In a previous discussion the father and his son have looked at the serious topic of Assembly Discipline but have dealt only with the Persons to be Disciplined. They want now to look at the Purposes of Discipline and the Principles of Discipline. However, before doing so, the father points out that there are degrees of discipline. While every sin is serious and grievous in the eyes of God, not every sin is going to require a putting away from the assembly. In a little digression, they read the passages that refer to the brother who is a personal offender (Matthew 18:15-20); the brother who causes divisions (Romans 16:17-18); the brother who is overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1); the brother who walks disorderly (I Thess 5:14, 2 Thess 3:6-15); and the brother who is a vain talker (Titus 1:9-14).
Returning now to the topic that has taken up their attention, they look first at:
The Purposes of Assembly Discipline:
The son wonders why such a serious action as putting away from the assembly must be taken when a person is guilty of one of the offences of 1 Corinthians 5. His father gives him a number of reasons.
To protect the holiness of the House of God:
When sin occurs in the assembly, the house is defiled. Since judgment in the assembly has been committed to men, it is imperative that the words of Paul be carried out, “Do not ye judge them that are within?” (1 Cor 5:12).
To effect the restoration of the offender:
When a person has to be put away for sin, it can never be with a view of “getting rid of him” but must rather be with a view to his repentance and restoration to the Lord and to the assembly. “Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him” (2 Cor 2:6-7).
To prevent the spread of the leaven of sin:
Sin is compared to leaven; if it is not judged and removed it will spread. They had partaken of the Feast of Passover at conversion. They were now to fulfil the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This walk in newness of life was to be their character. When sin is allowed to go unjudged, we are saying to the rest of the saints that the behavior is acceptable.
Where does this lead?
To clear the assembly before the world:
When moral failure takes place the testimony of the assembly before the world is affected. Nathan said to David after his sin with Bathsheba, “By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam 12:14) –
That others also may fear:
“Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear” (1 Tim 5:20). This is not to be limited to the elder who sins but to any believer who commits a public sin and must therefore receive a public rebuke. With respect to assembly life, sin has consequences.
To preserve from profitless ministry
One of the forms of discipline that may have to be carried out is the silencing of the person who persists in giving ministry that wastes the time of the saints (Titus 1:10-14). While this is not as serious as is excommunication, it is still a form of discipline. In a local assembly there is not “one man” ministry; neither is there “any man” ministry.
The son is beginning to see that discipline is a God-ordained and necessary part of assembly life. The honor of God must be preserved. Order must be seen within the House of God.
The Principles Employed in Assembly Discipline:
Having considered the persons who must be disciplined and the purposes of that discipline, the son inquires as to the principles hat govern the maintenance of holiness in the local church.
The father tells him that the motive must always be for the glory of God and the carrying out of His Word. Sin cannot be covered up. Disorderly conduct cannot be allowed to continue.
The father tries to explain to the son the fact that we must always, when two principles are in conflict, follow the “principle of the higher principle”. Maintaining friendships, for example, is an important principle. However, obedience to the Word is a higher principle. The father wants the son to realize that if, for example, he is aware of a sin that requires assembly discipline having been committed by another Christian, that he cannot maintain a silence. He must remember, however, that no accusation can be acted upon, unless the sin is confessed or supported by two or three dependable witnesses (I Tim 5:19)
If there is sin committed within the family circle, family relationships cannot interfere with the carrying out of the Scriptures, for this last is the higher principle. This leads them to the topic of impartiality. All judgments in the church must be carried out, says the father, in a compassionate way, but sympathy cannot stand in the way of the Scriptures.
The father reiterates the fact that judgment is always with a view to restoration. One of the seven charges against Israel’s shepherds was that they had “not brought back that which was driven away” (Ezekiel 34:1-6).
The son asks what the attitude of the assembly should be to the one disciplined and is told that each person in the assembly must recognize and follow the discipline enjoined by the assembly.
Another principle the father stresses is the fact that the assembly must collectively feel the effects of the sin. It is not just that an individual has sinned, but as in the case of Achan, “Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:1-26). When a leprous house in Israel was cleansed, every stone was scraped.
Finally the father turns to 2 Samuel 1:20 and reads the words, ” Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon”. When discipline has to be carried out, the topic should never come up in a conversation with those outside the assembly.
As they finish this topic which had started off with a discussion of the requirement of holiness in the House of God, the son realizes how serious it is to be in a local assembly and how careful we must all be in our walk.