Church discipline is helping a believer retrace his steps. It is supporting a sinning Christian to see who they really are in Christ. It is an identity crisis that makes a believer in Christ live like an unbeliever. A child of God living like a child of the devil.
People abhor church discipline because it has been misunderstood and wrongly applied. A lot of Christians have seen or experienced church discipline wrongly applied. If we rightly use church discipline, it restores and brings back a miss stepping believer. Church discipline is not penance. We do not do it to make the person pay for his wrongs. No one can pay for his wrongs. If we could pay for our wrongs Jesus won’t have to come to die for our sins.
Church discipline is not punishment; it is correction, training for righteousness. The goal is to restore the erring believer in Christ to a state of moral and behavioral sanity. It’s never about beating up the morally failing Christian.
Unveiling the true self of a believer to one who is struggling with sin does not mean we cannot correct him. As he is being taught we he is in Christ, he should also be rebuked and even disciplined where need be. The bible has ample provision for such situations.
Church discipline is a biblical doctrine and the New Testament is replete with what it is and how it should be done. That sin should not be a front burner message does not mean we should do nothing about adamantly erring believers.
The Corinthian church had a brother that took away his father’s wife, and the church did nothing about it. When Paul, the apostle found out about the case he quickly condemned it and issued a disciplinary action against the act.
Christians who sin and seem to stay in it are to be corrected and even disciplined.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
It should be clear that a believer can be corrected, rebuked and disciplined in love to help restore him to living right. It is biblical and not out of place at all. It is for the good of the person being disciplined.
The word restore in the above verse is the Greek word katartizo. It means to repair, mend, make perfect, perfectly fitted together. It literally means to put a thing in its appropriate position. This is the goal of whatever discipline administered by the Church. It is never to condemn. It is not destructive, but constructive.
When a believer loses sight of whom he is in Christ and what Christ has made him, he sides step. He loses his true nature and identity and result is living below biblical values and standards.
Restoring a believer is repainting to the believer his true nature and identity in Christ. We have been made holy and righteous as new creations in Christ. It’s normal for us to live right. Even when we sometimes miss the mark, we are quick to make things right. The mechanism for right living is inbuilt in every believer.
Where a Christian seems to live in sin, it shows that believer has lost touch with whom he is. That believer has settled for a pseudo-identity. Those who are spiritual are to help that believer see himself again. There is a dent on his self image in Christ that must be mended and repaired to restore back to his correct position.
Just randomly punishing a believer won’t amount to anything as we have seen happen in many occasions. If you’re conscious of your white dress, you won’t play with mud. When we lose consciousness of who we are in Christ, we play with the mud of sin and it stains us badly.
Even the case of that incestuous Christian brother in the Corinthian Church whom Paul handed over to satan in 1Cor.5:1-5 was a corrective measure, not vindictive.
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 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.
Now see how the brother got restored back to spiritual fitness in 2Cor.2:6-11
6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
When discipline is applied with grace and the love of Christ in mind, the result will most likely be glorious.
When a Christian is under discipline satan is alert to win the person over completely. We must not be ignorant of this and give satan an advantage. We must keep them close, comfort them with the truth of who they really are in Christ. Don’t allow them get swallowed up by guilt and condemnation.
The gospel is the tool for the discipline. We cannot go outside the gospel in the name of calling an erring Christian to order.
Who is to be Disciplined?
- Those weak in the faith – Rom.15:1
- Those who shipwreck their faith – 1Tim.1:19
- Those who are troublemakers and sow discord – Romans 16:17)
- Those who act unruly and disorderly – 1Thessalonians 5:14
- Those who oppose the faith – 2Thessalonians 3:13-14
- Those who deny truths of the faith – 1Timothy 6:3-4
Church discipline is not for someone who slipped into sin. It’s for those who are trapped in sin or openly living in sin. These are those who church discipline should be applied on. It is not for every sin committed.
If we have to apply church disciplinary measures on every wrong done, then it will be all we do all day. And those who administer the disciplinary actions will also have to stand in the queue for others to administer same to them. Because they themselves will also be found wanting. Church discipline is for those who sin openly and remain adamant about it.
Who Can Restore
God has given the power of Church discipline to the Church.
Only those who are spiritual are called upon to restore. These sets of Christians are they who can bring back the believer back to his healthy spiritual state.
Those who aren’t spiritual or matured will only help satan bury the erring believer. They may just condemn such a one or just let the sin remain. We are not to allow such continue among us either are we allowed to team up with satan to finish up what he started.
We are to restore in love, not in anger or hate. No matter what the believer may have done, he is still one of us. We must treat it as a family matter. While we don’t condone the bad, we also do not kill the person.
The whole aim and goal is to bring the believer back to the right state of spiritual function. It’s not to make him pay for his wrong, but to restore.
Provoke to Good Works
The whole idea of discipline is to provoke the falling Christian to return to good works. It is not to make the Christian feel guilty and condemned. This will only push the Christian into satan’s hands completely.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
The Greek word used for provoke here is “paroxusmos” it means to spur, to incite, to inspire. When a Christian fall we should organize his discipline to spur, incite and inspire him or her to shun sin and do good works. It is not to make them suffer for their wrongdoing.
Stick around for the next part of this teaching.