TEXT: Matthew 18:15-20
I hope to give a systematic overview of church discipline. Jeremiah 6:16:
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I began thinking, “Since we got the gospel right, how many have we had to discipline?” I can think of only one. There is a powerful truth that, if the pulpit is right and the gospel right, there is a greatly reduced need for church discipline. Before that, we dismissed hundreds at one time, and dozens for drunkenness, adultery, family abandonment, etc.
In Matthew 18, we have the classic text on church discipline. I want to talk about the principle of ownership.
I. The Reasons for Church Discipline
A. The Principle of Ownership:
This has to grab you. It is not your church. That just came over me years ago.
Acts 20:28 – the church is purchased with his blood
Col. 1:18 – the church is his body
2 Cor. 11:2 – the church is the bride
1 Cor. 3:9 – the church is his building
B. The Principle of Stewardship:
We are stewards over the bride of Christ. God has left us with the oversight and management responsibility of the church.
1 Pet. 5:2 – shepherd the flock according to the will of God
13 Things Under Stewardship of Church Discipline:
1. To glorify God by being obedient (Matt. 18:15).
2. To sanctify the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:27).
3. To purify the spirit and message of the church.
4. To deny Satan any advantage in the church.
5. To prove that leaders love and care.
6. To deter others from sin (1 Tim. 5:20).
7. To destroy fleshly lusts in the believer (1 Cor. 5:5).
8. To cut emotional ties.
9. To protect Scripture from perversion and error (Titus 1:10-15).
10. To shame a brother to repentance (2 Thess. 3:14).
11. To restore repentant believers. This has been the joy throughout all the years.
12. To expose and to remove the unregenerate. It is not for restoration only, but God’s means to find the goats among the sheep.
13. To prevent factions in the church.
II. The Range of Church Discipline
A. First of all, private sin requires a private rebuke. We have not right to discuss a brother’s sin publicly if we have not gone to him privately. It is wickedness.
B. Prominent, public sin receives public rebuke. In a larger church, that might be in a department of a church. Occasionally there is something so scandalous and public that it needs to be dealt with in a public way. The community needs to hear from the church when they know what is already going on in the church.
John Dagg: “When discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it.”
III. The Results of Church Discipline
Acts 5:1-15 – Church Discipline in the Early Church
I don’t know many churches today saying, “We want to be an Acts 5 church.”
This is the greatest true revival that will ever be recorded (the Church at Pentecost and following). Right in the middle of the revival, God shuts it down to handle church discipline.
Why not just say, “God is moving. We will deal with later?” Because the purity of the church affects the power of the gospel.
The results from God’s intervention:
A. The Purification of God’s Church – “and great fear came over the church”
We live in a day where there is no fear of God in the church.
B. The Unification of God’s Church – “and they were all in one accord”
Unity means literally one passion. Our goal should be that we have perfect hearts in Christ, and that brings unity. You focus on holiness, godliness, and purity, and unity comes after the purity issue is settled. What we are calling unity today is the same kind of unity a social club has – the unity behind a common goal. However, the unity in Scripture is based and built upon the holiness of the believers who are looking to Christ and turning from their sin.
C. The Sanctification of God’s Church – “none of the rest dared associate with them”
It was obvious that there was a lot of friends and relatives of the true believers, and they would come to these household fellowships. And when God killed Ananias and Sapphira, a great host separated themselves. A church that God is using will draw some and repel others. What that means is, God, pastoring the church through the Holy Spirit, brought the church to a period of decline and plateau. It was a weeding out of those not truly committed to Christ. When was the last time you heard this at a church growth conference?
It cannot be that everyone is comfortable in your church.
D. The Multiplication of God’s Church – “more than ever people were added to the Lord”
Evangelism comes after the church has been purified. One of the fundamental reasons why churches are not growing evangelistically is because they are not caring for the purity of the church. The unregenerate nature of so many churches are evidence that the power of God is not there.
E. The Admiration for the Church – “the people held them in high esteem”
Some of the folks who are highly critical now are saying, “Well, I would not go to church there, but I respect them.” You have to decide whether you are going to be popular or respectful.
I see so much fleshly sentimentality which has nothing to do with true spirituality, which says, “Since I love you, I will let you go on in sin.” Yet we should care enough to bring correction, in God’s way, with God’s love.
IV. The Power of Church Discipline
A. The Father’s Agreement (Matt. 18:18-19)
Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven. In church discipline, you are finding out what heaven has already decided on the issue. There is power when you do it God’s way.
B. The Son’s Presence (Matt. 18:20)
There is an unusual presence of Christ when there is the practice of church discipline. You want Christ known and felt? Christ shows up in a special and powerful way when you care about the purity of My bride.
I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and overview of church discipline. There’s a lot of talk these days about how to do church, about being a “first century church” in the 21st century. If we want to go there, then there is no short-cut regarding church discipline. The growth and health of our churches do not depend on a new technique or tip but the transforming power of the gospel in the lives of our people and the integrity of our churches to care passionately for the testimony of our Lord. For His name’s sake, and for the sake of those whom we call brothers and sisters in the Lord, we must embrace the call to take up church discipline as a priority and primary focus as we seek to love the Body where Christ is Head.