What Makes a Church?DisciplineMatthew 18:15-20INTRODUCTIONTwo weeks ago we began a series entitled, “What Makesa Church.” - the ﬁrst mark of a church is that it is a congregation of those who are converted to Christ.That is fundamental - conversion - but converted peopledonʼt always maintain their spiritual healthiness.Just like us in this room - just because we are living,doesnʼt mean we are always healthy.Iʼm not a fan of visits to the doctor. - the older I get, the more intrusive and negative they seem to become - well - maybe it is the older I get - the more the potential for sickness seems to grow - and honestly, the more difﬁcult it is to remain completely healthyEvery time I ﬁnish a visit to the doctor - the more thesubject of discipline comes up - my need to exercise moreself-control - personal confrontation of habits that eithercould threaten or are threatening my health.So, things like diet & exercise keep coming up. And themore I neglect my pessimistic doctor - the more I seem tohave to bring other doctors into my life - specialists - whokeep talking about the need for correction in order tomaintain my health.
I suppose the goal is avoiding the sort of specialists whoprepare your body for embalming.The same process tends to be true for us in a biblical andspiritual sense.Conversion doesnʼt immediately guarantee perfectspiritual health.And when unhealthy tendencies crop up in our life or inthe lives of those around us, we begin to have particularlyuncomfortable conversations about our behavior orattitudes.And the more we neglect the biblical advice we receive -more people tend to become involved and despite thegood that it may afford us, the more spiritually unhealthywe become. - and our lack of health - because we wonʼt given attention to the need for discipline - begins to affect others in the body.It is always an uncomfortable conversation - it is never thesort of thing we want to dwell on, but for the sake ofgrowing and remaining healthy - we still need to talkabout the subject of discipline.But church discipline is not a common conversation inmodern churches today. It used to be - but it is rarelytalked about - let alone practiced.And despite the presence of more mega churches thanany other time in history, we all probably realize that weare not characteristically known as spiritually healthypeople?
How did we come to this state of health today?While there are many good answers – some very involvedand intricate - and there are many factors that go in to making a church healthy (just as there are in making a family spiritually healthy)I believe there is one central issue that has driven us tothe brink of spiritual obesity:Our neglect of Church DisciplineIt is this subject I want to address today.Church Discipline? That is what you suggest, PastorBret, as the reason why the churches of America havestereotypically grown so unhealthy in a biblical sense?Sadly, yes.I have never seen a spiritually healthy church (biblicallyspeaking)" - that did not have a very intentional, regular,consistent approach and application of discipline in thechurchWhat do I mean by “church discipline?”It may be a new term to some.It is often a misunderstood term by many.I mean by it" Caring for one another in the family of God so thatsin does not disrupt personal relationships and eventuallythe entire family of God
I mean by it - Church discipline is where the churchultimately is placed in a position by an unrepentant familymember, where that member must be put out, lest theirsin involve more people or bring societal discredit on theentire congregation.It may surprise you to know - in the beginning days of the Southern Baptist Convention – and in the beginning days of most every evangelical congregation in the early days of this country o church discipline was practiced regularlyIn reality – it is so “unpracticed” in our day – you wouldthink that it was really a very new idea - invented by a group of young pastors who simply like doing things different than anyone elseBut, I assure you – church discipline is much older thanany in this room – and has been practiced faithfully formore years than we may realize.Why did we lose discipline in the churches?About 50 years ago, Greek scholar H.E. Dana noted that,The abuse of discipline is reprehensible and destructive,but not more than the abandonment of discipline. Twogenerations ago the churches were applying discipline ina vindictive and arbitrary fashion that justly brought it intodisrepute; today the pendulum has swung to the otherextreme – discipline is almost wholly neglected. It is timefor a new generation of pastors to restore this importantfunction of the church to its rightful signiﬁcance and placein church life.One baptist church history professor, Greg Wills, notes inhis book, Democratic Religion
" In pre-Civil War days, “Southern Baptistsexcommunicated nearly 2 percent of their membershipevery year.” Incredible as it may seem, while they weredoing that their churches grew! In fact their churchesgrew at twice the rate of the population growth! So theconcern that a move so such biblical church disciplinemight be ʻanti-evangelisticʼ seems unfounded, to say theleast.Wills goes on to suggest:“This commitment to a holy corporate witness to the worlddeclined as other things gained the attention of theChristians late in the last century and earlier in this one.”“In fact, the more the churches concerned themselveswith social order, the less they exerted church discipline.From about 1850 to 1920, a period of expandingevangelical solicitude for the reformation of society,church discipline declined steadily. . . . As Baptistslearned to reform the larger society, they forgot how theyhad once reformed themselves. . . . The moreevangelicals puriﬁed the society, the less they felt theurgency of a discipline that separated the church from theworld.After the Civil War, . . . observers began to lament thatchurch discipline was foundering, and it was. . . . Urbanchurches, pressed by the need for large buildings and thedesire for reﬁned music and preaching, subordinatedchurch discipline to the task of keeping the churchsolvent. Many Baptists shared a new vision of thechurch, replacing the pursuit of purity with the quest forefﬁciency. They lost the resolve to purge their churchesof straying members. No one publicly advocated thedemise of discipline. No Baptist leader arose to call foran end to congregational censures. No theologians
argued that discipline was unsound in principle orpractice. . . . It simply faded away, as if Baptists hadgrown weary of holding one another accountable.And so – here we are today.Not long ago, I read this illustration from a church in theNorth East back in 1879 – it is from the minutes of achurch business meeting where a founding member ofthe church was being brought up for his membership tobe dismissed:Pastor presented applications for letters of dismissionfrom this Church to the First Baptist Church, this city, . . .dated Oct 30, 1879, from . . . Bro. Charles L. Patten.Pastor stated these letters had been withheld, in hisdiscretion, and he now presented them for the action ofthe church. . . . On motion of Bro. Kingdon, a Committeewas chosen, composed of the Pastor, Brethren C. W.Longan, and Ward Morgan, to consider this application ofBro. Patten, and that he be requested to appear beforethat committee, to state the reasons why he hadseparated from his wife.Dever – That was in the public meeting of the church.They did not want it thought that Christians leave theirwives. About a month later, at a church meeting onJanuary 21, 1880, we read,Pastor, on behalf of Committee to investigate case of Bro.Patten, reported that a letter had been written to him, towhich he had responded in writing, but that further effortof Committee had failed to meet with any response. TheCommittee was considered as having reported progressand still retaining the matter in charge.
At the same meeting, a second disciplinary matter wasraised in the case of yet another founding member of thecongregation:Clerk presented the following motion, which was adopted,viz: That a Committee, composed of the Pastor andDeacons, be and is hereby requested to take intoconsideration such facts in the case of Sister Lucretia E.Douglas, as may explain the reasons, if any, of hernonattendance at the meetings of the church for over ayear past, and to recommend at the next QuarterlyMeeting what they shall deem to be the wisest and bestcourse in the matter on the part of this church.DIVORCE & NON ATTENDANCE??? - would we even consider doing this today?All of this is simply to say" Churches used to pursue holiness as a means tohealth - and health was not possible without disciplineSo how should we then carry out church discipline, if it isthat crucial to church health?While sin may be inevitable in the life of every Christian," Unrepentant sin cannot be tolerated, overlooked ordownsized as to its evil effects on the health of Godʼsfamily.The most direct and instructive passage of Scripturedealing with church discipline in the Bible is found inMatthew 18 and it is here that we will begin ourdiscussion of this crucial issue.CONTEXT of Matt 18
- section about offending – causing another brother to stumblevv 1-14 – saints enter the kingdom as little children - beware and be careful that you do not cause one of the Lordʼs little ones to stumble.If there is something within yourself causing you tostumble, take measure to stop the behaviorIf one strays from the ﬂock – leave the others together –go get him – vvv 12-14Sin causes people to stumble – causes another to bewrongly offended - we, because we are a family, must take serious, drastic action to avoid your sin offending othersSo, what do you do with someone who is becoming asinful offense and a stumbling block - how do you deal with them? - How do you help them turn from the behavior which will eventually affect the whole group if left unchecked?Vv 15-20 – gives the process and the authority for suchcorrectionHere is how to stay healthy in Godʼs Family I. THE PROCESS OF RESTORATION VV 15-17 - perhaps it would be easier to simply throw people out – crack heads of problem people – tell them to leave – have one or two trusted people silently tell someone to remove themselves when there is sin in the church
some would prefer to avoid, ignore, forget about thewhole issue – pretend it isnʼt happeningBut Jesus gives us a step-by-step process for helpinganother brother or sister to be holy – and the family ofGod to be healthyStep one:1. Approach Them Privately v 15And if your brother sins [against you]Who is involved? – not speaking about unbelievers - if your BROTHER – between Christians“sins” – acts in an unbiblical way - could include doctrine - or behavior Not in the present tense – not continuous But – when your brother has engaged in a sinful act - done some action which is outside the line of godliness and has offended youCould be a direct sin “against you” – NKJVBUT – could also be any sin - is it good for a Christian to sin against those outside the fellowship? - it is equally a stain/blight on Christ and on the churchʼs testimony – must also be confrontedgo and show him his fault in privateyou must go to him – donʼt wait for him to come to youshow him his fault = reprove
" NT – expose oneʼs action(s) as a wrong one - bring them to the point of conviction over the sin - not just to point out the wrong – but to point out, discuss, expose, so that there is change!Show the seriousness of the sinShow the blight on Godʼs testimony to the world - on HispurityExample:NAU Luke 3:19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimandedby him because of Herodias, his brothers wife, and because ofall the wicked things which Herod had done,Idea behind:NAU Proverbs 9:8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,Reprove a wise man and he will love you.Part of preaching:NAU 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season andout of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience andinstruction.Not a new concept for the Jews:NAU Leviticus 19:17 You shall not hate your fellowcountryman in your heart; you may surely reprove yourneighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.Note the parallel:NAU Luke 17:3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebukehim; and if he repents, forgive him.NOTE: At this ﬁrst initial confrontation – such a reproofand rebuke is not to be done publicly but:In private
- lit – between you and him alone - no one with you - no companions, no witnesses - just you and the one who has sinnedThe goal is not embarrassment, revenge, getting even,humiliation - it is restorationTherefore, start at the lowest and most intimate level - confront the sin when no one else knows of itKeep it from having to spread to any one elseʼsknowledge – keep it at the grass roots levelHere is where it is most important to live out the “oneanothers” of the NTYou DO NOT need to go tell someone - so they will pray – camouﬂaged gossip - so they can give you advice - because they are your closest friends and you share everything - “because it is true” you have a right to tell someone else - so you can make sure you are rightwork it out between the two of you without having toinvolve anyone elseif he listens to you, you have own your brotherHere is the goal you should be aiming at – Restoration - winning your brother – turning them from sinThe issue is their straying from God and walking in sinNot necessarily your feelings, your ego, pride, how youlook in front of others as a result of their sin
Call them to repentance alone - seek their repentance - win for the sake of righteousnessNAU James 5:19 My brethren, if any among you strays fromthe truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he whoturns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul fromdeath and will cover a multitude of sins.NAU Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,And he who is wise wins souls.FOOTNOTE:The text does not give us some of the other importantinformation when confronting another of sin:Such as:1. ATTITUDE" a. Gentleness – Self-examinationNAU Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in anytrespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spiritof gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you toowill not be tempted." b. ForgivenessNAU Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and angerand clamor and slander be put away from you, along with allmalice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgivingeach other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." c. Humility – Other-centeredNAU Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any encouragementin Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is anyfellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintainingthe same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Donothing from selﬁshness or empty conceit, but with humility ofmind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, butalso for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude inyourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,Another important issue:2. CONFRONT BIBLICALLYNAU 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God andproﬁtable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for trainingin righteousness;Make sure your confrontation has biblical groundsForces you to think through the issue biblically before youbring it to anotherʼs attentionHow do you know if the issue is really settled and thatthere is genuine repentance and restoration? - when both of you can embrace one another - when the principle behind Romans 15:5-6 is operating between you both -NAU Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseveranceand encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with oneanother according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accordyou may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our LordJesus Christ.Why spend this much time on talking about how toconfront sin privately?Because we should exhaust ourselves in our efforts tosee that it never has to go any furtherMost confrontation should never go beyond this2. Approach Them Pluraly V 16
Notice how this verse begins:But if he does not listen to youWe need to point out that “listen” does not merely meanthat he physically heard the words you said to him. “listen” is the idea of “doing” – he heard and in turndid what you encouraged him to do – he repented.What if he only politely listened to your conversation butdid not listen to the point of change?Take one or two more with youThen there is a need for a second confrontation.Someone might ask at this point, “how much time shouldyou give someone to repent after the first confrontation?” - usually, not much is needed. Your communication should be clear enough o – and their response should let you know if they are repentant or not - If it is an issue over teaching wrong doctrine, a longer time for examination may need to be given to see if they persist or desist in teaching that abberant view.Why should you take one or two more?So that by the mouth of two or three witnessesevery fact may be confirmedOk – but who are these witnesses?There are basically 2 ways of seeing this:
a. Those who have first hand knowledge of thesinOne has described it this way: A witness is one who has information or knowledgeof something, and hence, one who can give information,bring to light, confirm something. - should be someone who remembers and can tell about something.Such is the idea behind:1 Timothy 5:19 Do not receive an accusation against anelder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.This was done in the OT:Numbers 35:30 If anyone kills a person, the murderershall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but noperson shall be put to death on the testimony of onewitness.As a group of people aware of the sin, you go to plead forchange.But there is a second sense behind the term “witness.”b. Witnesses of the ConfrontationNot necessarily those who have first hand knowledge ofthe sinNot merely a one-sided group of peopleBut - one or two more who will go with you and be witnesses of your 2nd confrontation and rebuke o those who can objectively examine: the motives of the one doing the initial confrontation
the biblical ground of the one doing the initial confrontation the response of the one being confrontedSuch was the primary idea behind gathering witnesses inthe OT: The witnesses could go with the originally offendedperson and confirm for the entire community the truthbehind an accusation.Deuteronomy 19:15 "A single witness shall not rise upagainst a man on account of any iniquity or any sinwhich he has committed; on the evidence of two or threewitnesses a matter shall be confirmed.If there are no eyewitnesses, take others who can confirmthe facts of the confrontation.Again, the idea and purpose – the goal – behind thissecond confrontation is restoration, repentance andchange.But there is actually a third step in the process ofdiscipline that may become necessary:3. Approach Them Publicly v 17And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to thechurchIf he does not give heed to the small group – you go to thechurchWhat is meant here by “the church?”This is only the 2nd time in the NT that the term is used:Matth 16:18 - when Jesus made this statement there was no ‘church’ before the Day of Pentecost
- here, it no doubt had its first reference to the gathered group of disciples - and certainly Jesus is looking ahead and anticipating the emergence of the “church” as we understand it today This is not a reference to the elders who represent the church – no - this is a reference to the gathered community of Jesus Christ as a wholeIf the offender will not repent in front of the witnesses,bring the issue up to the churchYou do not have to reveal every detail – the details wereconfirmed by the witnesses. Just enough to clearlycommunicate the serious and specific nature o the sinaffecting the brother or sister.The goal is not public humiliation or angrydenouncement.The goal is for the whole congregation to be aware thatone in their midst who is causing another to stumble – orhas the potential to harm many – will not repent. - the whole church must go after that one - the whole church must mourn over the sin and break in fellowship.It is implied that there is an effort on the part of the wholecongregation to talk to the offender – to rebuke, correctand bring to repentance.But did you also notice - the public call for repentance is not “putting him out.”
And if he refuses to listen even to the church lethim be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.Gentile: In the OT and NT – common word to meanthose who are ‘outsde’ the redeemed community of God.Tax-gatherer – a Jew who had sold himself to theRoman Government to collect the states taxes - would generally cheat people of more money than was actually required in order to line his own pockets.In the NT – tax gatherers were linked alongside Gentiles,Sinners and harlots.This is one who is not considered a follower of God.Such a person must be treated as an outsider - one who is not a part of God’s people – they are outside the churchTherefore your efforts should be - not to have fellowship with them - but to attempt to evangelistically reach themNot like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who arrogantly andhatefully shun those they put out and actually turn againstthem, not even speaking with them. But to treat them like Christ did outsiders: Who did not turn against them, but he did notparticipate or condone their deeds and made everyattempt to win them to righteousness.Does this mean that they could still come to church?Well, it depends on the nature of their sin and theirattitude toward the church - if there was a degree of humility where they were willing to consider the truth of their sin, perhaps.
However, if it has reached a point where they do notaccept the congregation’s stance and are divisive andbitter - no, they could not attend. Too many would be infected with their bitterness and sin.As a matter of fact – them not meeting with thecongregation may show them the seriousness of the sin.But, I know that someone is going to say at this point - that is just simply not right - who is the church – who are the elders – who are these people to tell another person that they can no longer fellowship with the congregation?It’s a free country – everyone else has sinned.This is just judgmental and no one has the right to passsuch judgment on another.What authority do we have to carry out this kind ofdiscipline?We move now from the process of restoration to:II. THE AUTHORITY BEHIND RESTORATION vv18-20There are 3 aspects to this authority we need to give ourattention to:1. The Power Behind the Authority v 18Could be noted as the HS’s affirmation of a church’sdisciplinary actionThe power of the HS is involved in the binding andloosing involved in discipline:
READ VERSEVery similar to Matt 16:18 – LOOK AND READThis term has led the Catholic church to teach - the church, led by Peter or his successors, the Pope, is the one who can make binding and loosing pronouncements o Therefore, whatever the church/Pope pronounces to be true is binding This leads to a belief that Papal pronouncements are infallible.This is close but a bit misleading to the truth Jesus speakshere:Peter was an apostle of Jesus, therefore, the revelation ofthe gospel of the kingdom of heaven would be revealed tohim as well as the other apostles - nothing teaches that Peter or the apostle’s authority would continueonce the gospel was fully revealed, the once for alldelivered to the saints truth - would be the key to binding and loosing.Interesting NOTE: “bind . . . lose” familiar Jewish Rabbi phrase: Referred to a rabbi’s telling a person whether he wasstill under the bondage of sin or free from itNot based on the rabbi’s authority, but on whether theperson had repented or notIf he repented, sins are loosed from himIf he did not repent, sins were bound on him.
Further note:The phrase in the original language reads:“ . . . whatever you forbid on earth, shall have already beenforbidden in heaven. And whatever you permit on earth,shall have already been permitted in heaven.”Therefore, the church is not merely binding and loosingwhomever they want for whatever reason they want.They merely confirm through discipline what God hasalready confirmed in heaven.How can the church know that what it has bound throughdiscipline has been bound in heaven by God? If it fits with what the Word of God considers to bebehavior or belief worthy of discipline and if the properprocess and attitudes were used.Nonetheless, v 18 states that church discipline isspiritually bliding - Paul calls it “delivered to Satan”Not only does the church have divine power behind theirauthority to discipline, but secondly,2. The Promise Behind the Authority v 19READThere is not only binding power in disciplineThere is also the Promise of the Father’s authority andaffirmation – He Himself will carry out the spiritualdisciplineNOTE – this is not a name it and claim it verse
- not saying just get someone to agree with you about a matter – any matter you want – and somehow is now obligated to do it for you.The context defines what this verse refers to: - no whatever you pray about - but whatever disciplinary decision made by the proper process laid forth – vv 15-17two of you – goes back to v 16 2 or 3 witnesses to confirm an action/behavior orissueIf you properly followed the process – the Father’spromise to carry out the discipline is behind yourdisciplineRemember: - what was bound on earth through a church’s discipline had already been bound by heavenTherefore it is obvious – if there is a case confirmed bywitnesses - the Father has promised his authority behind what you ask Him to do through the disciplineBut there is a third aspect to this authority3. The Presence Behind the Authority v 20Not only power not only God’s promise But God’s very presence is involved in the disciplineprocessREAD VERSENote the Son’s Affirmation: - not talking about prayer in general
Not meant to be encouragement for the faithful few who attended the church prayer meeting It is about the Discipline Issue – especially if it has to go before the whole churchWhere two or three are gathered - witnesses who confirm the unrepentant person’s sinhave gathered together in My namefor the purpose of publicly affirming the sin and Christ’sword concerning such sinNot a mystical ‘in the name of Jesus’ mantra - his name represents His person/nature and purposes - gather together in common purpose with Christ - doing what fit with His naturethere I am in their midstHe is there in the public meeting to confirm the disciplineCONCLUSIONLet’s sum this up then - discipline is mandated by our Lord Jesus Christ for the purity of his church.If the church is to be a congregation of the converted -then discipline is a means to guard, protect, and maintainthe church as a converted people.And when it is necessary to confront sin - it should first be done privately - and others are brought in only after a private pursuit of repentance.
- If the brother or sister will not listen to one or to a few - the entire church should pursue them - If they won’t hear the church - they cannot remain a part of the church. o Why? They are not demonstrating the marks of a converted person - namely, repentance.Discipline, then, is a difficult but necessary part of being atrue church.But, how could we as a group lessen the need todiscipline? 1. Consistently encourage one another spirituallyHebrews 3:13 But encourage one another day after day,as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of youwill be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 2. Consistently Meet Together and Stimulate One Another to godliness:Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate oneanother to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our ownassembling together, as is the habit of some, butencouraging one another; and all the more as you see theday drawing near. 3. Lovingly Admonish One another:1 Thessalonians 5:13 and that you esteem them veryhighly in love because of their work. Live in peace withone another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish theunruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, bepatient with everyone. 4. Readily Forgive - Seek No Personal Revenge1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays another withevil for evil, but always seek after that which is good forone another and for all people.
5. Be persistently humble - Maintain Humility and Peace as you patiently endure with each otherEphesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, withpatience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in thebond of peace.