Church discipline


(Mat 18:15-17 NIV)  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

1. Go to the brother or sister; show the fault to him or her in private.

2. If he/she does not listen, go with one or two witnesses.

3. If he/she refuses to listen, take the matter before the church.

After these steps have been carried out, the next steps are

Remove the one in error from the fellowship

(1 Cor 5 NIV)  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. {2} And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? {3} Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. {4} When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, {5} hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. {6} Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? {7} Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. {8} Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. {9} I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– {10} not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. {11} But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. {12} What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? {13} God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Do not associate with the disobedient person; and if you must, speak to him/her as one who needs a warning.

(2 Th 3:14-15 NIV)  If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. {15} Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

After two warnings, reject the person from the fellowship.

(Titus 3:10 NIV)  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

I struggle with this issue. What if our sinning brother leaves the faith altogether if we isolate him? Obviously the danger of contaminating the Christian community is greater than the danger of that brother leaving the faith. This is because if the brother drops out we lose one person. However, if that brother contaminates the church, many more will be lost.

I believe the rationale for isolating a Christian brother has to be the prevention of widespread contamination. Therefore, we are not talking about trivial matters. Everyone sins to a certain extent, even daily. We need to discern what are sins that have the potential to contaminate and therefore need to be dealt with through isolation. The sins listed above are serious sins and not trivial ones.

Forgiveness and comfort if he repents

The church gives united disapproval, but forgiveness and comfort are in order if he/she chooses to repent.

(2 Cor 2:5-8 NIV)  If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent–not to put it too severely. {6} The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. {7} Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. {8} I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.