Authority & Power Needed in Church Discipline

To get the greatest benefit from this practicum, make sure you have read related training on the site. Click below to read about God’s Power for the Church:
God, Our Standard & Source of Power
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Too much can go wrong when exercising church discipline that it doesn’t even make sense to do it without the authority and power of our Lord behind, in, and through it. Further, God specializes in changing hearts. We don’t have power to affect that kind of transformation. We can only warn, exhort, and reprove people, not change hearts.

The Apostle Paul acknowledged this reality when confronting the immorality of some in the Corinthian church. Right in the midst of his instructions to this church, in what has become a classic passage on church discipline, he said, “I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:3-5)

Church Discipline Must be Done Under the Authority of our Lord

Though an apostle with invested authority from the Lord, Paul still recognized that it wasn’t about what he thought was the right thing to do. Rather, he passed judgment “in the name of the Lord” who alone possesses inherent authority because of who He is and thus is the Standard for holy living.

Think about it: When you stand before the Lord to give an account for what you have done as a leader, will you be able to say that you acknowledged the Lord as the Standard of what is right and wrong? Or, did you do what was right in your own eyes? Did you exercise church discipline only after investing sufficient prayer for God’s heart and will in the matter? Or, did you rush to judgment without consulting Him?

Church Discipline Must be Exercised In the Power of our Lord

Paul wanted the Corinthians to know they had his support in taking disciplinary action as a Body against these erring members. But, he also pointed to a Source beyond himself that needed to be present — “the power of our Lord Jesus.”

If it gets to the point where an unrepentant believer must be cut off from fellowship with members of the Body, he/she is being turned over to the consequences of his/her sinful flesh, out in the world which is Satan’s territory. As we can read elsewhere, the objective is that the person would eventually come to his/her senses and be restored (2 Tim. 2:26). To “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” needs to come within the boundaries of the Lord’s authority and power “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Only God has the power to put such limits on Satan.

Think about it: Are you relying on the presence of the power of the Lord as the Source of all that is needed in this situation? Or, are you taking the matter in your own hands as though you are sufficient for the task?

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