19 February, 2007

Church Discipline Anyone?

My friend Steve is having a discussion on his blog about the reasons that 20 somethings are leaving the Church en masse. I disagree on some points, but overall, the lack of discipline in the Church is causing a lot of problems. Discipline is one of the Keys of the Kingdom and is held specifically by the ruling elders. We should pray for our ruling elders that they would have the courage to speak on behalf of the Lord Jesus as a means of showing forth Christ's love to his Church. Our forefathers had much to say on discipline, and this short list does not even begin to scratch the surface! May the Lord raise up men who desire to serve as elders who rule the flock well.

Belgic Confession Article 19
The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself.

Westminster Confession Article 30
I. The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.

Calvin, Institutes, IV.xii.8
"Some persons, in their hatred of discipline, recoil from its very name, let them understand this: if no society...can be kept in proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the Church, whose condition should be ordered as possible.

John Murray, Collected Writings, 2.382
The Session is under obligation to exclude from the Lord’s Supper those who are guilty of such overt sin as requires exclusion... To deny this necessity is to waive completely the demands of discipline.

AA Hodge, Confession p.371
The end of Church Discipline are declared to be: the purity of the Church, the recovery of the erring brother himself, the force of example to deter others from like sin, and the exhibition of righteousness and fidelity to principle presented to the world without.

Matthew Henry, Commentary, p.1706
Christian reproof is an ordinance of Christ for the bringing of sinners to repentance, and must be managed as an ordinance.

a’Brakel, Reasonable Service, 2.185
You (the elders) must engage in this task (Church discipline) in the realization that it is the Lord’s work, for in doing so you will gain ability and boldness. You will then begin to observe your congregation, neighborhood by neighborhood, and if you become suspicious about someone, you ought to enquire into this. You should privately address such an individual, exhort and rebuke him, and seek to correct such a person in the spirit of meekness. If he hears you, you have gained him.

IBID, 2.187
The use of this key purifies the congregation, makes others fearful of sinning, and delivers those who are weak from that which offends. It will cause the Church to demand respect from those who are without (the church), who in turn will aspire after godliness and salvation and will be enticed to join the Church. Blessed be the congregation where this may be practiced. "For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psalm 133.3).


Droll Flood said...

Church discipline is Christ's love manifested. If the congregation to which you belong does not discipline its members, THEY HATE YOU and have no care for your soul according to God's Word. Fools will argue to the contrary, but they show they hate you and Christ too because they don't listen to His word. Salvation is shown by Christ's elect ACCORDING TO HIS WORD.

Notliberal said...

Church disipline is but one problem, we could go on for hours about what's wrong with the church today.

Robbie said...

as reformed folks, it is easy to say we excercise proper church discipline- but in truth we often do not. I agre with everything that you have said Nate. As my cautious, reserved self i must raise my hand and ask where is the compassion? Where is the Grace? It is the gospel truth that if the church does not discipline they could care less for the flock and personal and corporate piety. That is not what i am talking about, as Droll said... if they do not show discipline, they do not care for your soul. The grace that I am looking for is in the process of Discipline, in Christ tells us in Matthew to go to the person who has offended us, if no repentance is seen [as in no fruit] then go once more with 2,3 witnesses, then again if no fruit is seen afterwards of conviction, then before the assembly... then excommunication is at the end result. God is gracious in giving us sinners 3 chances to return and repent. But God does not only stop there, Paul in 2 Corinthians exclaims, ACCEPT THE BROTHER! It is amaazing that after God still accepts us into His fold. As ministers of Grace, we must make sure we show grace... that we may say we have done all we can to bring a person back, that it is a joy to serve Christ... [Hebrews]

It is interesting to note as well... many time the elders of the flock do not expect repentance... instead they expect a hardening of the heart.... usually with that attitude that is what they reap. But God says that repentance will come... Instead, follow God and His commands, show grace to sinners, that we may see fallen sinners become Brothers in Christ.

Nate said...

I agree Robbie 100%. The spirit of love and humility must cover all of the discipline that the church does.

Mark said...

Good points, Nate and Robbie. Discipline is a needful thing, but has to be done with the goal of reconciliation. We also need to learn to submit to authority should we be disciplined ourselves - I've seen people who have literally laughed about being under discipline.

Droll said...

We affirm that discipline is to be carried out in humility, and with eyes that are set on restoring the wandering sheep. Carefully keeping eyes on ourselves that we'd not fall into sin. It is only Christ's salvation that will make this happen. There is much long-suffering even within discipline which is God's grace manifested.

Now regarding attitudes of those carrying out discipline, we maintain that repentance is a supernatural act of God and it is to be elated over when it does happen. Those repentant sinners are to be warmly received back (even with tears of joy, dare I say that amongst the reformed). Discipline is unto restoration (!), not to just toss the flock aside. Despite how little the form for re-admittance into the visable church is used, IT IS UNTO RESTORATION OF THE FALLEN MEMBER.

"But God says that repentance will come..."
-To those only for whom Christ died, election is manifested in perseverance, and repentance is perseverance. That only happening by the proclamation of His Word.

Droll said...

"That only happening by the proclamation of His Word."
-And the applying of that Word to the hearts of His Own.

David McCrory said...

Church discipline is sorely missed in our modern church culture. And we are reaping what we've sown there. But I fear the reason for the young people abondoning the church is not immediately tied to church discipline.

Rather, I would contend the parents never captured the hearts of their children, neglecting to leave with them an abiding love for true religion and the sense of need for Christ and His church. Once fathers truly turn their hearts back to their families, I believe God will once again bless us with the fruit of out labors.