The subject of assembly discipline (or chastening) is a sensitive but scriptural topic. It needs to be taught and practiced with godly fear, wisdom, and guidance from applicable scriptures. Elders will apply these appropriately in individual cases as they arise.
All assembly discipline is done with a definite purpose in mind. This includes restoration of the offender, preservation of the purity of the assembly (Gal 5:9), a warning and instillation of fear in those observing, clearing the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and clearing the testimony of the assembly.
Assembly discipline includes an “internal” form, in which the believer remains in fellowship but is chastened, and also a form in which the believer is excommunicated with a view to later restoration after repentance has occurred. The following brief outline seeks to delineate these.
INTERNAL FORMS OF DISCIPLINE: Assembly Fellowship Maintained
1. Restoration of one overtaken in a fault – Gal 6:1
This person has suddenly and unexpectedly fallen into sin. He is to be restored with continuing care by one who acts cautiously and in meekness. Would this not apply to a young believer who found himself in a drinking establishment or at an immoral movie?
2. Correction of a personal offender – Matt 18:15-20
A man has committed a trespass (sin) against his brother. The offended person approaches the one who has sinned and tells him his fault. If confession is made, the issue is settled. If, however, the offending brother will not hear, two or three witnesses are brought along. If again the brother refuses to confess, the matter is brought to the church and excommunication is carried out. This could be applied to a believer who slanders, lies to, or deceives another.
3. Withdrawal from one who:
A. Wont work – II Thess 3:6-14; I Thess 5:14; I Tim 5:8
In Thessalonica there were those who were idle and unwilling to work because the Lord was coming. In doing so they were stirring up trouble by propagating their ideas. These were to be noted and isolated by refusing to participate in the behavior. The idler was to be shamed but still treated as a brother. Today it is still true that everyone who can possibly work should provide for his own physical support or be treated the same way.
B. Causes division by false teaching – Rom 16:17-18: I Tim 6:3-5
In Rome there were suave men who were using smooth words which did not correspond with apostolic doctrine and practice. The men were to be marked (clearly identified) and avoided. The nave, easily influenced believers were being deceived, and divisions were the result.
Divisions in Corinth (I Cor 3:3) were a result of carnal behavior and the same is true today. Generally, divisions result from proud men, arising in the power of the flesh, who argue and cause strife. Eventually, they draw away from the assembly a faction (Acts 20:30) theyve convinced. May God give us grace to mark and avoid such before they gain a foothold and wreak havoc.
4. Silencing – Titus 1:9-14; 3:10-11
Titus was left in Crete to set in order matters in the assemblies. There he encountered two types of men – 1. Those who were teaching the law and 2. Those who were heretics.
Those teaching the law were entering into homes where they spoke empty words, deceived people, and took their money. Those who responded were to be rebuked sharply and the whole process silenced. This was to be done by overseers bringing the Word of God into the situation, exhorting, and convicting those opposed to the truth (v.9). The Word of God is still living and powerful in similar situations today.
The heretic in Crete was a factious person. He didnt necessarily hold false doctrine but he held and pushed views so strongly that he was out of line (subverted – 3:11). Persistence would have led to a sect (clique) being formed. The person was to be warned twice; then if he persisted he was to be rejected. Restraints would have to be placed on his activity in the assembly, including his ability to speak. Today there are those with strong opinions about prophetic interpretation or matters such as unleavened vs. leavened bread for the Lords Supper. If their views are pushed to the extreme they could become heretics and be disciplined in the same way.
5. Public Rebuke – I Tim 5:19-22.
Much of the biblical teaching regarding elders came from Paul to Timothy. In this section he states that any charge against an elder required two or three witnesses, the standard for scriptural justice. The sin was then confirmed and publicly known. It had to be dealt with without any prejudging or partiality (v. 21). This required public rebuke before the assembly and resulted in others in the assembly being brought into a state of fear. The elder would need to step down. Not dealing with the matter meant that others were partaking of his sin (v 22). The entire process can apply to any activity which mars an overseers qualifications (I Tim 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9). An outburst of physical violence, a shady business deal, or domestic abuse could precipitate public rebuke against the man.
Undoubtedly this portion (“them that sin, rebuke before all”) is applicable to other situations. A person falsely accusing an elder would need to be publicly rebuked. It has been applied to a believer who knowingly marries an unsaved person, going against godly counsel. It has also been applied to a believer who gets drunk on one occasion without doing so repetitively
To be continued.