Discipline, or admonition is an important and serious part of church life which needs to be done correctly and sincerely when the need arises.
It would be the pleasant hope that the need never arises yet as we know in the Church we are dealing with people and when people are involved there will always be problems.
It is too often that when we have a problem with somebody we do everything but the right thing when it comes to resolving it. And it has been my unpleasant experience that when people are admonished incorrectly, then more strife results, and often people are hurt; and resentment and bitterness tend to rise up in the hearts of one another.
So as we proceed, I would like us to look
at three points.
As we know we are living in lawless times. The air is full of independence from all authority - be it in the government, the workplace or in the home. And we need not be surprised that the same spirit characterises the Church. As in the days of the judges, “Every man does that which is right in his own eyes.” And anarchy is often the result.
We find in the Church that false
professors creep in unawares turning the grace of God into lasciviousness.
(Jude 4) Once within
the Church they exhibit in doctrine and their walk the fruits of
However, unfortunately, and much more commonly, the necessity for discipline is not only in the presence of false teachers, but from the fact that the flesh still exists in the children of God.
The children of God may well fall into
some kind of sin themselves, and this needs to be corrected promptly.
Firstly, as we said, to maintain holiness, and secondly, to avoid
Now God has saved us and called us to an
God, as we know, cannot and will not accept sin in His presence, hence that sin must be dealt with and put away to maintain that character of purity amongst us.
So we need admonition and discipline when
necessary to hold on to the holiness and reverence that should be
found in the house of God.
This reference in Corinthians refers to excommunication which we shall refer to later.
However, sin needs to be dealt with so that the rest of the believers in the local church are not led astray or affected by that sin.
So there is a need for admonition and
discipline in the Church, to maintain first our holiness before our God,
and to keep others from falling into sin.
This is the qualification for anyone who sees the need for correction. If you are not spiritual then you have no place or right to be telling another how they ought to behave.
And of course it is for all of us to be spiritual, though sadly this is often not the case.
The spiritual state of the believer is
reached by diligence in the Word of God and in prayer; and it is
maintained by obedience and self judgement. And such a person will be led
by the Holy Spirit.
Now a spirit of meekness does not mean an easy-going tolerance of evil. We are to always be intolerant of any evil in our midst.
Our Lord Jesus here becomes our perfect example. As we know He is intolerant of any kind of evil yet He also possessed a spirit of meekness.
When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him He did not condemn her but simply said, “go, and sin no more.”
Likewise we ought not to condemn our brethren. we are not to stand either as their judge, for God alone can judge.
Often there will be those who
self-righteously condemn the sinning brother; those who stand in judgement
and look down upon the offender; those who use sharp and cutting words and
tear them to shreds in their own conceit. Such an attitude will obviously
turn the situation to one of bitterness, anger and wrath, and the brother
in sin will more likely be turned further from the truth than be
We must take care that we do not fall into the same fault as the one we are trying to correct.
And believe me this can easily happen as I have personally found out. On the odd occasion I have given a brother a word of admonition, only to find myself fall into the same fault shortly afterward.
We ought then to take extra care to avoid this from happening, and we should judge ourselves to see that we are right.
Those who are pastors, evangelists or teachers must also take care not to neglect their own spiritual welfare in a zeal for the care of others.
Now let us consider the five steps to
correcting a sinning brother. The five steps begin with admonition and
lead to discipline.
Now in view of this passage I would
suggest that the trespass or sin of that brother is not only a personal
sin against someone. This of course is a large part of it but I think the
sin is not just a personal matter but would also include sin in general.
Apparently some Greek manuscripts do not have the words “against thee” in
the text. And if we read the American Standard Version we see such a
translation. “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in
So I believe it is not just personal trespass in view here, but a trespass or sin of any nature.
And then we go on to the first step as outlined in Matthew.
The first step is for you to approach your brother with his fault. This then becomes a matter between you and him alone. At this point it is no-one else’s business.
Too often we go gossiping the brothers fault to whomever has ears to listen. The sin is then spread about for all to hear which inevitably cause much strife and bitter feelings among the brethren, resulting in greater evils, slanders, backbiting and the like.
The first step is to be treated then as a personal matter, between you and him alone.
And “If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
If the brother accepts the admonition and
corrects himself, then the matter goes no further. The problem ceases to
exist and becomes a thing of the past, never to be remembered
This second brother must have the same characteristics of the first. And he is to be wisely and prayerfully chosen.
Again, the matter remains private, with only the extra witness and yourself.
The extra witnesses are used, not to establish the truth of the sin for the one who has sinned is already convicted, but they are to bring the influence of the truth to bear upon him all the more by their confirmation.
They are to help make him realise the seriousness of the sin.
And again, if he hears you, you have
gained your brother and the matter is closed.
Now I would suggest that this be done in
I have no Scriptural basis for these two steps, however I feel it to be safe and logical.
Firstly, the matter should be taken before the oversight. They should become aware of the matter before it is made public, considering that they are the leaders of the assembly, and all that is done ought to be under their direction.
My suggestion would then be to leave the matter in their hands.
Secondly, as the elders see fit, the case
should be presented publicly before the whole assembly.
Hasty judgement is to be avoided and in
all these steps of admonition, impatient haste is to be avoided. Remember
to seek fist the Lord in prayer always.
This however does not mean that we should
make no further attempts to restore him. This action of the assembly is to
prove that holiness is to be maintained.
Yet we are not to count him as an enemy, or as one who is opposed to Christ. To do this will drive him further to despondency or to hostility, rather than lead him to repentance.
We are instead to continue to admonish him as a brother, because remember, though he is in sin, he is still a brother in Christ, and our motive should ever be to see that brother returned to fellowship.
So by continual admonition, and keeping
away from his company, that brother may be ashamed, seeing himself that
the godly people leave him alone, thus bringing himself to the conclusion
that he is at fault, and must repent of his sin.
And it should only occur when it is evident that the sinning brother remains unrepentant and continues in his sin.
Now the sin he commits will be a sin that affects the assembly as a whole, or other individual members of it. It is something that may lead others astray, and rob God of his holiness.
As we know, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump and the leaven is to be discarded before others are infected.
If the sin is however a minor, petty thing, then usually this course of action is not taken.
Now great care must be taken in this step
We must never take such action on mere hearsay. There is always to be a definite evidence as to the guilt of the brother.
The Church should never jump to conclusions, nor should they believe just any scandal or gossip that circulates.
Excommunication is a serious matter and the Church simply must be sure of itself and know exactly what it is doing.
And remember it is always a last resort. Every effort should first be made to restore the sinning brother, but if he will not be restored, if he persists in his sin, and goes on defying the discipline of the Church, then and only then the time comes when the Word has to be acted upon, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
But again remember, such action is still given in the hope of restoring the brother once again to fellowship.
And this brings us thirdly to the Outcome
The end result of admonition and discipline is the restoration of that sinning brother.
Restoration is what was prayed for, hoped for and expected right from the start.
Whilst one who is put away from the
Church is to be left alone, we should continue to pray for him; and we
ought also to look out for him after some lapse of time.
This should especially be done if he is weak and untaught, and if he has submitted to the Lord’s judgement.
Now if the brother is repentant and has
recovered, this will show clearly by his actions. He will have a sense of
sin against God and acknowledge his wrong. He will judge himself for his
sin and will repent of it.
He will also submit to the discipline given to him, and accept it graciously as of the Lord, even though it may have been severe.
And when we see these actions in the brother, what are we to do?
The assembly must guard against having a hard, unforgiving spirit. When all are satisfied that the sin has been judged and put right, that there should be no unnecessary delay in showing their love and acceptance to the recovered brother.
II Corinthians 2:5-11. That brother is to be received gladly back into fellowship, his sin is to be forgotten and made a matter of the past and holiness is to once again be maintained within the church.
So the outcome of all discipline is to see the sinning brother restored in love.
So we have considered three points as far
as admonition and discipline are concerned.
South African Bible Believers.