Monday, October 08, 2007

Discipline Is Discipling

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already…deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved…
(1 Corinthians 5:3,5)

When Paul says that he is with the Corinthian church in spirit, he is not talking about some mystical psychic projection. He is with them by means of this letter and by prayer, and he is telling them that his physical absence does not lessen his authority as an apostle. He appeals to Jesus as the source of his authority and their submission.

This is Paul as bishop, administering church discipline, a rarely seen event these days. Perhaps this is because we haven’t been able to effectively do this in the right way. That is to say, we don’t see what Paul was trying to do, use this not as punishment, but as needed correction. Church discipline is primarily for restoration, not condemnation (Galatians 6:1 / 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 / James 5:19-20).

This episode was not about inflicting evil upon an evildoer, but the removal of protection. In other words, they put the offender outside the church, leaving him to fend for himself without having to necessarily hear the admonition and encouragement of the local body. It wasn’t simply because this person was a backslider (Proverbs 14:14), because we all have our faults and sins to deal with. No, this was because he reveled in his rebellion; he was a bragging backslider. And so this separation was to hopefully bring him to the place of realization that he needed help from the others, to give up his pride and come back to the fold in humble submission. The church was to give him over to what he wanted and let the chips fall where they may, in that he would see what this sin was really doing to him.

The reasoning was that if the offender would see that this sin separated him from the body on earth, then certainly he would know that it would separate him from God in heaven in the afterlife. Because of his unrepentant attitude the church had no choice, they could not afford the offering of assurance to this man of his salvation. We cannot judge a person’s soul, but we can keep them from peddling rotten fruit in our assemblies (Matthew 7:15-20).

Would he continue to love his sin more than God and His people? They were to leave the person with the hard choices, which we are not doing today, and why we see so little of true sanctification taking place, but rather a lowering of God’s holy standard of living. Instead of using this passage of scripture as our guide, we are tolerating defiant rebellion thinking that this is showing more grace. We are to build each other up, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).

Of course this must be done with the right motive and to the right people. The separation taught by Paul here is not for unbelievers, as a way of shunning them, but for disciplining professing believers in love, albeit tough love, as it were. This is also not about a believer who is struggling with sin but is seeking help from the church. This is about those who say they are believers but who will not give up their sin and in a defiant or bragging manner continue to parade it about or refuse to admit it is a problem for the rest of the congregation, when Paul, and the Holy Ghost therefore says it is (verses 6-7). Then is when this separation is called for. This is God’s method and it works. 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 relays Paul and his heart towards this particular individual, as he told the church to receive this person again.

We need to realize that properly applying church discipline is one means of discipling believers, and more than just the individual, as church discipline is community discipling.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


mark pierson said...

JD - That was very informative. Professing believers flaunting their sins w/o fear of discipline. The possibility of discipline looming over the head could make people think twice before they enter into sin in the first place. To think that the church in disciplinary issues is really just reflecting to that individual what God actually thinks about their sins. Scary stuff. Good post.

Even So... said...

Thanks, Mark...looks like this post scared all the commentors away....

Craver Vii said...

Well, they're scared of something.

Church discipline... Is that what was happening in the post below with helmets, pads and mouthguards?

Now I have this mental image of you with a whistle and clipboard, face-masking a gossiper in the front pew.

Even So... said...

Yes, Craver it is the discipline to stomp from the swamp all those seminole fans who are living in Gator Country, and our church specifically...

One Sheep's Voice said...

Whom God loves He also corrects. Reminds me of when you first got to this little town JD!

donsands said...

This is the most difficult spiritual thing that elders must do, at least it was for me.

I remember we tryied to help this one husband who fell into fornication. He was married and had children, and he was boldly participating in the church, and yet was seeing prostitutes.

We disciplined him in love, and his wife came and rebuked us all, and called us pharisees. And they left to find a more loving church. Amazing!

Another church member was hooked on drugs and his wife wanted him straight. The two support groups he was attending asked him to leave because he was such a disturbance, and was very manipulative.
We brought him to an elders meeting, and gave him 60 days to make good on getting help. He never did, and we never followed up, and the marriage ended in divorce.
Poor spiritual eldership caused the leaven to grow, and what a shame, we didn't have the courage to cut the leaven out.
It causes harm to the whole congregation, and God is not pleased, when we don't discipline with love and grace.

Thanks for the good post JD.

Even So... said...

Thanks Don, it is an important item that we look past to our detriment, becasue it will have to be addressed sometime or another...we cannot always be proactive, but when we can, we should...

Christopher Cohen said...

Bluecollar hit it on the mark with "To think that the church in disciplinary issues is really just reflecting to that individual what God actually thinks about their sins."

Definitely a call for motivation to seek out all the sin in our lives. As a child of God, it is sometimes hard for me to imagine God not allowing me into heaven, but applying this style of discipline to my sin sure puts the light on.

This also helps me see the flip side, which is the love and joy we must feel in heaven once parted from those sins. Hallelujah!

In our p.c. world, we as Christians are told by the world that we are supposed to have unlimited grace for sinners. Those of us who were fed the idea our whole lives that we were to be always 'tolerant' need to remember this blog. We need to remember how Jesus rebuked the money changers next time we take offense at our pastor for his discipline.