16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Nothing too profound here. Just an observation I think bears repeating. The fight over biblical inerrancy was one of the most important evangelical battles in the 20th century, and nowhere was the drama on greater display than in the Southern Baptist Convention. I am indebted to the pastors and leaders who were on the front lines of turning the denomination I grew up in from turning away from a high view of Scripture.
Of the churches that hold to biblical inerrancy (at least in the SBC), I wonder how many are committed to the functional outworking of the inerrancy as it relates to church discipline. The classic text of 2 Tim. 3:16-17 speaks to the purposeful outworking of a high view of Scripture. Those purposes are teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It is worth noting that 50% of the Scripture’s profitability has to do with corrective discipline. Reproof is correcting wrong beliefs and false doctrine while correction addresses wrong behavior and sinful lifestyle.
Churches who embrace biblical inerrancy certainly want the inerrant word to have 100% profitability for each believer, but for that to take place, correction and reproof ought to be normative and expected in a “Bible-based” church. If not, then we are accepting a standard where only 50% of the Scriptures intended usefulness is evidenced in the life of the church. A church who believes in 100% biblical inerrancy and 50% biblical usefulness is sending mixed signals, and worse, failing to use the prescribed means of seeing God’s people equipped for every good work and mature in Christ.
The grounds for practicing church discipline is both in the nature of Scripture, and man. Scripture is authoritative, prescriptive, redemptive, and corrective. We are sinful, broken, and prideful, such that we can easily be blinded in our beliefs and wandering in our behavior. Churches who practice church discipline humbly confess the need for mutual accountability, submission to Christ and one another, and hold to an uncompromising commitment to do whatever the inerrant Word of God calls them to do.
On a most basic level, there are churches who hold to biblical inerrancy but have more than half of their membership utterly uninvolved in the life of the church even to attend a Sunday morning gathering. Churches are losing the moral authority to speak on issues like the sanctity of marriage when things like homosexual marriage debate surfaces because of unchecked cohabitation and unaddressed infidelity in the ranks. The distinctives of genuine unity of faith and love for the brethren are corroded by the prevalence of gossip, slander, and bitterness, and those distinctives are replaced by superficial standards like being relevant and entertaining. We turn the lights down when Jesus has told us to be the light of the world.
Church discipline is redemptive in more ways than one. It is redemptive to the one whose beliefs or behaviors are held accountable to the authority of God’s Word. It is also redemptive to the integrity of witness in a gospel community who live together in repentance and faith so that the qualitative value of being counter-cultural is profoundly winsome and worthy of intrigue. If we lose care and concern for the ongoing work of the gospel in each others lives, and if the Gentiles blaspheme the name of Jesus because of us, then the fight for biblical inerrancy will be battle with no spoils in the here and now and no soldiers for the battles to come.