We’ve already determined that if church discipline is necessary, it is for believers, not unbelievers. It is for those who have heard the Gospel and put their trust in Jesus to save them because of what He did for them in dying on the cross (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Eph. 1:13).
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:15-17)
Salvation in Jesus is about more than eternal life insurance. What He did affects us now not just for eternity.
The Gospel Provides the Standard for Conduct
The Gospel provides the standard to which we as believers should live. We die to self, our old sinful nature, and put on the new nature that reflects Him.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Col. 3:5-10)
Let’s be sure we have the right reasons for disciplining, that it’s truly about conduct unbecoming people who hold to the Gospel and not man-made rules and regulations.
The Gospel Provides the Hope to Realign to the Standard
When people don’t live in ways worthy of the Gospel, it’s because they’ve taken their eyes off of Christ and what He did in dying for them. They’ve taken for granted the forgiveness that is theirs and instead live in accordance with their old sin nature. They’ve stopped growing and have instead regressed.
If necessary to exercise church discipline because they refuse to realign with Christ, we need to make sure we keep pointing people not only to the standard for conduct but also the power that comes from the Gospel to align with it.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Pet. 1:3-9)
Therein comes the hope for restoration. Change is possible because of His divine power once people remember what Jesus has done for them and who they are in Him.