We might tend to think that grace and discipline don’t go hand in hand.
But, in reality, if we fail to exercise grace in the entire process, we lose one of the most powerful tools for disciplining.
If we fail to emphasize grace with the errant member, we rob them of one of the most powerful tools for coming to a place of repentance and restoration.
Skepticism about the Role of Grace in Church Discipline
Uncertainty about the role of grace in church discipline often centers around a misunderstanding about grace. Some think an emphasis on grace gives people an excuse to stay in their sin. However, a biblical understanding of grace teaches the opposite.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? … For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! (Rom. 5:20-6:2, 14-15)
According to Jude 1:4, to view grace as a license to sin is a perversion of grace. Consequently, leaders must assume responsibility to accurately teach about and represent God’s grace as the powerful resource it is.
The Difference the Power of Grace Makes in Church Discipline
Grace provides the reason for church discipline. We’re not only saved by grace but called “to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Cor. 1:12). Hence, we confront unholy living on the basis of grace.
Grace enables church leaders to conduct themselves throughout the process “with integrity and godly sincerity. … relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace” (2 Cor. 1:12).
Grace empowers church leaders to discipline even if they find it difficult. Perhaps fears and insecurities hold a leader back. Though not the weaknesses the Apostle Paul referred to in 2 Corinthians 12, we still can apply the principle that where we lack strength or ability, God’s grace is sufficient for His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Grace extends hope and help for people to repent and make changes in their lives for it is grace that “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:10-11). We can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).