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How do you discipline Christians in the church?

q.gif (1639 bytes)    How do you discipline Christians at you church? What are the basic rules ? I am a deacon in a Baptist church in BRAZIL. Please answer my questions. God bless you all.


a.gif (1659 bytes)     The first thing that we must realize is that church discipline is for the purpose of restoring the wayward Christian — not just getting rid of him or her. If a Christian will not repent of sin, then he or she should be removed from the church membership, but that is not what we should desire. We should desire restoration. Galatians 6:1 says, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, RESTORE such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."  Matthew 18:15 says, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."

    Church discipline starts out one on one. If you see a fellow Christian that is committing a sin, then you should go to that one alone. Many people run right to the Pastor, or to one of the deacons and say, "Say, do you know what ________ is doing? He is doing a terrible thing!" That is not the right way to handle a problem. If we see someone committing a sin, then we should make sure that we are right with God ourselves, and then pray about the matter, and then go to the person alone.

    There are some exceptions to that. One would be that if you are a man, and you see a woman committing a sin, then you should not go talk to a woman alone. I Thessalonians 5:22 says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." That would not look right, and if it is a sin that is of an immoral nature, then you could be inviting untrue accusations against yourself by being with that woman alone. The best thing to do in that situation would be to take your wife with you if you are married. If you are not married, then it would be best to get counsel from your Pastor as to who should go with you to see her.

    So Matthew 18:15 says, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." If the person repents after you talk to him alone, then you have gained your brother, that is, the situation can be dropped, and no more need to be said.

    The exception to that would be if the sin is something that would disqualify a person from his present position. For instance, if you had seen a Pastor or a deacon acting improper with a woman other than his wife, then that would disqualify that one from holding such a position. I Timothy 3:1 says, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour." If the person said that he would repent after you confronted him about his sin, but he went on holding his position as before, then you would have to go to him once again and bring up this matter. If he would not do right, then you would have to follow the next step.

    If the person will not repent after step one (going to the person alone), then step two must be followed. Matthew 18:16 says, "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

    If you have followed step one, but after waiting and watching it is obvious that the person has not really repented of his sin, then you must now go to see him again with one or two more people. If there is a time to talk to the Pastor or a deacon about the matter, now is the time. So with a total of two or three people (you included in that total number) you now see the person again.

    Step two does two things. Number one, it shows the erring person that his sin is serious, and that his fellow Christians are concerned about him. He now knows that more people are aware of his sin, and that he cannot hide it any longer. Numbers 32:23 says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." Number two, in the event that he still will not repent, there are now the proper amount of witnesses to bring the matter before the church for action. Deuteronomy 19:15 says, "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of TWO witnesses, or at the mouth of THREE witnesses, shall the matter be established." Step two provides the needed witnesses to deal with the sin.

    If the person will repent, then that is where the matter ends. If the person will not repent, then step three must be followed. Matthew 18:17 says, "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican."

    Now, the matter is brought up before the whole church assembled. The sin is told to the whole congregation, and they try to persuade him to repent. If he will not listen to the whole church assembled, then the church must take action. "...but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." A heathen man is a lost man. A lost man cannot be a member of the local church. Even so, a Christian who will not repent of his sin is treated like a heathen man; that is, he is put out of the membership of that local church.

    How should the people of the church treat that person after he is put out of the membership? II Thessalonians 3:14,15 says, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." Christians are not to "keep company" with that person; that is, they are not to spend a lot of time with him. I Corinthians 5:11 says, "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a BROTHER be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." What we are supposed to do is show friendliness to the erring one, but also to admonish him to do right again so that fellowship can be restored.

    That means that if we see a disciplined member in the store, we should not ignore him or act unfriendly. We should go up to that one and be friendly. Shake his hand and say, "We sure miss you, and are praying that you would repent of this sin and come back to be with us soon." The conversations with such people should be friendly, short, and always making the desire for RESTORATION clearly known.

    So many times, a disciplined member is treated rudely by other members. Eventually, the wayward Christian will see the emptiness of his sin, and, Lordwilling, will be faced with a decision. As he thinks about his choices, he will ponder what kind of a reception he would receive if he came back to church. If all of the members have treated him like dirt, he will probably never darken the door of that church again. He will think that they all hate him now. But if they have showed friendliness to him, and have urged him to repent and come back, then he knows that he is welcome back if he repents.

    The church must be ready to welcome back an erring one who repents — not with a cold should, but in sincerity. Matthew 18:21,22 says, "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." II Corinthians 2:6-8 says, "Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him."

    Church discipline is rarely followed according to the Bible pattern. When it is, an erring brother or sister can see the emptiness of their sin, and find restoration instead of years of bitterness. May God help us to do things right.

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