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What is the Church? Part 6

May 10, 2010

Click here to view the “What is the Church?” series.

What is the Church? Copyright, Gregg Qualls (

Church Discipline

A necessary part of the life of the church that many “leaders” irresponsibly neglect, both formative and corrective (or restorative) church discipline is in serious need of recovery. There are various reasons we do not see church discipline (effectively) carried out today. One of the reasons is because true Christian community (family-like & gospel-formed) is necessary in order for the weight of discipline to be felt in the first place. Another reason, sadly, is because many existing leaders lack the courage to follow through with the biblical mandate to discipline the unrepentant.

There are 2 kinds of discipline: FORMATIVE, which is easy to think of as “preventative maintenance,” like an oil-change on a car; and CORRECTIVE (or RESTORATIVE), which is kinda like “breakdown maintenance.”

There are at least 4 purposes to church discipline:

  1. To glorify God through obeying his word to carry out discipline as commanded repeatedly in the Bible. (Matt 18:15-19; 1 Tim 5:20)
  2. To seek the restoration of the offender (reconciliation to Christ & to his body, the church). (1 Cor 5:5)
  3. Shows a standard of integrity internally (to the church) and externally (to the world) while giving honor to Jesus and adherence to his commands.
  4. Church discipline helps to deter others from sin. (1 Tim 5:20)
  5. Discipline protects the church from false teachers and wolves (Tit 1:10-11)
  6. It also prevents giving God a reason to set himself against a portion of a local church body (Rev 2)

No matter what kind of sin we’re dealing with, these are at least 5 things we ought to pursue individually as we work towards true repentance. How to Deal with Sin:

  1. Conviction – by the Holy Spirit
  2. Confession – to other believers
  3. Repentance – turning away from idolatry to worshiping God alone
  4. Restitution – returning what we have stolen (ie: trust) (may not always appropriate to every sin)
  5. Reconciliation – others not merely forget the sin, but actually deal with the pain and effects of the it and then issue real forgiveness and full restoration that only comes through Gospel Community in Jesus Christ.

Key texts when studying Church Discipline are at least Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Cor 5:1-13 (with 2 Cor 2:5-11).

Steps in Church Discipline:

  1. Weigh the Offense – Can you overlook or forgive the offense? (Prov. 19:11)
  2. Admonish – go in private to discover truth (if you are wrong, be humble; if he/she admits fault & repents, great!)
  3. Reprove – if they are not responding to the personal appeal to deal with the sin, then we are to take one or two other believers so they can also point the believer to repentance. If the offender still does not respond, it is time to formally involve the elders of the church.
  4. Separate – If none of these efforts brings the believer to repentance and reconciliation, we must treat them as an unbeliever (Gentile & tax-collector). We no longer have normal, casual fellowship with them, but rather use our encounters with them to bring the gospel of reconciliation to bear on their lives lovingly and earnestly urging them to repent and obey God.
  5. If they repent, you forgive.

NOTE: Much of this study is owed to my Re:Train class on Ecclesiology, “Vintage Church” by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears as well as a forthcoming book by Gregg Allison titled “Assembly of the Way.”

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