Lesson 23 - Church Discipline cont.

In our last study we were introduced to what the Bible teaches about "Church discipline." We found that our Lord Himself spoke of it first. Since His church consists of redeemed human beings, it is important for the preservation and growth of the church that the members properly relate to one another. Sin, of whatever sort, is destructive, and cannot be allowed to continue either in the individual life or the life of the church. It must always be dealt with and put away. So the Scriptures teach us how to deal with sin in our lives as Christians and sin in the life of the church. At this potnt we ask the question

B. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE IN CHURCH DISCIPLINE?

There are at least two reasons for church discipline.

1) To purge the church and keep it free of destructive elements.

2) To effect the restoration of harmony in the body and of the guilty member or members.
We will speak of restoration first.

Gal. 6:1,2 (Amp.) - "Brethren, if any person is, overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual - who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit - should SET HIM RIGHT AND RESTORE AND REINSTATE HIM, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also. Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ, the Messiah, and complete what is lacking (in your obedience to it)."

The use of the word "fault" in the KJV may leave the impression that what is spoken of here is not as serious as "sin". This would be unfortunate for the word translated "fault" also refers to Adam's sin and is translated "offence" (Roma 5:15). It was for our "offences" (same word) that our Lord Jesus was "delivered" to the cross (Roma 4:25). It is also translated in other passages as "fall, sin, and trespass."

The Greek word is "paraptoma" and we dealt with it in our first series in the section on "sin", It means "a falling aside, deviation from the right path." It "describes the slip which a man makes when he is off guard, when he is not looking where he is going, when he takes his eyes off the goal. It is the failure in concentration, the failure in self-control through which a man is swept or slips into sin." "It is the falling where one should have stood upright."

The brother in our text is "overtaken" in this sin. This does not mean that he was detected in the act, but "surprised by the fault itself." This agrees with the meaning of "fault." The brother has allowed his defences to be weakened, the sin has caught him off guard. He is completely responsible for the sin and needs "restoration."

The word "restore" means to "make thoroughly right." "The idea conveyed is that of adjustment - the putting of all parts into right relation and connection," It is used in Scripture of mending the nets (Matt, 4:21), of Christians being "perfectly joined together (1 Cor. 1:1O), of being perfect (2 Cor, 13:11), and so in the general sense of perfecting (Matt. 21:16; Luke 6:40; 1 Thess. 3:1O). "In medical language it is used of setting a bone or joint," So the purpose in dealing with a sinning brother is to "RESTORE" NOT DESTROY!

Those who are to effect the restoration are such as "are spiritual," it is to be hoped this would include the rest of the church, In any case it should certainly refer to elders and deacons who must be spiritual men,

However, even their proven spirituality must be protected by deliberate caution. Paul warns that they must undertake their task of love and concern "without any sense of superiority." If you are "spiritual" it is because of the grace of God and gives no ground for human boasting. Furthermore, if you are not "on guard" you might become involved and "be tempted also." So those who undertake to "restore" the sinning brother, must do so with humility, purity and gentleness.

We cannot dissociate ourselves from our brother's sin. When he sins the whole church is involved and we must bear with him this "fault" and lovingly seek to deliver him, and in so doing, deliver the whole assembly.

Remember, RESTORATION is one of the main purposes of discipline!

C. WHAT ARE OTHER AREAS REQUIRING DISCIPLINE?

1. THE BROTHER WHO WALKS DISORDERLY (1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6-15)

While we are to love one another and in every way seek to help one another, we are not to take advantage of our fellow Christian, The teaching of the Word of God is guite explicit on the matter of personal responsibility. While the apostles were at Thessalonica, they had laid down a rule that "if any one will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. 3:1O). Some were disobeying this rule and Paul deals with the matter in his letters. These undisciplined people were not only lazy, but, having time on their hands they were meddlers and troublemakers.

1 Thess. 5:14 (Amp.) — "And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line - THE LOAFERS, THE DISORDERLY AND THE UNRULY."

Wey. - “Keep a check upon LOAFERS."

2 Thess. 3:6,11 (Amp.) — "...every brother (fellow believer) who is SLACK IN THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTY and is DISORDERLY, LIVING AS A SHIRKER AND NOT WALKING IN ACCORD WITH THE TRADITIONS and instructions that you have received from us. Indeed we hear that some among you are disorderly - that they are PASSING THEIR LIVES IN IDLENESS, NEGLECTFUL OF DUTY, being BUSY WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S AFFAIRS instead of their own and doing no work."

Moff. - "Shun any brother who is loafing, instead of following the rule you received from us. We are informed that some of your numbers are LOAFING, BUSYBODIES INSTEAD OF BUSY."

JBP - "Now we hear that you have some among you living quite UNDISCIPLINED LIVES, NEVER DOING A STROKE OF WORK AND BUSY ONLY IN OTHER PEOPLE'S AFFAIRS."

Paul addresses a charge to these idle, undisciplined loafers.

2 Thess. 3:12 (Amp.) - "Now we charge and exhort such persons (as ministers in Him exhorting those) in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, that they WORK IN QUIETNESS AND EARN THEIR OWN FOOD AND OTHER NECESSITIES.

Moff. - "Now in the Lord Jesus Christ we charge and exhort such persons to KEEP QUIET, TO DO THEIR WORK AND EARN THEIR OWN LIVING."

Such as persist in this kind of thing are to be disciplined by the church. The apostolic rule is laid down for the assembly to follow. Two things are required of the church. First, the undisciplined brother is to be warned. Second, if he fails to heed the warning and come under the discipline of truth, he is to be "marked" and not associated with. This condition seems to have increased in Thessalonica. In the first letter Paul counsels the church to warn "the loafers", while in the second letter he lays down rules of discipline.

1 Thess. 5:14 (Amp.) - "We earnestly beseech you, brethren, ADMONISH (WARN AND SERIOUSLY ADVISE) those who are out of line - the loafers, the disorderly and the unruly."

2 Thess. 3:6,14 (Amp.) - "Now we charge you brethren, in the name and on the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, that you WITHDRAW AND KEEP AWAY FROM every brother (fellow believer) who is slack in the performance of duty and is disorderly, living as a shirker and not walking in accord with the traditions and instructions that you have received from us. But if any one (in the church) refuses to obey what we say in this letter, take NOTE OF THAT PERSON, AND DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH HIM, that he may be ashamed."

JBP (vs. 14) — "If anyone refuses to obey the command given above, MARK THAT MAN, DO NOT ASSOCIATE WITH HIM until he is ashamed of himself.

NEB (vs. 14) ~ "If anyone disobeys our instructions given by letter, MARK HIM WELL, AND HAVE NO DEALINGS WITH HIM until he is ashamed of himself."

Paul puts certain limits on such discipline. While the disobedient brother has removed himself from the life and fellowshtp of the body, he is however, not to be treated as an enemy. While the act of discipline must be definite and firm, nevertheless hope must be entertained that he will respond to admonition and be restored to the normal activity of the assembly.

2 Thess. 3:15 (Amp.) - “DO NOT REGARD HIM AS AN ENEMY but simply admonish and WARN HIM AS [BEING STILL] A BROTHER."

Moff. — "You are NOT TO TREAT HIM AS AN ENEMY, but to PUT HIM UNDER DISCIPLINE AS A BROTHER."

NEB - "I DO NOT MEAN TREAT HIM AS AN ENEMY, but GIVE HIM FRIENDLY ADVICE, AS ONE OF THE FAMILY."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #23

  1. What are the two reasons for church discipline?
  2. What kind of people should be involved in applying discipline?
  3. What is the aim of discipline?
  4. Is there any place in the church for lazy Christians?
  5. How should a lazy Christian be dealt with?