February 10, 2017

The Goal of Church Discipline: Repentance unto Restoration

by Mike Riccardi

RepentanceToday we continue in our series on dealing with sin in the church, in which we’ve been looking to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, which we’ve said provides us with five stages of successful church discipline.

The first of those stages is the sin that makes discipline necessary. In examining Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5, we focused particularly on the corporate nature of sin in the church: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.” Even though the conflict was primarily between one man and the Apostle Paul, sin’s harm is never restricted to the offender and the offended. Because of the essential interconnectedness of the body of Christ, sin in even one part of the body brings sorrow to the entire church (1 Cor 12:26). The spiritual health of the body as a whole depends on the spiritual health of each member, and unrepentant sin in the body of Christ is a spiritual cancer. If left unchecked, sin will infect the whole body until it destroys all spiritual life. Because sin is so serious, it must be confronted and dealt with.

The second stage in this process is the discipline itself, “the punishment which was inflicted by the majority” (2 Cor 2:6). This “punishment” (epitimia) is a legal term that refers to an official disciplinary act, and it is to be carried out “by the majority.” The church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline. If there has been no repentance, the church is instructed to remove the man or woman in question from the fellowship of the body (Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5, 13; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; Tit 3:10). While some might think this to be spiteful or harsh, it is the most loving thing that the church can do for a sinning brother. He needs to be made to feel the error of his ways. Though it may be painful, excluding him from the life of the church may be the only way to induce that godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

When the Punishment is Sufficient

And that brings us to the third stage of church discipline faithful and successful church discipline does not stop with excommunication. As we continue reading in this 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, we discover that the goal of all correction, rebuke, and discipline is that our sinning brother might be brought to repentance, would forsake his sin, and be restored to fellowship. Paul says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”

The punishment was sufficient. The corporate discipline that the church carried out upon the offender had achieved its intended effect. He says again in verse 9, “For to this end also I wrote. . . .” That is, “I wrote so that you would administer discipline, and you have. And that punishment is now sufficient. It has served the purpose for which it was instituted and produced a godly sorrow, which has led to genuine repentance.”

Not Retributive, but Restorative

You see, church discipline is not some sadistic form of vindictive retribution for proud men with wounded egos. The aim of church discipline is not to embarrass people; it is not to shame them for the sake of shaming them. It’s not to subjugate them and show them who’s boss. Church discipline is not retaliatory, but remedial; not retributive, but restorative. The goal is to bring the sinning brother or sister to genuine repentance.

RestoredWe see that emphasis in all the major texts about church discipline. Matthew 18:15 speaks about winning your brother. You are to go to him in private and show him his fault with the hope that he will listen to you, see his sin demonstrated from Scripture, confess it, and forsake it. That is repentance. And Jesus says if that happens, you have won your brother. You have gained him back. In 1 Corinthians 5, in the case of the man in Corinth who had been sleeping with his stepmother—of such gross immorality not even named among the pagans—still the aim of Paul’s discipline is restorative: “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan”—that’s how serious the punishment of church discipline is, that excommunication can be likened to delivering someone over to Satan. But note the purpose: “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, “My goal is that the sinfulness of his flesh would be destroyed. I need him to feel the weight of the seriousness of his sin, so that he would forsake his sin, and finally be saved on that last day.”

The same is so in 2 Thessalonians 3:14. Paul writes, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” Why? Just because we like shaming people? No, but because the sinning brother needs to be made to feel the weight of his error. He needs to recognize that failure to repent of sin, even after repeated and patient warnings from brothers and sisters in the Lord, is absolutely perilous.

The Peril of Impenitence

Danger SignIt is, in effect, to set yourself against the entire community of the people of God and to say, “I know better than all of you!” That is the kind of arrogance and obstinacy that destroys a man’s soul. And if that is what is in a man’s heart, he is revealing himself to be an unbeliever—a stranger to God’s regenerating grace, still dead in his trespasses and sins.

The church attendance record doesn’t matter. The check marks on the Bible-reading plan don’t have any bearing on this. If that unteachable spirit is left unchecked, that man will meet Christ on the Day of Judgment and will hear those haunting words, “I never knew you” (Matt 7:21–23). And because we can’t stand to think of our friend—one who has been entrusted into our care—meeting such a miserable fate, we aim at his genuine repentance, even if it means that he must be made to feel the shame of being excluded from the fellowship of the people of God. Because it is that shame that leads to godly sorrow, and it is godly sorrow which leads to genuine repentance.

Sorrow in the Service of Repentance

Paul speaks about this in 2 Corinthians 7:8–10. Paul recounts how he was refreshed by Titus’s report that the Corinthians had repented. And he speaks there of the sorrow that he caused them by his letter: “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while—I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation.” So, even though Paul’s severe letter had made the Corinthians sorrowful, he rejoices. He doesn’t rejoice in their grief in and of itself, but that they were made sorrowful unto repentance.

You see, friends, discipline is designed to sting. It is designed to make an unrepentant sinner sorrowful. Because it is not until the sinner has been truly made to feel the seriousness of his sin that he is able to genuinely repent of that sin. That’s why Jesus pronounces a blessing upon those who mourn over their sin in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Because it is only those who feel the shame of their sin—who feel the offense it is to the holiness of God and who feel the pollution it is to the purity of the church—it is only those who truly mourn over their sin that turn from it in genuine repentance, and therefore experience the genuine comfort of forgiveness.

This is what we’re after when we deal with sin in the church. It’s true: when we put a sinning man or woman out of the church, we aim to make them sorrowful. But we do not aim at their sorrow in and of itself. We desire that they come to grips with the seriousness of their offense—that they would be made to grieve over the sin that has offended God and polluted the church—that they would be made to feel the sorrow that is according to the will of God, which produces a genuine repentance without regret, and leads to salvation (cf. 2 Cor 7:10).

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Would it be fair to say that the ultimate goal of church discipline is the purity of the church? The hope is repentance which ends in the purity of the church but if that hope is not realized, then we remove the sinning person which also ends in the purity of the church?

    • Jason

      I think that’s technically accurate, though we need to make sure we don’t take that view off track and lose sight of the incredible love for the individual that is expressed throughout the scriptures on church discipline.

      I had a pastor who would frequently tell people that if they didn’t want to be in church than they’re wasting their Sunday sitting there, because no pew is going to save you. Even the unbeliever benefits from church discipline, because at least we’re not offering them anything that could be considered false assurance (and, as a bonus, they can spend their Sundays watching football or whatever it is they do care about!)

    • Adam James Howard

      I think that’s valid! Reminds me of this –

      1 Corinthians 5:12-13

      [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (ESV)

    • I suppose if we’re going to be precise, the ultimate goal of church discipline is the glory of God.

      But yes, the purity of church is certainly what we aim at in church discipline. But with respect to any particular individual, our goal in putting an repentant sinner out of the church isn’t ostracism in and of itself; it’s ostracism in the service of the godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and thus restoration to fellowship.

  • grh

    At the same time, what do you say to the idea that the excommunication step of church discipline simply amounts to removing them from membership rolls and prohibiting them from partaking of the Lord’s Table, but they can still attend and in effect “be part of” the church services?

    Such a view would seem contradict Paul’s explicit instructions to “purge the evil person from among you” and “not to associate…not even to eat” with someone who is impenitent.

    I’m curious as to Mike’s thoughts; this is an increasingly common view among some even well-known reformed-ish ministries.

    • I think there might be an occasion when, in an effort to restore someone indicating that they’d like to repent, it would be salutary to that person and the congregation to have them attend.

      But in the majority of cases, especially where there’s been no indication of desire for repentance and restoration on the individual’s part, I can’t see how it would be helpful to allow him to attend. By refusing to repent at the counsel of the elders, he’s basically saying that he has no regard for their leadership or discernment; if he won’t submit himself to their counsel and shepherding, why would he want to submit himself to their teaching and preaching? It would seem the only reason to attend would be detrimental to the rest of the congregation.

      Certainly in the case of a factious person (Titus 3:10), they need to be removed so as not to peddle their heresy/division among the congregation. 2 Thess 3 issues would seem to be similar, since that individual is taking advantage of others. So, it’s necessary to protect the congregation in those instances.

  • Lynn B.

    Mike, I saw in last week’s post that you mentioned comments on Cripplegate close after seven days. Once closed do the comments remain “forever” or at some point are they deleted?

    Some in this series I may want to copy and save for future reference if they will be deleted. Thanks.

    • Comments are never deleted automatically because of the passage of time. The only way comments are removed is if a moderator chooses to remove them.

  • David Bivens

    Is this type of discipline applied in the same manner concerning a Pastor or someone in church leadership? Is the purpose to restore them back to that office or leadership?

    • Yes, church leaders, pastors, elders, etc. are also subject to the discipline process, though it would be necessary for the rest of the elders to be in agreement. The purpose is to restore such persons to the fellowship of the church, but, depending on the nature of the offense, it may be that they are not qualified to be restored to leadership.

      • David Bivens

        Thank you, I am still leaning reformed doctrine and practice. I have near 30 years of background in Word of Faith Pentecostal doctrine. Its seems in those circles no matter what the fall, the purpose was to restore them back to ministry and leadership. I have never seen or experienced church discipline in those circles. Over the process of time and much study I have by the Grace of God found myself in the reformed circles and attending a small Baptist church that has reformed leaning and expository teaching. It’s a 50 minute drive for us one way, but it is a great joy to be able to attend. In the last few years I have read some material and heard some sermons on church discipline, but never specifically address the fallen Pastor or church leader. Your answer sounds very reasonable and proper. I assume you are basing this upon the qualifications given in scripture for Bishops and Deacons. I have seen situations where a Pastor divorces his wife, marries his secretary and simply leaves and goes and pastors another church. It makes me wonder how you restore such a one back to a Pastorate. Thank you for your reply, thecripplegate has been very helpful in my learning.

        • Thanks so much, David. It’s a blessing to hear how God has been at work in your life in leading you away from false teaching and into sound doctrine and sound practice.

          And yes, I base my response on the qualifications for eldership in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the first of which in each list is that an elder must be above reproach. In the overwhelming majority of cases, for an elder to be excommunicated — regardless of what sin it is — means there has to be such an obstinacy in his refusal to repent that it’s doubtful whether he could ever be legitimately restored to the pastorate. In cases such as you’re describing, where there is unbiblical divorce and other immorality, there may be repentance and restoration unto fellowship, but that man is no longer qualified for ministry and must not be restored to eldership.

          Stay devoted to the truth!

  • alexguggenheim

    A number of Calvinist/Reformed interpret the teaching of our Lord on ecclesiastical adjudication that where the one being excommunicated is to be treated as a pagan or tax collector (unbeliever) means, literally, they are not actually a believer and to declare it as such instead of simply treating them “as if” they are.

    Have you encountered this and if so, what is your response?

    I cannot imagine one viewing ecclesiastical discipline being remedial toward a believer while simultaneously claiming that person is not actually a beliver.

    • I don’t know that I’ve met someone who says that excommunication, by definition, means there is no doubt the excommunicated is lost. Without a person denying a core tenet of the faith, I think it’d be presumptuous of an elder board to declare that person unsaved, since we can’t know infallibly the state of another person’s heart. I think the most conclusive we can be is to say: This person is acting so much like an unbeliever that we can’t tell whether they belong to Christ or not, but we cannot treat them as a brother until they bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance.

      • However it works out in the end, the person must “feel” the full weight of the community’s rejection of their claim to Christ. I think we can do that without actually pronouncing them unregenerate. It is one thing to say “you are unregenerate” and another to say “I have no good evidence to accept your claim to know Christ.” In the matter of the Corinthian man, Paul was quick to put him out, and although we know Paul loved people, his concern there was purity. Sin in the church is a dangerous cancer and the modern church’s hyper-concern about love and sensitivity to sinning person so much so that we tip-toe around these issues is not in accord the biblical model of love. The culture has infected our thinking to the point that we do not appreciate God’s attitude toward sin. We have a very difficult time balance God’s righteousness with God’s love. In our day, the latter almost always eclipses the former. God’s demonstration of his love is meaningless unless it is demonstrated within the overall framework of his righteousness. That a god would love human beings isn’t terribly impressive. That the righteous God described in Scripture would love any sinner is beyond our ability to truly comprehend.

        • alexguggenheim

          I think you are representing precisely my concern. I see nothing in the context which intimated church discipline is a result of not seeing any evidence of their claim of believing Christ rather gross error in Doctrine or practice or both.
          When you allow church discipline to Grant you the conclusion that you see no evidence of their claim of faith in Christ then you have to look back with egg on your face and ask yourself why for example the last 20 years we permitted that person to be a member.

          To say you see no evidence of their claimed by faith in Christ yet you have allowed someone to be a member of your church is 2 implicate yourself in some form of malfeasance some form of hypocracy or plain ignorance as to who is a member and who is not

          • This is why I agree with Mike that ultimately the goal is for God’s glory. But it is for God’s glory by way of maintaining the purity of the community rather than the one-sided aspect of correcting behavior. However, the context of 18 is very clear. We see the concern over offending little ones. We see the lost sheep. We see the emphasis on forgiveness to close the chapter. And sandwiched in between all this is the process for discipline. The Lord knows our self-righteous leanings far better than we do.

            At the same time, we see this concern for purity enforced in Acts 5 in the most profound way possible, in 1 Cor. 5., and Titus 3. It is in our best interest to be busy identifying and purging the infectious pagan mentality of our culture where these things are concerned.

            We were talking about this this morning in our men’s accountability group. No one has ever witnessed church disciple and there was close to 100 years of experience among them. AND, to make matters worse, some of these guys were shocked that we would ever consider reading a name publicly. How shocking would that be? one man said. My retort was, how shocking is it that we allow pernicious wickedness in the body of Christ in the name of love and grace and walk on eggshells demonstrating far more concern for the reputation of the person than we do for our Lord. It is humiliating to our Christ and his church to allow false converts to blossom and do their own thing without restraint.

            Finally, how can I gain someone’s attention with the demands of the gospel if they should know my brother is a cheating liar, is a member of my church, and no one has done anything to correct him or defend the community?

            It is something the body has start to take seriously.

          • alexguggenheim

            Ultimately it us for the welfare of the chuch, I agree.

            Btw, I completely reject accountabilibuddy groups. Ecclesiastical accountability is via ecclesiastical officers via normal ecclesiastical exercises and not compelled confessions.

          • Lynn B.

            May I humbly suggest that the accountability group thing can be taken to extremes both directions. It often could be called fellowship/mentoring/discipleship/biblical friendship, etc., etc. It does not, or should not, displace ecclesiastical officers and their role.

            Every life, every friendship, every accountability group, every church has nuances. I’ve seen elder opposition to accountability groups that left some in the church very isolated in their spiritual journey and by no means is that biblical.

          • Kermos

            “Ecclesiastical accountability is via ecclesiastical officers via normal ecclesiastical exercises and not compelled confessions.”

            Scripture references please.

          • I could not disagree with you more Kermos. If you see your brother sin, go to him. Accountability begins at the level of relationship, the “one anothers.” That is where Jesus said it started. It only progresses to the level of the church after certain steps. Moreover, it is the church, not the officers of the church that is responsible for carrying out this ministry. You appear to be reading a denominational perspective into Matt. 18.

          • Kermos

            Ed Dingess, I quoted your sentence in my reply to you, and then you replied that you can not disagree more.

            In Matthew 18:16, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private” also has Greek renderings that results in the English reading “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault in private”. Neither rendering mentions accountability. That is key, Ed Dingess, because you MUST put accountability into the very words of Lord Jesus. The Christ is talking about that which is HIS remains HIS, and He moves His vessels of mercy to speak His Word to accomplish His plan established from the foundation of the world. You say along the lines of “be accountable to churchmen”; on the other hand, I say Christ sets free and judges.

            Accountable: Expected or required to account for one’s actions; answerable. See Synonyms at responsible. (from http://thefreedictionary.com/accountability)

            There’s the rub, right there, Ed Dingess, there is a work “required” and “account” and “one’s actions”. Anything that a believer does that is considered good must by definition be God’s because Lord Jesus said “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19), and again “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were [worse] culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). People are not good; therefore, any good must be God, and the vessel of mercy has the humble honor to be used by the King of Glory.

            Yes, it is very important to speak up when a person sins. Sometimes, people get very angry to yell. Sometimes, people get physically violent to where we die. Either way, live or die, the glory be to the God Most High, the Lord Jesus Christ.

            Jesus did not say “be accountable to the church” in this passage Matthew 18 passage. Look at His ministry, He said that He is coming back (Matthew 24). His plan provides that His Bride be spotless. Therefore, being His hands and feet to get that one hundredth lamb to remain in His flock is righteousness (Matthew 18:13).

          • Kermos, the dichotomy you’re seeking to construct between Jesus and His Church doesn’t exist. Christ works through His Church, not apart from her. To pit the Bride against the Bridegroom is a fool’s errand. Indeed, in the very passage in question, sinning brothers are accountable to the church, for the instruction in verse 17 is to “tell it to the church” so that the sinning brother might “listen to the church.”

            Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that the elders “diligently labor among” the sheep and “have charge over” them in the Lord and give instruction (1 Thess 5:12). The author of the Hebrews, under the same inspiration of the Spirit, commands believers to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Heb 13:17). This is nothing other than accountability to the church. If you don’t have leaders to obey and submit to, in obedience to Hebrews 13, nor those who labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord, in submission to 1 Thessalonians 5, you don’t have New Testament Christianity.

            Let’s let that be the end of this wayward sub-thread. As I said in a previous response (which I actually think shows up below this one), this post is not license to discuss anything and everything remotely related to church discipline (e.g., eldership, membership, accountability, etc.), but is intended to expose Scripture’s teaching that repentance — not ostracism for the sake of ostracism — is what is aimed at in church discipline.

          • Lynn B.

            One issue in the recent past has been that the church offered no real help/counsel/biblical instruction to the person trapped in idolatrous life-dominating sins. Accountability groups and confession alone are not enough. Nor is church discipline alone enough. The biblical counseling movement is changing that in profound ways.

            https://biblicalcounseling.com/

          • Kermos

            Lynn B. it is the Holy Spirit that changes the person (John 16:8). Christ is the Power of God and Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Lynn B., Lord Jesus didn’t say go counsel nor get accredited, rather, He commanded we go make disciples. The 35-ish year old rejected the call to repentance according to the Word of God (which was lovingly quoted to the 35-ish year old).

            Lynn B., who counseled Zacchaeus? He had an encounter with the Living God!

            A friend of mine has a cousin that went through a gender change, now claiming to be a man, the person is in training to be a counselor in church.

            Referring to the Christ, Isaiah wrote the He be called “Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6).

            The children of God point at Christ and say “He is everything!”

      • Ok. This thread is starting to move away from the topic of the post. Let’s remember that this isn’t the place to talk about anything and everything related to church discipline.

        That said, let me try to respond to a number of comments here.

        Ed Dingess: However it works out in the end, the person must “feel” the full weight of the community’s rejection of their claim to Christ. I think we can do that without actually pronouncing them unregenerate. It is one thing to say “you are unregenerate” and another to say “I have no good evidence to accept your claim to know Christ.”

        I agree with this. It’s not to say: “I declare without a shadow of a doubt that you are still dead in your sins.” It’s to say, “When genuine believers in Jesus are confronted by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ — and especially by the unified consensus of their elders — they confess and repent of sin. To refuse to repent is to act like an unbeliever, to the point that we can’t tell if you’re a genuine Christian who is woefully grieving the Spirit, or if you’re an unbeliever who has never truly repented of sin in the first place.”

        alexguggenheim:: I see nothing in the context which intimated church discipline is a result of not seeing any evidence of their claim of believing Christ rather gross error in Doctrine or practice or both.

        As explained in the post and in previous comment threads in the series, the notion of one’s brother “listening to you” indicate that he confesses the sin he’s been confronted with and repents of it (see the parallel in Luke 17:3-4). So, if church discipline succeeds when a sinner repents, there has to be a way of evaluating whether that repentance is genuine. That’s why John the Baptist calls for fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). The point is, as in my reply just above to Ed, that genuine believers repent of sin. To refuse to repent is to act so much like an unbeliever that it can’t be determined whether someone is saved but sinning grievously, or is unsaved and, despite their profession, self-deceived (cf. Matt 7:21-23).

        alexguggenheim:: To say you see no evidence of their claimed faith in Christ yet you have allowed someone to be a member of your church, is to implicate yourself in some form of malfeasance some form of hypocrisy or plain ignorance as to who is permitted to be a member and who is not.

        I don’t think this follows at all. Church membership is contingent upon a credible profession of faith. Precisely because we can’t infallibly know the state of any person’s soul, we can only go on their profession. There are plenty of people who give outward evidence of belonging to Christ, only to eventually demonstrate that by their going out from us that they were never really of us (cf. 1 John 2:19), that they were rocky or thorny soil, as opposed to fertile soil (Matt 13). Now, it’s possible that leadership didn’t do due diligence when they admitted this person as a member. But it’s equally possible that they did everything that could be done, but that the professing believer was self-deceived, and knew enough of what to say, how to say it, and when to say it, that they were indistinguishable from other church members for a time. But, as MacArthur always says, time and truth go hand in hand; given enough time the truth comes out. And when this person begins acting like an unbeliever, especially by refusing to repent after repeated confrontation, they may be beginning to show their true colors.

        Kermos: . . . it is the Holy Spirit that changes the person (John 16:8). Christ is the Power of God and Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Lord Jesus didn’t say go counsel nor get accredited, rather, He commanded we go make disciples.

        This is a false dichotomy. It doesn’t follow that because Christ is the wonderful Counselor and the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause of spiritual change, that there is no place for formal training and equipping. In fact, the entire biblical counseling movement is built on the premise that, through the Holy Spirit, God has made everyone who belongs to Christ competent to counsel. In some cases, obedience to the command to make disciples includes being equipped/trained as one who is able to skillfully bring the Word of God to bear on the hearts of brothers and sisters who seek our counsel.

        Lynn B.: May I humbly suggest that the accountability group thing can be taken to extremes both directions. It often could be called fellowship/mentoring/discipleship/biblical friendship, etc., etc. It does not, or should not, displace ecclesiastical officers and their role.

        This is sound. Accountability groups can be done wrongly, but they can also be done in accordance with biblical principles, as an extension of the shepherding and oversight of elders. It doesn’t have to be an either/or.

        • Amen Mike. No need for me to add to anything you have said. Thanks for the article. It is well done and spot on.

        • alexguggenheim

          It was thoughtful to take the time to answer all of those I appreciate it and recognize the work

      • alexguggenheim

        Thanks.

  • Kermos

    Without a doubt, repentance of a sinner is a point for the saints to rejoice at the work of God!

    Mike, what real examples of sin can you cite that would qualify for such a disciplinary action?

    • Someone else had asked about that on a previous thread in this series. Here’s what I said there:

      1. Is there any scripture that gives guidance on what sins should be disciplined by the church?

      Certain passages speak of certain sins. Titus 3:10 speaks of factiousness or divisiveness, with respect to doctrinal and/or relational division. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 speaks of an “unruly life,” refusing to work (3:10), and mooching off of others (3:11). 2 Thess 3:14 seems to extend the discipline issue to disobedience to any of Paul’s letter, which, by implication I’d think would extend to whatever else he’s written. Matthew 18:15 doesn’t specify the sin, but simply says, “If your brother sins,” which, to me, indicates that this is the pattern for dealing with all sin in the church.

      On a practical level, the key issue in the entire process is repentance. If your brother “listens to you” — which, as I’ve demonstrated in this and previous comment threads, speaks of his repenting of his sin — then the discipline process has been successful and goes no further. So the issue is, how can we measure genuine repentance? There needs to be fruits (Luke 3:8). If the elders of a church can’t tell a person, “This is what your repentance will look like,” and then examine that objectively, then they probably ought not to pursue discipline, because there’s no objective way to measure repentance. This becomes difficult with sins that are primarily internal, like lust, covetousness, bitterness, etc. Unless they manifest themselves in some way, repentance from them is almost impossible to measure objectively. Wisdom is needed.

      • Agree again Mike. People are not excommunicated because of some moral failure or false doctrine. They are excommunicated for their obstinate attitude.

        • bs

          Ed, Mike, is this _really_ your considered position? If someone maintains (and is able to defend) their “innocence” they ought to be excommunicated?

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  • Lynn B.

    Mike: Last week you said your church had approximately 15 incidents of excommunication over 7.5 years or two per year on average.

    For that to have relevance we also need the GCC membership and I failed to ask. Wikipedia indicates attendance is more than 8,000, which is not membership but is considerably more than I thought.

    A church of 400 would be 5% of 8,000 (400/8,000) and 5% of two per year equals exceedingly rare.

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