Church Discipline in the Church

Here is an example of a letter I had to write as a pastor about church discipline.

Dear Berean Family,

It is with regret that I am forced to tell you about two cases of church discipline we can’t ignore.  One involves a wife who is insisting upon divorcing her husband and will not provide any evidence that her desire for divorce is on biblical grounds. She simply doesn’t want to be married to her husband anymore. In the other case, a young adult has moved out of her parents’ house so she can cohabitate with her lover. She has ignored the will of her earthly and heavenly father and is ignoring the will of the church in this matter. Her desire to pursue this lifestyle is stronger than her desire to walk in the truth.

Paul instructs us in 1 Timothy 5:20 with these words: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” We all sin. Paul sinned. Timothy sinned. I sin, and so do you. Obviously the church doesn’t rebuke every sin anytime anyone sins before all. Instead, I believe Paul is referring to those who sin and refuse to repent or change their current course of action. Paul instructs us that the potential censure from the church is supposed to act as an agent of deterrence in the life of the church member. Fear of censure from the church acts as restraining force in the life of the believer. I know I would lose my job and position in the church if I were to pursue an extramarital affair. Therefore, the potential of losing my job acts as a regulator to my conduct. There isn’t anything in the Word of God that suggests this idea is only for the pastors and deacons.

In the church at Corinth 2,000 years ago, a similar situation was going on with a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. The church knew about it and was ignoring the sin (1 Cor. 5:1). Paul wrote a grilling letter to the Corinthian church telling them to stop ignoring the sin and cast the man out of the body of Christ if he refused to repent. And while there is a prevailing idea in the church that we are not to judge others about these matters of personal conduct and lifestyle choices (even the Pope has been interpreted as saying such a thing!), Paul says just the opposite. His words are found in 1 Cor. 5:3 where he says, “For I verily [truly], as absent in body, but present in spirit, [I] have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed.” Paul goes on to instruct the church to assemble in the name of the Lord and cast the man out of the assembly of believers until he repents. Paul rendered a judgment and directed the church to take action. They were not to ignore the sin. I challenge you to read 1 Corinthians 5 and let the word of God inform your opinion.

We also must not ignore unrestrained, unrepentant sin in the church.  On June XX we will have a special members meeting after the Sunday evening service to render a judgment and follow the Apostle Paul’s guidance to the church at Corinth and the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:17. Jesus said, “And if he [or she in these cases] 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.” Heathen men [women] are not allowed to be members of the church. Members of the church walk in the truth, and when they don’t, they repent and make course corrections.

Because everyone will not be in the Sunday night members meeting, I am using this forum of communication to ensure the maximum number of people in Berean understand that you can’t live in unrepentant sin and continue to be part of the body of Christ that meets at 517 Glensford Dr. If being part of the church means something to you (and it should), then I implore you by the grace of God to repent and walk in the light as our Father is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  Pray that both of these church members would repent between now and the members meeting. You don’t’ need to know their names to pray for them. You don’t need to know their names to know Berean Baptist Church isn’t ignoring unrepentant sin.

Finally, while some may struggle at what the church is doing in these two cases. I suspect all would want something done if the church member was molesting children or had murdered their parents. The only difference is the perceived seriousness of the sin, but the Word of God doesn’t permit cohabitation any more than murder. Both are violations of the commandments of the Lord. I implore you to let the Word of God inform your opinion and regulate your conduct through the power of the grace of God.

Proclaiming Christ,
Pastor Sean Harris

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