THE SCRIPTURES ARE HER
by B. C. Carr
In every successful
organization there must be discipline. Where there is no discipline, confusion
reigns. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has
prescribed in his word the standard to be used for correcting those who err.
Because of abuses and misunderstanding upon this subject, many have rejected the
idea of discipline altogether. We need to turn to the work of God and be
instructed on this very important subject.
A GOD OF DISCIPLINE
In spite of the fact that God
is a God of love (1 John 4:8), he is also a God of severity. "Behold therefore
the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but toward thee,
goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut
off" (Romans 11:22).
When Adam and Eve sinned in the
garden of Eden they were driven from the garden (Genesis 3). They had disobeyed
God and were punished. When Cain killed his brother Abel he was punished (Gen.
4:9-13). Because of the wickedness of those who lived in the days of Noah, God
sent the flood to destroy them (Gen. 6:13). At the giving of the law on Mt.
Sinai, God commanded that His people, "remember the sabbath day to keep it holy"
(Exodus 20:8). While in the wilderness; a man decided to gather sticks upon the
sabbath day. God instructed that he be stoned to death (Numbers 15:32-36). A
whole generation of Israelites died in the wilderness because of their murmuring
against God (Num. 14:26-35). Paul reveals that twenty-three thousand fell in one
day because of fornication (1 Cor. 10:8). Along with the other things listed in
this context, Paul states that they were written for our admonition (1 Cor.
10:11). Surely we recognize that God is also a God of severity toward those who
DISCIPLINE IN THE EARLY CHURCH
The Lord intended that his
church should exercise discipline. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build his
church. Before it was established, he gave instructions about discipline.
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault
between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more that in the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall
neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the
church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and publican" (Matt. 18:15-17).
It is recognized that the first steps toward reconciliation are to be taken by
the individuals involved in the offence, however, it must also be noted that the
church is to be involved in action if the matter in not settled otherwise.
The church was still young when
the Lord acted to bring swift punishment upon Ananias and Sapphira, his wife
(Acts 5:1-10). These, who were members of the early church, had lied about
giving. God shows his displeasure by bringing death upon them immediately. The
result was that great fear came upon all the church and as many as heard these
things (Acts 5:11). This did not hinder the growth of the church, as some might
think, but believers were the more added to the Lord (Acts 5:14).
When Paul wrote to the church
at Corinth, he rebuked them for their toleration of sin. There was a man among
them guilty of fornication. They had not done anything to correct this matter.
Paul, the inspired apostle, gave this instruction: "In the name of the Lord
Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of
our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of
the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor.
5:4-5). Please note this was to be action by the church. The church of the New
Testament had an obligation to exercise discipline. This was to be done in the
name (by authority) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
TERMS USED TO DESCRIBE
The Scriptures use different
terms to describe discipline. We should be careful to use only Bible terms.
Often we hear of someone being, "churched" or "turned out of the church." This
is not biblical language.
The Scriptures speak of
"withdrawing yourselves" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In the same context we are told
to, "have no fellowship" with the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). In writing to
those at Rome, Paul instructed the saints to "mark and avoid" some (Romans
16:17). To the Corinthians, Paul commanded to "deliver to Satan" the fornicator
(1 Cor. 5:4-5). Later in the same chapter he instructs brethren not to "company
with" nor "eat with" certain sinful brethren (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
WHO IS TO BE DISCIPLINED?
From the passages of Scripture
above it is easy to see that those who are to be dealt with so severely are
children of God who have sinned. They are bringing reproach upon the name of God
and the church purchased with his blood. The list of sins varies with each
passage cited, but all have sinned. There should be no partiality in the
discharge of this sacred duty. It should include "every " brother who walks
disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6). It is to be limited to those "among you " (2 Thess.
3:11). We are not obligated to take action toward all who are in the world (1
THE PURPOSE OF SUCH DISCIPLINE
Discipline should never be
taken for vengeance sake (Romans 12:19). It should not be done in spite or out
of hatred. We are still to admonish the erring as a brother (2 Thess. 3:15). It
is to make the brother ashamed (2 Thess. 3:14). Our aim should be to destroy
sin, but to save the sinner (1 Cor. 5:5). Those punished are to learn from the
experience that they might not sin (1 Tim. 1:20). They should have a greater
respect for God and his church.
When the church acts in unity
in this respect, its purity is preserved. Only a pure church will be presented
to God (Eph. 5:27). When sin goes without rebuke, its influence is like leaven
and will corrupt others (1 Cor. 5:6-7). Evil communications (companions) corrupt
good manners (1 Cor. 15:33). God will not bless us if we fail in this duty
Can we afford to ignore the
teaching of the Scriptures on this subject?
Why do you think so little
discipline is practiced today?
Can the preacher or only a few
members carry out God's plan of disciplining?
List some sins mentioned that
demand a withdrawal of fellowship.
What are the proper motives for
If the parents who fail to
discipline their child, sin against the child, what of elders who fail those in