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Church Discipline: Part 4

August 14, 2009

Church Discipline: Part 4

It would help at this point to reread Matthew 18:15-20 to help understand the nature of church discipline and the various facets we are looking at in the bulletins.  This week we will continue to look at the particulars that we find in this classic passage.

                Once again, the purpose of church discipline is not to be on a witch hunt for every little sin. It’s not even to ‘put down’ those who have sinned. Church discipline’s goal is to win the sinning brother or sister back. The beauty about church discipline is that some issues would never become full grown sinful, tangled messes if we would just obey the simple principles listed in this passage. The nature of sin is such that it grows over time. People don’t usually start out stealing cars. They usually start out stealing small things and the depth of stealing begins to increase over time.  If we would admonish our brothers lovingly in private, the passage states that he might ‘listen to you’! (vs 15) What is the result? “You have won your brother!” How much sinful hardship would that save them from in the future? How much better would relationships be in the church? How much better would the unity of the Spirit be maintained in the body of Christ? And how much more would God be glorified by seeing a fellow member kept from stumbling into further sin?

                What if the person does not listen to you? Vs 16 tells us that we are to take another believer with us. Why? So that according to the Old Testament, everything can be verified by ‘two or more witnesses.’  Note again how careful the bible is in stopping people from gossiping, acting on hearsay, and/or seeking self interest above the sinning party’s need for restoration.

                ‘Two or more witnesses’ has several facets that help with church discipline.  First, the bible’s goal is on ascertaining facts. In what way? One way is by having two people listening to the sinning brother and thereby having more discernment regarding the issue to make sure the issue/sin at hand is clearly a sin. Or it could be to protect the church from dividing on the issue because if two people have heard the evidence and confronted the person while they are still unrepentant, then this greatly reduces the possibility of the sinning member bringing false accusations against the witnesses.

If people are comfortable in their sin, sometimes when they are confronted they may seek to slander the other person in return. Again, this is why the goal of restoration must be at the forefront of the one seeks to confront. Witch hunting for sin will only seek to entice them to remain in their sin and possibly cause division with others.

Going in the spirit of love and showing the other member that you are there to help will disarm many situations. However, the person may not be willing to repent. This is why the second witness is needed to help double the admonishment and warning against them staying in their sin. Now the offender sees that it is no longer just a personal issue but now the church body is beginning to have issues of concern with the sinning member’s lack of repentance.  What if they won’t listen even to the first or second phase of church discipline? What should happen next after two or more witnesses go to the person and yet they still fail to repent? We will start with this subject next week.

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