Matthew 18:15-20 – A Grace Place?

Grace place—that is why some churches say they abstain from church discipline—they want to be a place of grace. Imagine that you have cancer and pleading with doctor after doctor to remove it to hear, “We don’t do scalpels here. They hurt. They’re not loving.” The last description you would give of such a doctor is gracious.

Church discipline is about love. When discipline is absent we wave with a smile to our brothers as they tread the path to hell. Abstaining from discipline for fear of offending your brother is like not yelling at your kids when they are playing in the street, because yelling might scar their little souls. Cars kill bodies. Sin kills the soul. Better to offend someone into heaven than nice them into hell. Church discipline loves—everyone. It loves:

  • The sinner, by seeking their repentance and restoration.
  • The church, by seeking her purity and protection from the leaven of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-13).
  • The world, by seeking to guard the church’s testimony and witness to the transforming gospel of Christ.
  • God, as we act in obedience and for His glory.

When leaders and churches ignore church discipline, they are loving. They are loving themselves. They are concerned for their jobs, their reputation, their number, their offerings. A failure to do discipline reveals idols.

Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 18. Jesus commanded discipline to be done. And Jesus promises He is with us when we obey this command (Matthew 18:20). This is the ultimate reason to faithfully do church discipline. Because to do so is to stand with Jesus. And no one loves like Jesus.

“By abstaining from church discipline… we claim we love better than God loves.” —Jonathan Leeman

Tolle Lege: Church Discipline

Readability: 1

Length: 138 pp

Author: Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan Leeman concisely argues for church discipline and gives many helpful case studies in applying church discipline in his simply titled book, Church Discipline. Essential and urgent, this book is not for just a few.

More specifically, a church needs to understand that church membership is not like membership in a club or some other voluntary organization. It’s about citizenship in a kingdom in which we are affirmed and recognized as ambassadors by the king’s embassy-like representative, the local church. Individual Christians do not have the authority, once they become convinced that they are Christians, to stand before the world and say, “Hey world, I’m with Jesus,” through self-baptism and giving themselves the Lord’s Supper. No, the church has that authority, through the power of the keys.

What is church membership? Church membership is the church’s public affirmation of an individual Christian’s profession of faith in Jesus, and it’s the individual’s decision to submit to the oversight of the church. When your church begins to understand that, the idea of church discipline will start to make a lot more sense.

It will also help people to understand why they don’t have the authority to simply resign their membership when threatened with discipline. People join the church by the authority of a church, and they exit the church by the authority of the church.

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