Scriptural Discipline

Wm. E. Fain

It has well been stated that, "Discipline is a part of God's plan of salvation to the erring Christian." As we enter a study of "Scriptural Discipline," we must depend, not upon the opinions of men, but only upon that taught in the Scriptures. We ask that you read the following passages before proceeding with this study: Mt. 18:15-11; Acts 5:111; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5: 7, 9-13; 16:14; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; 7:8-10; Gal. 2:11-14; 6:1; 2 Thes 3:6, 14-15; 1 Tim. 5:20-21; 2 Tim. 4:2-4; Titus 1:13; Hebrews 12:5-11; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; 1 Jn. 1:6-7.

God gives us a picture of what the erring Christian looks like, when he has gone all the way into sin, and it presents a picture of disgust in His sight, as well as in the sight of all who try to please Him (2 Pet. 2:2022). He also points out that He chastens those whom He loves (Heb. 12:5-11), therefore, every child of God should realize his responsibility to try to restore all who stray from the pathway of truth. Not only must we try to help one another overcome sin, but we should realize that it must be done in a spirit of love, and gentleness (1 Cor. 16:14; Gal. 6:1). Not only is there a need for disciplining those who go astray, but there is a constant need for the kind of preaching which will try to prevent us from wandering from God (2 Tim. 4:2-4). This kind of preaching will offend some, but if we are to please our Lord Jesus Christ, we have no choice except to follow His instructions. Sometimes, there is even a need for sharp reproof, yet it still must be done in love (Titus 1:13).

No Choice

Sometimes brethren are reluctant to practice Scriptural discipline, but if we are to please the Lord, we have no choice in this matter either. This is a matter of COMMAND just as surely as is BAPTISM. "Now we COMMAND you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly . . ." (2 Thes. 3:6). Paul also commanded the brethren to ". . . mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned . . ." (Rom. 16: 17-18).

Withdraw From Whom?

Again, the Scriptures do not leave us in doubt as to who is the object of Scriptural discipline; we are to withdraw ourselves from "EVERY BROTHER that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received" from Paul, through the inspiration of the Spirit (2 Thes. 3:6).

Publicly" Openly

For some reason, an idea unknown in the scriptures has been taught extensively: that all sins and false doctrines are to be dealt with privately before they may be rebuked publicly. It is true that in matters of PERSONAL DIFFERENCES, or sins committed against us personally, we are to first handle them privately (Matt. 18:15-17). The purpose of this is that it may be settled without becoming a public matterunless the brother refuses to repentthen it becomes public, and the church must discipline such a one. Such was NOT the case in the New Testament when sins were committed openly. In Galatians 2, Paul says he resisted Cephas to the face, because he stood condemned (verse 11), and that he did it BEFORE ALL (verse 14). Paul also charges Timothy "Them that sin reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear" (1 Tim. 5:20). Ananias and Sapphira were also disciplined publicly (Acts 5:1-11).

Withdraw What?

When we withdraw from such a brother, what do we withdraw? Actually, we are recognizing that any brother who walks contrary to the Scriptures is not in fellowship with God, and therefore cannot be in fellowship with us. We are declaring to the world, and to the brethren, that such a one is not recognized as a faithful child of God, and that we do not endorse his sinful practices. Spiritual fellowship must begin first between man and God, and it follows that all who are in fellowship with God are in fellowship with one another (1 John 1: 6-7). Those walking in the light CANNOT be in fellowship with those who walk disorderly, and be pleasing to God.

Notice the passages telling us how to treat such a one: Matt. 18; 2 Thes. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 5:7, 9-13; Rom. 16. We are told to "mark them," "let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican," "purge out," "have no company," "put away," "not eat with," and "note him." We are to consider him still a brother, but an "erring brother." That he is to be considered as a Gentile helps us to remember that the Jews were not to eat with them, take them into their homes, or consider them equal spiritually, yet they could talk with them, and do business with them, and seek to convert them. The only deliberate contact we are to make with him is to admonish him to repent.

Objects: Repentance, Purity

Our object in withdrawing is not to satisfy personal grievances, or seek revenge, for we are forbidden to do this with prejudice or partiality (I Tim. 5:21). Our sole purpose is to try to lead the erring brother to repentance, back to the fellowship of God, and thus keep the church pure. When Paul wrote Second Corinthians, he showed that to be both his purpose, and what was accomplished (2 Cor. 2: 5- 11; 7: 8- 10). Some mistakenly believe discipline weakens the church, but the scriptures tell us differently: "And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things" (Acts 5:11). This served as a warning to all hypocrites. When discipline is practiced scripturally, it keeps the church pure by purging out the old leaven, and keeping the rest in fear (1 Tim. 5:20).

Churches Withdrawing From Churches

Sometimes we hear of churches withdrawing from other churches, so we must mention this. We have confined our study to what the Scriptures teach, and since we find no command, approved example, or necessary inference of such a practice, we must conclude that such a practice springs from some other sources, and is therefore unscriptural.

TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 2, pp. 8-9 November 1965