Summary: Chuch Discipline

The Godly Discipline of Disfellowship

The title of this sermon comes from F. LaGard Smith’s book “Who Is My Brother?” In the book, Brother Smith has one chapter so named. When we study the purpose, the reasons, and the process of church discipline we come to understand that this is indeed a godly practice. When properly understood and rightly applied, a serious student of the Bible comes to understand that even though it is “tough,” nevertheless, it is an expression of love. It is an effort to "snatch others from the fire and save them” (Jude 23).

In this sermon we will be examining closely these Bible texts: Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Titus 3:9-11.

I. The Purpose of Discipline

God is a holy God (Joshua 24:19; Isaiah 6:3), and His “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13a). Not only is He set apart, but He also demands wholehearted devotion. He is a God of order and not disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Even a careless reading of these texts would make clear the purposes of discipline: First, church discipline is exercised “…so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5). The immersion of repentant believer takes a way the penalty of sin, but it does not mean that it takes away the “sinful nature.” The sinful nature, that is “sarkos,” will take time to be removed. We need daily to fight against it. Leaving behind sinful nature and developing the new man inside us requires us to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-25). The “sinful nature” and the “Spirit” are against each other. Christians need to crucify “the sinful nature with its passion and desires” and to keep in step with the Spirit. The Christian Family, the Church is one of the tools that God has given in disposal. When one is not utilizing the tool that God has given him/her, God may choose to remove that tool. Here the idea is that when the person looses his “community” this will cause him to think and ponder. It will cause him to change his life and heart and turn to God. When he does so, then “…his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-9).

Second, another purpose of church discipline is to “Expel the wicked man from among you” (1 Cor 5:13). Here Paul is quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24; 24:7.) They were to purge the evil from among them. The reason for that was to remove signs and possible influences of evil. Paul argument in 1 Corinthians 5 is that the same as a little yeast “corrupts” the whole dough, in the same way that one man’s influence can corrupt the whole body. “A rotted apple, rots the whole basket. ” Barclay says about this quote: “So Paul comes to an end with the definite command, “Put away the wicked man from amongst you.” That is a quotation from Deuteronomy 17:7 and 24:7. There are times when a cancer must be cut out; there are times when drastic measures must be taken to avoid infection. It is not the desire to hurt or the wish to show his power that moves Paul; it is the pastor’s desire to protect his infant Church from the everthreatening infection of the world.”

Finally, in writing to Macedonian congregation of Thessalonica, Paul speaks about those who don’t work to put them out of church’s fellowship “…in order that he may feel ashamed.” (2 The 3:14). Again it is not the purpose of Paul to embarrass them in a pejorative way. His idea is that when he sees himself cut off from the community, he will see what he is missing and would be prompted to change.

So the purpose of church discipline is to cause change, to destroy the sinful nature and to rid all the evil influences within the people of God.

II. The Reasons for Discipline

When reading the Matthew text we see that the issue is a brother who has sinned against another brother and will not accept correction. That tells us that they don’t have a proper relationship with God, for they do not understand the idea of repentance. In 1 Corinthians 5, there is sexual immorality. A man has sex with his step-mother, and is bringing shame to the name of Christ among pagans and is mining the proclamation of the Gospel. The work of God is being hindered because of Him. If that’s Christianity (“a kind that does not occur even among pagans”), what would make people desire it? In 1 and 2 Thessalonians the problem is idleness. People would not work and are robbing their fellow-believers with their “give-me” attitude. They are self-centered. And finally in the Titus text, the problem is bringing divisions among the body. The unity of the body of Christ is fragmented because of these people.

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