Bible Basics: Congregational Discipline

By Earl Robertson

Perhaps there is no Bible teaching more minimized and completely rejected than the words of God touching upon the subject of discipline within churches. It appears that many brethren know more about what God requires for heaven than God Himself knows! Churches of Christ which refuse to respect the Lord’s teaching in this matter are, to this extent, apostate. The high-handed attitude that will allow an ignoring of this teaching within a congregation is sufficient to cause that church to lose its identity with the Lord.

The Bible uses discipline as a noun and a verb. Much New Testament teaching uses the word as a noun: the training suited each disciple. It also demands corrective action be taken against a disciple that refuses instructive discipline. So, the discipline of the New Testament is both instructive and corrective. Paul told the elders of Ephesus to “feed the flock” (Acts 20:28) and Peter says “feed the flock of God which is among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). The word “feed” of Acts 20:28 is the present infinitive poimainein and means to tend or shepherd the sheep. Also, the same word is used in 1 Peter 5:2, but here is it 2nd person plural and commanding in voice. Every disciple must be fed (disciplined) in the truth. Each congregation must be actively engaged in a complete teaching program to accomplish what the Lord wills in the lives of Christians.

However, when and disciple of the Lord refuses to live as he has been taught from the word of God, the church must exercise corrective discipline. The Lord wants a pure church (Eph. 5:25-27; 2 Cor. 11:2, 3). Spots, wrinkles, and blemishes within the body of Christ will cause it to be rejected by the Lord! For churches to harbor sin within them will make them just as guilty as the offending member. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6). The church must be saved from the filth of incest, drunkenness, adultery, and such like (Gal. 5:19-21). At the same time this action not only keeps the church clean but it will also save the sinner. The withdrawal of fellowship (2 Thess. 3:6) is to save the guilty (1 Cor. 5:5). This is what the word of God says about the matter even if there are only a few who believe it. When this action has been taken every Christian must respect it (1 Cor. 5:9-13). This means that Christians cannot have social intercourse and fellowship with such an one. The action is drastic, but is God’s way of saving the sinful child of God.

Truth Magazine XXIII: 16, p. 261
April 19, 1979