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Church Discipline

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Church Discipline

I have had the privilege of serving in 5 different churches. I will forever be in wonder over this reality. The fact that God chose me for pastoral ministry is one of the great mysteries I will never be able to solve. I do not have the words to express the gratitude in my heart to serve as a pastor, which, I believe, is the most holy calling a person could be called to. Holiness means set apart or different. Being a pastor is a different calling than other callings. This is because the God whom I represent is a Holy God. He is different from His creation and calls us, His people, to also be different from other people.

            The longer I serve God in this role the more I am convinced of the pastor’s role to show his flock in God’s Word that they are to be different from the surrounding world. If we, as Christians, say we know God then we must be different as He is different. Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” Holiness is the distinguishing evidence of all Christians. This must be true if we claim the God of the Bible as our God.

            This claim is not simply a claim to be individually holy. Another significant mark of a Christians holiness is his or her desire to live out their holiness with a group of believers in a local church. The Church is a gathering of people who say, among other things that “we are different from the world” and we are proving that by corporately worshiping a God who also claims to be different. This claim must have evidence to back it up. What would be the result of our churches if we as Christians claimed God as our Father but lived as if we did not know Him? Lots of people say they know God. What is the evidence of this? Part of the responsibility of the Church is to hold each other accountable to be the people we claim to be. The title of this article is “Church Discipline.” You may never have heard of such a thing. What is church discipline? Why is it important? Is this idea biblical?

            In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” Notice first that there was a clear indication of who was “outside” and was “inside” the church (expect an article from me about church membership soon). Paul goes on to say that we are to judge those inside the church meaning people who claim the name of Jesus. I thought we were not to judge people? Are we really supposed to judge our brother? The answer is yes. God does expect us to hold each other accountable for how we live. God’s people are to be different and the expectation is that we represent Jesus well to lost people. Perhaps you have heard like I have, people say, “Why would I go to church. Those people are just a bunch of hypocrites!” Sadly, there is truth to this claim. Those who claim Christ often don’t look any different from the world around them. Why would a lost man become a Christian if he sees God’s people living no differently than he does? God has a different plan in mind for us and the church. We are too, as Peter says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

            Call it church accountability. Call it loving your brother. Call it a Christian’s responsibility. Call it what you will but there is a very clear calling in the Bible for believers to live different lives and hold one another to our claim of being in Christ. We are our brother’s keeper. Proverbs 1:7 says, “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” One of the things we are saying when we become members of a local church is that we want the body of believers to hold us accountable knowing our tendency as sheep to stray. At the heart of church discipline is representing the God we claim. Calling out a brother’s sin with any other motive than their restoration does not represent Christ well. We must hold one another accountable with the heart of God. God bless you as you live differently than the world.

Posted by Matt Williams