Church Discipline

By Carol R. Lumpkin

There are problems in many local churches of Christ which have been brought about over church discipline. This is true because brethren over the years have not been taught what the law of Christ is on discipline, or because some brethren just are not ready to accept the necessity of doing what is taught. When we allow the word of God to govern us in church discipline, all such problems can be removed.

God knew that there would be brethren who would not abide by His law; so He has given us rules to be applied in such cases. If all brethren would respect and obey God, the need for church discipline would be seldom needed. We now call to your attention occasions when church discipline was authorized in the New Testament.

Adulterers and Fornicators

The man who was married to his father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1) was a fornicator. Paul did not instruct the church at Corinth to: (1) leave him alone, (2) continue to fellowship him, (3) set up a study with him, or (4) encourage him in this sin. Paul did say, “In the name of our 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). These instructions are equally binding today.

False Teachers

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 12:17). “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness . . . . from such withdraw thyself” (I Tim. 6:3-5). “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Tit. 3:10).

Brother Who Will Not Forgive Brother

When one brother shall trespass against his brother this should be corrected between the two and God (Matt. 18:15). When the above step fails then take one or two more brethren and try to solve the trespass (Matt. 18:16). Should this fail then the church becomes involved. “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:17).

Disorderly Brethren

“Now we command you,.brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (2 Thess. 3:6). To walk disorderly (out of rank) was to violate any of the teachings they had heard from Paul. Paul adds, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man (consider him as disobedient-crl), and have no company with him (lend no encouragement to him in his effor-crl), that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14).

Brethren who forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:25) are disorderly, out of rank. Brethren, who leave God and the church to return to a life of sin are disorderly (2 Tim. 4: 10). Brethren, who will not work when able are disorderly (2 Thess. 3: 10). These are only a few examples of disorderly brethren from whom the church must withdraw.

These examples of church discipline are just as explicit as Acts 2:38 on the plan of salvation and Acts 20:7 on the day the Lord’s supper is to be observed. The church which does not practice discipline, where and when needed, is not doing God’s will.

Purpose Church Discipline Serves

1. To obey God (1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:6).

2. To keep the church pure (1 Cor. 5:7).

3. To save the erring brother (Jas. 5:19-20).

4. To have respect from the world (2 Pet. 2:2).

Since God authorizes that each church is to judge those within (1 Cor. 5:12); since the authority of Christ commands discipline (2 Thess. 3:6); since the law of Christ reveals who must be disciplined (above cited examples); since each local church should desire to be patterned after the word of God; then discipline is practiced by all churches which please God.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 3, p. 85
February 2, 1984