If we truly believe the Holy Spirit has been given to those who put their trust in Jesus to enable them to live life in a Christ-like, godly manner, then we know how pivotal of a role He must have in church discipline. For church discipline to have God’s intended effect, the Holy Spirit must be at work in the heart of those on the receiving end as well as in those leading the process.
How the Holy Spirit Helps Erring Believers
Christians caught in the web of sin need help getting untangled. As a Church we have a responsibility to help one another but we can never penetrate deep into the soul like the Spirit does to change people from the inside out. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of them as their Paraclete to help them and as their Advocate to plead for them before the Father (Jn. 14:16-17, 26; 15:26). The Spirit provides what they need to change which includes the following:
- Understanding the standard of Truth to which they must align requires enlightenment by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:10-15)
- Accountability comes by realizing that there is no where they can go from the Spirit. (Ps. 139:7)
- Motivation builds within them as the Spirit pours out God’s love into their hearts. (Rom. 5:5)
- Renewal of the mind, essential to change, comes by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:4-6)
- Christ-likeness becomes their goal as the Spirit keeps pointing them to Christ. (Jn. 15:26)
- Guidance, conviction, and instruction in righteousness comes through the Spirit. (Jn. 16:13)
- Freedom from their bondage to sin takes the work of the Spirit. (Rom. 8:2-4; 2 Cor. 3:17-18)
- Sanctification, the act of making them holy, requires the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13)
Because the Holy Spirit is the One who does the real work in restoring people, we must keep turning people over to Him, praying for His work in people’s lives.
The Holy Spirit’s Pivotal Role in Helping Leaders Enforce Church Discipline
Church discipline is such a delicate and misunderstood issue that leaders dare not step into it without being controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Galatians 6:1 makes living by the Spirit a qualification — “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
- Qualities essential to the proper exercise of church discipline, like gentleness mentioned in Galatians 6:1, are those born in us by the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
- Ability to exercise love throughout the whole process and rise above fleshly reactions comes by walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:14-17).
- Guidance in how to proceed comes from the Spirit (Jn. 16:13) so we don’t have to lean on our own understanding.
Even when church discipline doesn’t seem to be working and we find ourselves not knowing what else we can do, nor even how to pray, the Spirit keeps working. — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27)