Posted: May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Ephesians 5:1-14
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful
even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible…”
(Eph. 5:11-13)

As a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, I can think of very few topics that are more unpopular than church discipline. Without going into the various reasons as to why church discipline has been all but abandoned in the majority of Southern Baptist churches today, I would rather spend this time examining its Biblical precedent and ramifications.

First of all, Paul addresses the imperative need for church discipline on multiple occasions, and his desired result for believers is always the same – repentance. In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he instructs the local body to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5 ESV). We find similar instructions in 2 Thessalonians 3 and 1 Timothy 1:18-20, where Paul’s desired end for putting church members (apparent believers) out of the fellowship was repentance and restoration.

Secondly, Paul speaks in chapter 5 of his letter to the Ephesians about exposing the deeds of darkness within the body and to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.” This command speaks to identifying wolves in the church, exposing their wickedness and separating them from the body. Paul’s desire for church discipline in this case is to protect the body of Christ and preserve the holiness of His name.

Jesus gives us a clear, practical model of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20, emphasizing the necessity of repentance before there can be individual and corporate restoration (see verse 17). Christ clearly gives authority to the local church to carry out church discipline. So why is it important? Here are few reasons.

1. Church discipline brings glory to God – Christ is most glorified by His people when they pursue holiness and reflect His image to a lost and dying world.
2. Church discipline creates accountability within the body – a local church that is serious about honoring Christ and growing in holiness will ask its members to submit themselves to Biblical accountability and expectations.
3. Church discipline helps to eliminate hypocrisy – though no church is immune from hypocrisy, a healthy dose of church discipline will weed out the goats and bring the stray sheep back to repentance.
4. Church discipline is truly an act of love – when most people see church discipline as harsh and judgmental, the Bible teaches the value and love in discipline (Hebrews 12), especially in the context of God’s love for His children. Christ gave all authority in heaven to His body here on earth. In other words, for a local church to fail to confront sin and allow its members to malign the name of Christ in public rebellion would be the most unloving thing it could possibly do. Our desire should be above all for lost people to be saved and for God’s people to live lives of repentance in light of God’s word. Nothing can be worse for the believer than to have broken fellowship with the Lord.
5. Church discipline protects the body of Christ – for any church to remain healthy, sin must be dealt with swiftly and consistently. Nothing will weaken and kill a body more quickly than unconfessed sin and rebellion. Sin quenches the Spirit of God. Repentance and restoration sets Him ablaze, bringing freedom, fellowship and worship.
By Marcus Van Every of one8 network

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