further discipline.
If that doesn’t happen, a mature believer is to confront the sinning Christian privately and seek to lead him to repentance (Repentance is a turning “about face” from sin—it also includes a change of mind and heart about the sin).
If that doesn’t work, the mature believer is to take one or two others with him and again confront the sinning Christian.
If that doesn't work, the Church is to be informed of the situation, presumably leading to excommunication–the taking away of the privileges of membership in the Body.
And if even that doesn’t bring the offender to repentance, there is the final step of social isolation or shunning.
We must never forget that the goal of Church discipline is never punishment but rather correction and restoration of the sinning member and the protection of the purity of the Church.
I. Elements of Church Discipline - Part One
A. The Place of Discipline - The place of discipline is the assembly of believers-- the church (Mat. 18:17).
B. The Purpose of Discipline
1.) Prevention – The fear of sinning
2.) The other purpose for church discipline is restoration.
C. The Person of Discipline
Discipline is not just for church officials; it’s for everyone, including those who lead in the church.
In fact Galatians 6:1 tells us exactly who should do it: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one.” Those who are walking in the Spirit, who are obeying the Word, and who are in fellowship should restore the fallen brother or sister.
D. The Provocation of Discipline
When does discipline start?
It starts every day as one goes before the Lord in prayer and during the study of the Scriptures.
2.) Discipline also starts when we sin against a brother or sister or a brother or sister sins against us.
There are two ways a fellow believer’s sin can affect you—directly and indirectly.
II. Elements of Church Discipline - Part Two
A. The Process of Discipline
In the next section we will learn about the process of church discipline. As I already indicated, it is in five steps. They are:
1. Examine yourself.
2. Tell him his sin alone.
3. Take some witnesses
4. Tell the church.
5. Treat him as an outsider.
The intent is that if you practice step one (examining yourself), then you won’t have to go to step two. “I was wrong, I sinned; Let me get right with God and my brother.”
Hopefully if you confront a brother or sister who sinned against you (step two) and they repent of their sin and you forgive them, then you don’t have to progress to step three, and so on.
Step One - Examine Yourself. (Self-Discipline)
Let me elaborate further on step one. Test: Step one is? ________________________
The Greek word egkrateia, mentioned in Galatians 5:23 as a part of the fruit of the Spirit, a word that is usually translated "self-control." This word is probably the closest term to what we call "self-discipline." For instance, in 1 Corinthians 9:25 the verbal use of the word refers to self-discipline in athletics: "And everyone who competes in a contest exercises self-control in all things."
The idea of the root of the word group has to do with "holding" or gripping" something. In athletics you have to maintain a hold or grip on yourself or the equipment you use in the contest—ball, baton, disc, javelin, parallel bars; endurance, muscular strength; emotional disposition, etc.
The self-controlled person is one who has a hold or grip on himself, especially on his desires or habitual responses.
That is precisely what the reference to the first step in the process of discipline is all about-- persons who have such a grip on themselves that they are able to handle problems and relationships in the church and world.
The self-controlled Christian is someone who knows when to seek help himself rather than waiting for others to offer it. He is self-disciplined and, as a result, self-controlled even in that.
To be self-controlled does not do away with the strength and wisdom the Spirit gives through His Word. Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., the result of the Spirit's work) in a believer.
It is the Spirit’s work to make the Christian a sturdy, dependable person to who others turn for encouragement and help.
It makes him the sort of person who rarely gets into trouble with others because of indiscretions of word or deed, and who, if and when he does offend, quickly rectifies the situation on his own.
As was mentioned in part one, self-discipline or self-examination is accomplished as one goes before the Lord in prayer and meditation of the Scriptures and adjusts or conforms his life to the precepts of the Word of God.
Step Two - Tell Him His Sin Alone. (One-on-One)
In step one--self-discipline, no one else is involved; the believer deals with his sin alone before God.
If, for example, he has sinful thoughts relating to another person, he doesn’t reveal them to that person (“I’ve been lusting after your car” “I’ve been wanting to knock you upside your head.”) he handles them in confession and repentance before God alone.
With step two we begin to consider the ways in which a Christian seeks help through the use of discipline. This begins the first of those stages of church discipline in which others participate. It is the stage where one believer confronts another about what he believes to be the other's sin.
Mat 18:15 "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
First we want to note here that Matthew 18:15 is an imperative-- a direct command from our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is leaving no options whenever sin separates the brethren. He commands informal discipline to bring about reconciliation. Whenever a rift or a condition exists between two believers where one is at odds with another, there is no option left: discipline must be pursued.
Jesus uses the word "reprove" (NASB) or "tell" (KJV). The Greek word for this verb is elengcho means "to expose to the light."
When you go to confront a brother or sister, don't just say, "Hey, I haven't seen you at church and I was wondering are you church hopping or just sleeping in?" Confront the person, exposing the sin so that he or she is aware of it and understands that they cannot escape it. Take the time and effort needed to delicately handle this difficult job.
Now we have to pause for a moment and place our magnifying glass over this relationship-- the one between the two brothers. Jesus commanded that if a brother offends you go to him in private. The offended brother is required to go privately to the brother that offended him and shed light on his sin.
But in Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells the offender to go immediately to any brother whom he may have offended and be reconciled to him-- even leaving his gift at the altar. (Jesus pictures him as interrupting an act of worship to do so, showing us the importance He places on good relations between Christians; cf. 1 Peter 3:7.)
So we find the offended and offending brothers both being commanded to seek reconciliation. When disagreement between believers takes place, ideally they ought to meet each other on the way to one another's house to seek reconciliation.
The offended party at this point may be wondering, "Why do I have to go? I wasn't the one who did the damage, I was the one that was hurt." There are two answers to this question:
(1) The first being that the offender may not obey Matthew 5:23-24 and cause further tension between himself and his brother.
Mat 5:23 "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
Mat 5:24 leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
(2) The second reason is that the offending brother may not even realize that he offended anyone.
Jay Adams gives a good illustration about this second reason.
Mary has not seen Jane for some time since Jane has been out of town on a vacation. Now Jane has returned. Mary spots her in church and determines to say hello after the service. After the benediction, Mary hurries to the other side of the church to where Jane has been sitting. By now Jane is on her way out of the church. Mary calls to her. "Hello, Jane. Wait for Me!" But Jane sticks her nose up in the air and sails out of the church as quickly as she can, without so much as a "Howdy do" to Mary.
Adams goes on to write "Mary can respond in one of two ways. If she does what many Christians do, she will say, "Hmmph! Well! If that's the way she wants to act, then let her go! She can come to me the next time; that will be the last time I go after her!" And so a friendship is ruined, the work of Christ is hindered as the body is weakened, and the honor of God is compromised.
But if Mary understands church discipline and is willing to obey Christ, she will not settle for that. Instead, she will follow Jane from the church and search her out. Suppose that she has done so. She says, "Jane! What's wrong? I was so glad to see you that I hurried over your nose in the air and left the church, ignoring me, as if I didn't exist. What's wrong? I must tell you that I was greatly hurt."
In this fictional episode Jane responds. "Oh, Mary! I'm so sorry! I didn't have the faintest idea what was happening. Let me explain. I was sitting through church thinking about one thing. I have a bad cold and my nose began to run. But I left my handkerchief here in the car. I was so afraid that since the preacher preached so long I'd drip all over my new dress and my Bible, so as soon as the benediction was over, oblivious to everything else, I put my head back so I wouldn't drip and rushed for the car." After a good laugh and a hug or two Mary and Jane are reconciled. Indeed, there was no offense at all-- only a misunderstanding.
Things to remember: Only the offended party knows that there is a problem when there has been a misunderstanding. That is why the offended party must go. If someone steps on your toe, you may be the only one that knows.
When you go to the person who offended you, what do you say?
According to the Matthew 18:15 text, one is supposed to tell him his sin (elengcho) but if we examine a parallel passage in Luke 17:3 we find there the offended brother or sister first going to the offender and rebuking him in a tentative manner. The word used in Luke 17:3 is epitimao, which means "to rebuke tentatively."
Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
According to Luke 17:3 The offended brother must first go and explain the situation as he has perceived or experienced it, saying something like this: "As far as I can see, you have wronged me in such and such a way, but if you have an explanation, I am ready to hear you out before I come to any conclusions.”
* This tentative rebuke allows for an explanation. As in the case of Mary and Jane, there is opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding. And even if there was a real offense, it may not have been on purpose.
* The tentative rebuke allows for the communication and discussion of the facts and the working out of the solution to any problems that may have developed because of the incident.
* The tentative rebuke allows the offended party to check his or her attitude before going to the offender. This more than likely will lead to a quicker reconciliation rather than if the offended party runs up to the offender with accusations, not allowing the person an opportunity to explain.
Where an offense has been given, nothing short of conviction will do.
What do we mean by conviction? When we speak of conviction today among Christians we think it is that subjective sorrow over sin or that "guilty feeling" one gets when confronted about sin. Jesus used the Greek word (elengcho), a law term which means "the effective use of objective evidence to convict a person of the crime of which he has been accused."
Therefore, the Lord doesn’t require you to bring another to feelings of guilt and sorrow, as the modern usage would seem to indicate. Rather, you are to pull together your case so that you are successful in proving the offense has occurred.
This eliminates you initiating church discipline without sufficient grounds for doing so and making reckless accusations against a person. In fact, carelessly accusing a person on insufficient grounds may be a reason for instituting church discipline against you.
Privacy: When the offense is between two persons, and between them alone, no others should be brought into the picture; it is possible to bring about reconciliation without them.
Before, during and after the period in when the second step is in force, the issue should not be mentioned to anyone else if reconciliation takes place.
Why? First because Jesus commands it.
Jesus says, “Mat 18:15 "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private…”.
Secondly, because once people are drawn into it, if and when reconciliation takes place between the original two people the others who were infected with the knowledge still may need to be reconciled with the offending believer.
This kind of thing happens many times in marriage. The wife or husband shares a problem with a parent or a friend. Later, after the couple has reconciled, the in-laws or friends are still carrying the grudge.
It also happens in the church where one member tells another member about the offense. The two original people patch up their differences and are reconciled but now several others who were told of the offense (that were not a part of the original problem) are holding a grudge against the offender.
A vow of confidentiality…?
Jesus says, “Go and reprove him in private…” But does telling your brother his sin in private mean that a vow of absolute confidentiality should be made? No.
How do you know that the brother or sister is going to repent and be reconciled? You don’t know.
In the event that reconciliation does not take place, church discipline will have to proceed to the third step in which others, meaning the witnesses will have to be told. The only promise that can be made is that this stage, step two, will be kept confidential in the hope that reconciliation will happen.
Reconciliation vs. an Apology
Jesus says in Matthew 18:15, to win your brother is to be reconciled with him. The word reconciliation is diallasso, which means, "to exchange enmity for friendship."
Jesus does not say the sinning brother is to "apologize." Apologizing and forgiveness are two different things.
"I'm sorry" only tells another how you feel; it asks him to do nothing about the defense. When you say, "I sinned against God and He has forgiven me; now I want to confess that I have also sinned against you; will you forgive me too?" you ask for a decision on his part.
When apologizing, you keep the ball in your own court; when you seek forgiveness, you toss the ball to the other party. He must now do something with it.
When he says, "I forgive you," he makes a promise (which is what forgiveness is) never to raise the matter again.) He promises not to bring it up to you, nor to anyone else, and not to sit and brood on it. The matter, he assures you, is closed. A promise can be made whether one feels like it or not; and it can be kept whether one feels like it or not.
An example of this is in Gal 2:11, where the apostle Paul confronted Peter's hypocrisy. Evidence of their reconciliation is in 2 Peter 3:15, "Even as our beloved brother Paul...".
Step Three - Take Some Witnesses (One or Two Others)
Mat 18:16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
How often should an offended person go to another person before moving on to step 3 in the disciplinary process? Is it a matter of the length of time, or the number of times? Neither. In Matthew 18:16 the operative phrase is "if he won't listen to you."
Notice similar commands in verse 17:
Mat 18:17 "And 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-gatherer.
This does not imply that you have been to him but once and, upon his refusal to listen, you move on.
No. The refusal must be a genuine one. This means that if, in the heat of the battle, he will not listen to reason, you will wait until he has had time to cool off and then try again. Perhaps you will want to try several times before stepping up the process.
You may want to try a different approach. Check your own attitude; make sure that you have obeyed Gal 6:1 and gone in a spirit of meekness. –“a soft answer turns away wrath”
One must distinguish carefully between unwillingness to listen and a failure to understand or to accept your viewpoint on the matter.
As long as reasonable discussion of these questions continues, you cannot charge him with failure to listen. But if discussion ceases-- if there is a failure to deal with issues in what you think is the biblical way and he tells you, in effect, "Look, we've said all there is to say on this matter. You are wrong and that is it"-- you then have grounds for moving ahead. But you must be sure that you have been willing to listen to him as well.
Always remember the goal of church discipline is restoration. The people you take with you if you must proceed to step 3 all must have the same objective in mind of gaining back your brother.
Verse 16 says, " BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED."
These are not one or two people who saw the sin or originally knew about it.
The witnesses are in fact witnesses of the confrontation and who can come back and confirm what was said.
The witnesses are there as a protection for the one being confronted as they are there for the one doing the confronting. The offended one could color the situation with his personal bias.
The witnesses need to confirm whether there is a heart of repentance or one of indifference or rejection.
Silent witnesses or active participants.
Adams goes on record to say that the witnesses are godly Christian men or women who act as counselors, actively participating in helping to bring together the two estranged parties.
The witnesses are initially to be silent witnesses, listening to both sides. They may very well find the brother or sister who asked them to be present to be in the wrong. Or they may walk away finding the offender to be unrepentant.
But in the end if the offender refuses to listen to them, then they proceed to the next step. How many times do they approach the offender before they go to the next step? As with the previous step, they should try to determine whether or not his refusal is a genuine one. –“if he refuses to listen…”
Example of this step is in 2 Corinthians 13:1-2.
(2 Cor 13:1 NKJV) This will be the third time I am coming to you. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."
(2 Cor 13:2 NKJV) I have told you before, and foretell as if I were present the second time, and now being absent I write to those who have sinned before, and to all the rest, that if I come again I will not spare;
Paul confronted the Corinthians several times before he threatened them with judgment.
Step Four - Tell The Church.
Mat 18:17a "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church..."
This step falls under what our chart refers to as formal church discipline. Jay Adams categorizes it this way because the church as an institution becomes involved in the process only after the first three steps have failed.
Progressing from step 3 to step 4 is also a major transition. The church now officially administers church discipline. A brother under official discipline is in a danger zone and should be told so.
The hope and expectation is that discipline never reaches the formal stage. Unfortunately, the words "church discipline" usually suggest to people's minds that the church is officially taking action to remove someone.
That is not the way that effective, regularly occurring discipline works; ordinarily, in a church that is comfortable with it, discipline achieves its objectives a stage 2 or 3. So often when someone is put out of the church for failure to repent of open, public sin, it is because there was a failure to exercise informal discipline at an earlier point before the sinful act became a habitual practice that had to be met with formal discipline.
Another point needs to be made here. Sometimes it is necessary to skip all the proceeding steps because of the nature of the problem that necessitated the discipline. For example in the case of incest mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5, the matter originated at the official level because the offense was so open and apparent to everyone. Notice 1 Corinthians 5:1:
1 Cor 5:1 It is actually (generally, commonly) reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.
In this case the offense was a matter of public knowledge. The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian believers because they hadn't dealt with the sin, rather they boasted about their open-mindedness in allowing the sin to continue. Jay Adams comments that it seems that what Paul said to the church was more severe than what he said about the incestuous son.
How does one "tell it to the church?
The brief words Jesus uses in Matthew 18:17a lack a clear statement about how to carry out His instructions and there is no process outlined let alone detailed.
We can piece together from other passages of scriptures and from an application of the principals of decency and good order from 1 Corinthians 14.
There are certain things that we discuss only among family.
There are things that we will not discuss while unbelievers or non-family members are present because these things may not be understood.
"Telling it to the church" means telling it to those who are part of the body of Christ and more specifically those who are members of the local assembly.
At this point, the world has no right to know about the matter. This means that it is not a good idea to stand up in the middle of a worship service (where there is a mixture of believers and unbelievers according to 1 Cor. 14:23-25) and declare what has happened. Like that group in Randallstown picketing against their pastor.
This means that one must tell the church either at a closed meeting of its membership (those who are baptized and are thereby under its care and discipline), duly called by the elders in a decent and orderly manner for that purpose, or one does so by telling the elders in their capacity as representatives of the church.
Frequently in the Old Testament when God wished to speak to Israel as a whole, He summoned and addressed the elders, who then conveyed His message to the people (cf. Ex. 3:15-16; 19:3,7).
This is probably the meaning of "tell it to the church": tell it to the church by telling it to the elders.
The Elders' Part - At this point the elders are informed of the brothers reluctance to repent, step 4 of church discipline is initiated.
The elders should not immediately call for a closed-door meeting of the church. Good judgment on the elders' part would call for them to seek to persuade the brother or sister to forsake the sin, before telling the congregation.
This response is patterned after certain principles that are presented in the scriptures. Notice the pattern in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15:
2 Th 3:14 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame.
2 Th 3:15 And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Here the congregation doesn't get involved until after Paul and the others who worked with him had made an effort to reach a sinning brother.
When do the elders tell it to the local assembly? The elders tell it to the local assembly when the so-called brother "refuses to listen" to the elders.
John MacArthur writes that at his church this may not be a public proclamation (i.e., Sunday service). Sometimes the leaders disseminate word through the fellowship or study groups in which the person is known. Other times it may be announced at a Communion service.
This brings us back to consider the purpose of discipline: Restoration. So tell the church to try to win him back. An individual went--no response. Two or three went--no response. Now we'll all pursue this person's restoration."
The Congregations Part - The elders inform the congregation that the brother or sister is under church discipline for a particular problem. This is essential if they are to obey Paul's command to "mark (KJV)" the person (2 Thess. 3:14). “…take special note of him…”
mark - "to make or put a sign on him."; to identify him.
Why is the congregation told to mark him? As we will find out later, the congregation is obligated to pray for an offender and counsel him or her to repent. It is also commanded not to have fellowship with the offender.
The elders announce to the membership either through letter (which should be destroyed after reading) or closed meeting, with as little detail as possible, the nature of the problem. The elders may say something like this, "Joe is under discipline for failing to repent of his insistence that his wife should obtain an abortion."
At this point the congregation should do two things:
1.) No longer fellowship with him as if nothing were wrong (2 Thess 3:14-15).
2.) Seek to counsel him to repentance (Gal. 6:1).
1.) No longer fellowship with him as if nothing were wrong (2 Thess 3:14-15).
The congregation may no longer fellowship with him as though nothing were wrong. They are told, "Don't mix or mingle, with him" (2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Cor. 5:9,11), "withdraw from him" (2 Thess. 3:6; the word translated "withdraw" means "stand aloof; keep away from"), and "don't eat" with him (1 Cor. 5:11).
All these commands say one and the same thing: the congregation must regard the so-called brother (1 Cor. 5:11) "as a brother" (2 Thess. 3:15), but as one whose status is in question. (There is some doubt about whether he is really a brother, because he fails to heed the admonitions of the brethren and the authority of Christ exercised by His officers in the church; by the time the entire congregation begins its task, he has gone very far in his willful disobedience.)
How does a member withdraw from an offender? If the sinning member calls you and says "Let's go out for a bite to eat or see a movie", etc., you must respond by saying something like this, "I'd like that very much, but I have been informed that you are under church discipline and have not repented. I'd rather spend that time talking to you about the problem instead."
"not to eat" means two things:
(a) that normal fellowship is broken. Eating with another, in biblical times, was the sign of fellowship;
(b) that the offender is forbidden to partake of the Lord's Supper because, according to 1 Cor. 10:16-17, partaking is "communion" or fellowship, the very thing prohibited at stage 4.
If he refuses to heed the officer and their admonitions, Paul says that he must be removed from table fellowship and all other forms of normal fellowship in order to "shame" him into repentance (2 Thess. 3:14)
Step Five - Treat Him as an Outsider.
When we crossed the boundary between informal and formal discipline as we moved from step 3 to step 4, we crossed a great divide that separates very treacherous from even more dangerous territory. As we now proceed from step 4 to step 5, the final step of church discipline, we take an even greater leap. All steps prior to the present one were taken within the kingdom of God; now we move from the kingdom of light into the kingdom of darkness.
We've been cautioned all through this series that the entire process of church discipline is a restorative one. We will find out now that in some cases the member does not become restored.
The Bible teaches that both wheat and tares grow within the church, that is, both believers and unbelievers are functioning within the visible church (Matthew 13:38). There is no way by which we can separate all the wheat from all the tares; that is the job of the angels at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:39).
Yet church discipline is a sort of first fruit in that process. Paul wrote to Timothy,
1 Tim 5:24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.
It is with reference to those whose sins become apparent that church discipline deals. It is not a process of separating all the tares from the wheat, but of separating from the church both tares and those who look like tares because of an unrepentant lifestyle.
Church discipline is one of two ways--the other being apostasy--in which the church makes a "judgment" about those who have a false profession of faith. John tells us:
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.
What this means is that those who leave the church, renouncing Christ, make it evident that though at one time they were a part of the visible body, they were never saved; they never belonged to the invisible church.
Yes I know that a genuine Christian may also leave the church in a fit of anger or in a time of crisis without rejecting Christ. If he is a genuine Christian, we may conclude from John's words that he will return in repentance to the church.
But unregenerate persons, who were within the outward, organized, church but not really "of" the inner, saved body of Christ, unless they are converted afterward, will not return. Something like this is what happens in church discipline.
We are living in a day when church discipline is not practiced in most churches.
People are not being held accountable in a personal way for keeping the Word of God. I’m not talking about a lack of good preaching—you can get good preaching in many churches, on the radio and cable TV. I’m referring to follow-through.
* I’m called to discipline myself in the Word of God I hear—“be ye doers of the Word, not hearers only.”
* I’m called to tell my brother his sin in private.
* You may be called to confront a brother or sister about sin in their lives.
* You may hear from me one day that a brother is unrepentant and you who are spiritual will need to go to him.
* One day you may be exhorted to withdraw from a so-called brother or sister.
* You may one day be confronted about sin in your own life.
Do you know Jesus?