Read: Matthew 18: 15 - 20
Because the work of discipline by the church is a very serious matter, the Lord Himself has given us a detailed description of how discipline should be done. This order is found in the passage of Matt 18. Be sure to read this passage carefully before reading this meditation. The order given by the Lord Himself is of course characterized by His perfect wisdom. The church should always follow this order carefully. If she does not follow this order, there will often be great confusion in the church. When members of the church bring a complaint against another member, they must be told to follow this order.
Offenses that arise between brethren should be dealt with personally. They need not be told to the church. If these offenses can be resolved in a personal way by brother speaking to brother, the result will be the reconciliation of brethren in the Lord. It is a blessed thing when this takes place even with the involvement of the elders of the church.
Before an accusation against a brother is brought to the church, two witnesses should be sought. The word of one person is hard to believe. When there is only one who accuses another, the matter is often reduced to the word of one brother or sister against another brother or sister, and it is often difficult, if not impossible to establish the truth.
When the offending person refuses to repent or even acknowledge his or her sin, then it must be told to the church. The reference ‘tell it to the church’ in Matt 18 cannot possibly mean tell it to all in the church, to every member, or to a public assembly of the congregation. Discipline is properly the work of God’s appointed elders, They are charged with this work, usually endowed with wisdom from the Lord, and best qualified to deal with this difficult work. Over time, a discipline case can become very involved and complicated.
Not every sin committed by church members should be made the object of discipline. We all sin repeatedly, and must repent of our sin daily. Everyone must confess his faults to his brother in Christ, and everyone should be ready to forgive the lesser sins, even though still serious in themselves. Everyone must constantly remember that we are all sinners. Confession and forgiving in the love of Christ covers a multitude of sins in the communion of the saints of the church.
Usually, only gross public sins which create great offences in the church are the object of church discipline. There are two types of such sins. The catechism speaks of those who, under the name of Christians, maintain doctrines that are not in harmony with the truth, that by God’s grace, the church must maintain and confess together. Members of the church should be placed under discipline when they are promoting false teachings in the church and when they are living in gross public sins.
The above being said, it is also really the case that only one sin is the object of discipline. This is the sin of hardened impenitence after having been repeatedly admonished by the church. Even the most dreadful sins are forgiven by the mercy of Christ when they are repented of. And then there is no need to proceed with discipline.
If at any point in the process of discipline, the one under discipline makes sincere repentance, the discipline of this person should be lifted. This is announced to the church and there is great joy in the church because of the repentance and salvation of a sinner.
Rev. Arie denHartog (Wife: Sherry)
Ordained: October 1974
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1974; Foreign Missionary, Singapore - 1979; Randolph, WI - 1987; Redlands, CA - 1990; Minister-on-Loan, Singapore - 2001; Southwest, Grandville, MI - 2005Website: www.southwestprc.org/
Address4895 Ivanrest Ave. SW
State or ProvinceMichigan
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