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The Scriptures Are Her Discipline[an error occurred while processing this directive]
by B. C. Carr
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In every successful organization there must be discipline. Where there is no discipline, confusion reigns. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has prescribed in his word the standard to be used for correcting those who err. Because of abuses and misunderstanding upon this subject, many have rejected the idea of discipline altogether. We need to turn to the work of God and be instructed on this very important subject.
A GOD OF DISCIPLINE
In spite of the fact that God is a God of love (1 John 4:8), he is also a God of severity. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Romans 11:22).
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden they were driven from the garden (Genesis 3). They had disobeyed God and were punished. When Cain killed his brother Abel he was punished (Gen. 4:9-13). Because of the wickedness of those who lived in the days of Noah, God sent the flood to destroy them (Gen. 6:13). At the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai, God commanded that His people, "remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). While in the wilderness; a man decided to gather sticks upon the sabbath day. God instructed that he be stoned to death (Numbers 15:32-36). A whole generation of Israelites died in the wilderness because of their murmuring against God (Num. 14:26-35). Paul reveals that twenty-three thousand fell in one day because of fornication (1 Cor. 10:8). Along with the other things listed in this context, Paul states that they were written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:11). Surely we recognize that God is also a God of severity toward those who do evil.
DISCIPLINE IN THE EARLY CHURCH
The Lord intended that his church should exercise discipline. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build his church. Before it was established, he gave instructions about discipline. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and publican" (Matt. 18:15-17). It is recognized that the first steps toward reconciliation are to be taken by the individuals involved in the offense, however, it must also be noted that the church is to be involved in action if the matter in not settled otherwise.
The church was still young when the Lord acted to bring swift punishment upon Ananias and Sapphira, his wife (Acts 5:1-10). These, who were members of the early church, had lied about giving. God shows his displeasure by bringing death upon them immediately. The result was that great fear came upon all the church and as many as heard these things (Acts 5:11). This did not hinder the growth of the church, as some might think, but believers were the more added to the Lord (Acts 5:14).
When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he rebuked them for their toleration of sin. There was a man among them guilty of fornication. They had not done anything to correct this matter. Paul, the inspired apostle, gave this instruction: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:4-5). Please note this was to be action by the church. The church of the New Testament had an obligation to exercise discipline. This was to be done in the name (by authority) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
TERMS USED TO DESCRIBE DISCIPLINE
The Scriptures use different terms to describe discipline. We should be careful to use only Bible terms. Often we hear of someone being, "churched" or "turned out of the church." This is not biblical language.
The Scriptures speak of "withdrawing yourselves" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In the same context we are told to, "have no fellowship" with the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). In writing to those at Rome, Paul instructed the saints to "mark and avoid" some (Romans 16:17). To the Corinthians, Paul commanded to "deliver to Satan" the fornicator (1 Cor. 5:4-5). Later in the same chapter he instructs brethren not to "company with" nor "eat with" certain sinful brethren (1 Cor. 5:9-11).
WHO IS TO BE DISCIPLINED?
From the passages of Scripture above it is easy to see that those who are to be dealt with so severely are children of God who have sinned. They are bringing reproach upon the name of God and the church purchased with his blood. The list of sins varies with each passage cited, but all have sinned. There should be no partiality in the discharge of this sacred duty. It should include "every " brother who walks disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6). It is to be limited to those "among you " (2 Thess. 3:11). We are not obligated to take action toward all who are in the world (1 Cor. 5:9-13).
THE PURPOSE OF SUCH DISCIPLINE
Discipline should never be taken for vengeance sake (Romans 12:19). It should not be done in spite or out of hatred. We are still to admonish the erring as a brother (2 Thess. 3:15). It is to make the brother ashamed (2 Thess. 3:14). Our aim should be to destroy sin, but to save the sinner (1 Cor. 5:5). Those punished are to learn from the experience that they might not sin (1 Tim. 1:20). They should have a greater respect for God and his church.
When the church acts in unity in this respect, its purity is preserved. Only a pure church will be presented to God (Eph. 5:27). When sin goes without rebuke, its influence is like leaven and will corrupt others (1 Cor. 5:6-7). Evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (1 Cor. 15:33). God will not bless us if we fail in this duty (Joshua 7).
Can we afford to ignore the teaching of the Scriptures on this subject?
Why do you think so little discipline is practiced today?
Can the preacher or only a few members carry out God's plan of discipling?
List some sins mentioned that demand a withdrawal of fellowship.
What are the proper motives for exercising discipline?
If the parents who fail to discipline their child, sin against the child, what of elders who fail those in their care?
Note: This material is copyrighted (1981) by Star Bible Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 821220, Fort Worth, TX 76182 and is used with the express permission of Mr. Alvin Jennings, owner
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