The Discipline of the Church
The Law of God in the Life of the Church (7)
Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13
It’s not that believers—and the Church as a Body—are not to exercise judgment against sinners. They are, as our Lord Jesus explained, and strictly according to the standards of righteousness in the Law of God (John 7:24; cf. Deut. 16:18-20). But since the Church is not the state, she may not wield the weapons of the state in seeking to achieve justice. The state may wield these, and should, but this is not our concern here. Rather, the Church applies the methods of church discipline in order to cleanse the Body of sin and to restore relationships and justice among the members.
Jesus outlined the steps of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20. If a brother sins against another, violating one of God’s Laws, the one offended must go and confront his brother, calling him to repentance and standing ready to forgive and restore the relationship when repentance is in evidence. If that private confrontation does not produce justice, the one against whom the transgression has been committed must take another church member with him—one who knows the situation—to confront the sinner. Hopefully, the testimony of two witnesses will be compelling, and repentance will be achieved.
Suppose that fails, however. In that case, the one offended against must take the sinner to the church—typically, to its rulers, the elders and pastors of the church. There a formal charge can be laid; the leaders of the church can weigh the evidence and claims, and, through prayer and searching the Scriptures, reach a just judgment and a course of action for its implementation.
The Law of God continues to guide our moral conduct, but the discipline of the church is the only sanction church leaders may apply in seeking to restore justice. Where church discipline is ignored, injustice and transgression will likely be present, and this short-circuits the blessing of God to His people.
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In the Gates is a devotional series on the Law of God by Rev. T.M. Moore, editor of the Worldview Church. He serves as dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of twenty books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics (Waxed Tablet).
Scripture quotations in this article are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, (c) copyright 2001, 2007 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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