I wonder whether you have ever been disciplined in a church or were part of a church were discipline had been exercised. There are so many different opinions and views and beliefs regarding discipline that when you put them all together its looks like an exotic scramble egg mixture. Then, all too often, when discipline is exercised, although the Biblical Requirement is correct, the application and procedure could be totally unbiblical.
At the same time, those disciplined might not receive the sanction in the spirit of Biblical Discipline and leave the church fellowship. This happened to me … and I clearly remember the incident where a husband and wife had a bad fight. I became involved through a divine intervention encounter. After everything was sorted, I asked them to take a two Sunday break from their ministry because they needed to do some homework sorting out their relationship. That very night I received an email saying they ‘resign their membership with immediate effect’.
Once when discipline was applied, one council member said to me, “Discipline me and not them.” Too often the ignorance level relating to this matter is very high because mostly people do not want discipline to be applied. In some cases it could be that the objectors themselves were guilty of something and they escaped discipline and as an act of “making it right” they do not want anyone disciplined because of “that” sin.
As you read through the Bible, the concept of discipline is not introduced and explained. It is taken for granted! Here is an example:
Dt 21:18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Although this example is extreme, you need to understand that Israel as a nation is constituted of families. The religion is a family matter and a “church” matter and serves as a warning to all. As believers, we live under Grace not Law. We do not function that way under the reign of Jesus, but discipline remains Biblical and must be practiced even though many fight against it!
Pr 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
The basis for discipline is that God is holy making the Biblical standard for each believer to be holiness. This means we cannot turn a blind eye to sin … we cannot overlook and ignore sin. God is holy and He requires His people be holy.
1Pe 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Because God is holy, He requires the unholy (guilty) in the church be disciplined. In writing to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul states:
2Th 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.
This shows clearly that in the Christian Church there is discipline. But how does discipline work?
The Lord Jesus Himself says:
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
Further, the writer to the Hebrews says:
Heb 12:5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
And Paul maintains the one disciplined is not an enemy!
2Th 3:15 do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
True Biblical discipline is done in love because the guilty is loved, not excluded nor rejected. Rather, disassociation and discipline have a primary purpose!
The object of discipline is to bring the guilty to repent and to prove their repentance through turning from their wicked ways. Take a married man, a church member, having an adulterous relationship that has injured his relationship with his wife, children, parents and in-laws. Repentance would mean he confesses his sin, seeks forgiveness from God, his wife, children and all others hurt and stops his adultery immediately.
This means that he will undergo counseling, establishing how and when his backsliding started and what circumstances led to his adultery. He would go through various passages of Scripture to help him grasp how he rebelled against God and his family. The family will also be counseled, especially the wife to see what role she played in his adultery, even if it was unwittingly. This process ought to bring the man into the sphere where he willingly, with God’s help, reforms his ways and does not return to his rebellious ways.
However this man’s sin is seen by the church and society, the process of discipline is to lead the man through confession to repentance and reformation so that he may be restored to full fellowship with God, his wife, family and church.
Always remember that Christians are saved sinners. We all have the potential of gross sin that requires discipline. But, we must understand that the Biblical aim of discipline is not punishment. It is love.
Dear God, thank You that in the New Covenant You operate in grace through love. Help me to do the same. Amen.