Matthew 18:15-20 is a passage that many of us read, but we are so quick to ignore. In this particular passage, Jesus spells out the practice of church discipline. Thankfully, Jesus gives us a plan, step by step of how to deal with a church member in unrepentant sin. In the church in America, the practice of church discipline has largely been ignored or forgotten. Let’s face the truth, confronting someone takes courage and it is far easier to just ignore the sin taking over our brother than to try to help them. However church discipline is hugely important! Here are three reasons why church discipline is so important in the life of the church.
1. Church discipline protects the holiness of the church. The bride of Christ is to be set apart from the world. As a result, the outside world should be able to look at the local church and see that the people in the church are different. The people in the church are to live a moral and pure life. They are to abstain from sin, and repent of sin when it is committed. As a result, allowing someone to continue to sin in the congregation ruins the witness of that church. Many non-Christian people complain that the church looks just the same as the outside world, and too often their assessment is correct. The reason for this, is that we refuse to practice church discipline, therefore the witness of that church to its community is tarnished.
Even in my own small town, you can hear through the grapevine the reputation of churches in our city. Even some of my students have informed me that this church or that church live their lives as a bunch of hypocrites. A congregations unrepentant sin hinders the ministry of that church and it fails to be a visible representation of Jesus to the world.
2. True love for one another is a love that disciplines. We are told all throughout the scriptures to love one another. Imagine a parent who always lets there child do and get whatever they want. If they want candy for dinner, they give them candy. If they want to stay up late playing video games on a school night, they let them. If they want to go out on the weekends and party with their friends and come back on Sunday, they let them. We would say that those parents are just terrible! Their children will be fat and unhealthy eating all that candy! Their grades will suffer as they neglect homework and are sleepy in school from gaming all night! They will be in danger as they go out and get intoxicated on the weekends doing who knows what with out their parents knowledge! A parent who truly loves their child will not allow them to do whatever it is they want to do, but will protect them and instruct them on the proper way to live their life. True love is a love that confronts sin. In fact, true love will provide discipline when necessary.
Just like a toddler who reaches for the electrical outlet, the parent then reaches out and swats their hand leaving a sting on that crying 3 year old. That act is an act of love. It is an act of discipline to protect the child. The same goes for church discipline. It is there to protect a brother’s walk with Christ from the schemes of the enemy. It is there to help their relationship with Christ. In fact if we really love our friends, we will confront their sin, not ignore it.
3. Church Discipline Reveals the Fake Christians. As we see in Matthew 18 Jesus tells us that if the person refuses to repent and turn away from their sin, then they are to be treated as an unbeliever. How a person responds to church discipline reveals if they even know Jesus. The apostle John tells us in his first letter that a true believer cannot keep on sinning, but he always repents. He might sin for a little while, but when confronted with his sin he is filled with remorse and returns to Christ. Therefore the neglect of Church Discipline can be catastrophic because so often it gives people a false assurance of salvation. Church discipline reveals whether we are a true Christian our a fooling everyone including ourselves.
Practicing church discipline is incredibly important for the church! We need to read our Bibles and obey Jesus’ words. We need to study it carefully and then put them into practice in our local church.
Take a read through Matthew 18:15-20.
How do you think church discipline should be administered in a congregation?
Are their any dangers to church discipline?
What are your experiences positive or negative on this issue?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, be sure to leave them in the comments!