It is important in this first session to lay the groundwork in such a way that you are prepared for the other sessions. First, the practice of church discipline is foreign to many congregations today. Let’s begin with working definition.
Church discipline is the correct application of biblical principles and practices that brings order in the lives of the people and the congregation for God’s glory (paraphrase).
Church discipline is either non-existent or wrongly practiced in a lot of churches and places.
Church discipline is beneficial. But why is it, then, that churches do not practice church discipline.
1. Church discipline requires discipline of those who practice it. You cannot do just a slip-shod job with it. It takes discipline to upkeep church discipline.
2. Church discipline is always unpleasant. It is painful and very messy, and people do not like to get into messy situations. But in the long term, discipline brings about the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
3. Church discipline is widely abused in former times. Terms like “back door revival” express the attitude of many people. That’s not the purpose of church discipline. It is to deal with the issues in such a way that they are not only reclaimed and restored but that they become useful in the Lord’s work. The fundamental purpose is the restoration of the offender, not to get rid of him. When church discipline is called for, that is the way to go. It is not an optional matter; it is a matter of obedience. Church discipline is a matter of loving and caring enough for those who go astray, to bring back the wayward sheep.
4. The loss of authority in the church today. There is authority in the church of Jesus Christ, but it is not recognized in our society today. Why should the authority of the church be less than the church of the state (as in the police giving you a traffic ticket)? We must recognize the authority rightly handled in the church of Jesus Christ. Obey those who rule over you . . .
I know you can go to far here, but I am not talking about be an authoritarian or dictatorial style of authority, but the right use of authority as a loving shepherd leading and ruling rightly according to Scripture. If you have a clear policy of receiving members, that people have to take a vow that they would be under the care and discipline of the church, they would be willing to submit, then they know that being a member of such a church necessitates leadership under biblical authority and incorporates church discipline when cases require it.
This is Christ’s church, and it is not our business to tell him how to run it. Vance Havner said that an excuse is the skin of reason stuffed with a lie. od prescribed church discipline, and it is a mark of a true church. God is going to have it his way, even if we don’t do it.
Remember 1 Cor. 11 and how they were taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. When the Lord judges us, he disciplines us so that we are not condemned with the world. God was judging the church at Corinth, and it was severe. If you won’t deal with the situations in your church, God will. You may be wondering why you are going through such difficult situations in your church. Perhaps God is judging your church. I don’t know, but the threat is there.
Discipline is important because it draws the line between the world and the church. When someone is put out, he is handed over to Satan to be taught (in a disciplined way). When church discipline was ignored in Exodus 32 (golden calf situation), the anger of God burned against his people and a serious matter to reckon with. This is serious business and something God considers of great importance.
Church discipline is both positive and negative. It is preventive and remedial. This is really positive in the long run.
The world disciple and the word discipline come from the same word root. The church is fundamentally a teaching institution. There has to be order in the life of the church where the teaching of the word of God can be done effectively. Church discipline is what assures order in the congregation. There is the positive goal of order through church discipline.
Preventive discipline is everything you do day by day and week by week, building up the church and making it more orderly. Discipline is a means of achieving righteousness. When everything else fails in counseling, there is church discipline.
Church discipline has in mind the goal of God’s honor, congregations welfare, and the offenders restoration.
Dr. Jay Adams is well-versed on the issue of church discipline. This session primarily serves the purpose of laying a foundation and launching into other messages forthcoming in the conference. I think the point regarding the loss of authority in local church is big, especially among younger, more missional oriented churches. Of course, there are ditches to avoid, and for those of us who are Baptists, congregational polity led by a plurality of elders is a well-balanced approach to handling biblical authority under the Headship of Christ. Unfortunately, for many, the issue of church discipline has indeed been perverted, abused, and misunderstood by many. My hope is that this conference (and my notes!) will serve as a helpful tool and resource for ministers and lay people alike to consider a fresh perspective on church discipline.