Church Discipline Must Exemplify God’s Purposes

To get the greatest benefit from this practicum, make sure you have read related training on the site. Go to: Church Leadership Basics: God’s Purpose for the Church
Our Greatest Purpose to Love Demonstrated in Church Discipline
Click to enlarge image on Pinterest & repin.

We’ve already established that Church Discipline must be exercised because of God’s Purposes for the church. And, a lack of church discipline goes against His purposes. Our greatest purpose of loving God and loving others must also dictate the way we exercise church discipline.

  • The process must be embedded in love.
  • Our heart must be moved by love.
  • Our attitudes must be governed by love.
  • Our words must be guided by love “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).

We will look at the process for church discipline in a future post so consider subscribing to receive e-mail notice of new posts. Here we want to consider the attitudes and heart qualities that must be in us if we are going to exemplify God’s Purposes through the process of disciplining, if we are going to treat the person with love in each phase.

Love Exemplified in What Leads Up to Church Discipline:

Gentleness according to Galatians 6:1: When a person is “caught in a sin” we are to approach them gently, carrying their burdens as a way of fulfilling the law of Christ which is to love our neighbor. The objective is restoration of the person to a place of spiritual health and well-being so church discipline is not necessary.

Humility according to Galatians 6:1-3: We are to not think of ourselves as better than this person. We too could easily fall into sin if we aren’t careful.

Gentleness, kindness, able to teach, and not resentful according to 2 Timothy 2:23-26: People in opposition to truth are to be gently instructed. We do this “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil.” If the person doesn’t repent, after receiving instruction, they are in essence choosing Satan over God so as 1 Corinthians 5:5 says, they are then to be handed “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

Love Exemplified in the Decision to Discipline:

Grieved according to 1 Corinthians 5:2: Deciding to exercise church discipline should be grievous. It should break our hearts to see a person so hardened by sin that they won’t repent after being warned and gently instructed. We should never take church discipline lightly.

Humility according to 1 Corinthians 5: In this situation the church had chosen not to discipline people caught up in immorality. Paul pegged it as pride, the opposite of humility. The sin should have been grievous to them, breaking their hearts. They needed to yield themselves to God in this matter and do what was best for the people living in sin, not what looked good for them. Though this passage does not deal with a church that exercised discipline when they should have, it stands to reason that we would also need to guard against boasting about being quick to discipline.

Love Exemplified in the Process of Disciplining:

Devoted in brotherly love according to 2 Thess. 3:6-15: The command to “be devoted to one another in love” (Rom. 12:10) does not get laid aside in church discipline. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 reminds us that though it might be necessary to “not associate with them” we are not to “regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer.”

Love Exemplified in Restoration at the End of Church Discipline:

Forgiveness and Comfort according to 2 Corinthians 2:5-11: While a person might need to be disciplined to learn a lesson, the discipline does not need to continue after the lesson is learned “so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” We must be careful that we do not break a person’s spirit in the process of disciplining.

Forgiveness according to Matthew 5: After providing a process for dealing with brothers who sin against one another, Jesus and Peter got into a discussion about how often he should forgive a person who sins against him. Peter suggested seven times but Jesus replied, “seventy times seven.” Who is going to take the time to track that many offences?

Affirming according to 2 Corinthians 2:7-8: When people are repentant we must make a concerted effort to reaffirm our love for them.

To Do: Take a look at the qualities of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Think about how they relate to church discipline. Perhaps we could add to the situations in verses 1-3 to say, “If we do all sorts of outreach and ministry programs but don’t treat our erring members with love, we gain nothing.”

Let’s learn from one another: Can you provide examples that contrast church discipline that exemplified God’s purposes versus times it did not? What lessons did you take away from those times?

2 Replies to “Church Discipline Must Exemplify God’s Purposes”

  1. Please, help to throw some light in a case where a girl is found pregnant, and commits abortion? Describe the process of how such an one can be disciplined by the church.

    Again, if a brother’s child gives birth at home without a husband and he/she repents and continues in worship faithfully, can such a brother ever become one of the elders of the church?

    Does Proverb 22:6 mean that the child will never sin?

    Thank you for your contributory explanations.

    • Hello, Moses Tabe. You have three different topics in your comment so I will respond in order.

      1) Sin is sin. We might tend to put sins on different levels but in God’s eyes, no matter how great or small the sin might seem to be, it breaks fellowship with God. Of first concern is whether the girl has a saving relationship with the Lord. If not, that should be the concern, not church discipline. If she does, then what can be done to help her see her need to repent so she can be restored to fellowship with the Lord? God doesn’t seem to qualify the process for church discipline according to types of sin so basically the same process should be used. See:

      2) One of the qualifications for church leaders is that they manage their own household well and that they do it in a way is worthy of full respect (1 Tim. 3:4). I believe the key would be to look at the verses, i.e., 1 Timothy 3, and determine if God’s Word itself is saying that an erring child forever disqualifies the person from being an elder. If the problem is that the person was not managing his own household, has he changed his ways? Has he learned and changed the way he is managing his household? Also, the qualification in these verses doesn’t appear to be whether a child is repentant but what the father is doing to manage his household. If the child repents and the father still is not managing his family well, “how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5)

      3) Proverbs 22:6 does not mention sin so to say it means he/she will never sin, is to put something into the interpretation that is not there. In a case like this, I would look at the whole of Scripture where I find verses like “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Consequently, it would seem this verse must refer to a broader life bent. We all sin as believers but “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 Jn. 1:9-10)

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