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Tuesday
Nov122013

Theological Term of the Week

church discipline
Corrective measures taken church leaders or a congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a member, with the goal of the loving restoration of the fallen member, if possible, and the strengthening of the church for the glory of Christ.

  • From scripture:
    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17, ESV)
    And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)
  • From the Westminster Confession of Faith:
    Chapter XXX - Of Church Censures
    III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
    IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.
  • From John Calvin on the stages of church discipline from Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 12:
    The first foundation of discipline is to provide a place for private admonition; that is, if anyone does not perform his duty willingly, or behaves insolently, or does not live honorably, or has committed any act deserving blame — he should allow himself to be admonished; and when the situation demands it, every man should endeavor to admonish his brother. 
    But let pastors and presbyters be especially watchful to do this, for their duty is not only to preach to the people, but to warn and exhort in every house, wherever they are not effective enough in general instruction.  Paul teaches this when he relates that he taught privately and from house to house [Acts 20:20], and declares himself “innocent of the blood of all” [v. 26], because he “ceased not to admonish everyone night and day with tears” [Acts 20:31]. 
    For doctrine obtains force and authority where the minister not only explains to all together what they owe to Christ, but also has the right and means to require that it be kept by those whom he has observed are either disrespectful or languid toward his teaching.
    If anyone either stubbornly rejects such admonitions or shows that he scorns them by persisting in his own vices, after having been admonished a second time in the presence of witnesses, Christ commands that he be called to the tribunal of the church, that is, the assembly of the elders, and there be more gravely admonished as by public authority, in order that, if he reverences the church, he may submit and obey.  If he is not even subdued by this but perseveres in his wickedness, then Christ command that, as a despiser of the church, he be removed from the believers’ fellowship [Matt. 18:15, 17].

Learn more:

  1. J. Hamption Keathley III: Church Discipline
  2. John MacArthur: Church Discipline (pdf)
  3. Jonathan Leeman: A Church Discipline Primer
  4. Bob Deffinbaugh: Church Discipline: Taking Sin Seriously
  5. Mark Dever: Biblical Church Discipline (pdf)
  6. Albert Mohler: Church Discipline: The Missing Mark
  7. Rev. Randy Oliver: The Forgotten Mark (pdf)

Related terms:

Filed under Ecclesiology

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