Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 31, 1951

Discipline Applied

Robert C. Ewell, Woodsboro, Texas

Surely in this day and age, some of us in the church have forgotten the meaning of Bible discipline, or else we would see better discipline in the church. May it be said at the outset that discipline doesn't mean correction only, but all the teaching, admonition and training, plus correction found in the New Testament. Proper discipline is something that the church must have if it is to do what it should in serving God. Since the church is a Monarchy, then its laws are given accordingly. The laws of the church are administered at the direction of Christ through his word. Christ had directed the church to apply these teachings for the benefit of the members to the saving of souls. The church has the right to discipline each of its members by properly teaching, training, and correcting them.

There is no doubt that Discipline is a subject for serious study, because to so many people it means "Withdrawal only" from some who are guilty of sin. Discipline involves the whole teaching process of the church, and when a congregation falls down in its duty of training and teaching, they are in no position to say that they are fit to discipline anybody. It would be wise for each church to consider its obligation to each of its members, and just what they are doing for them. Have they been properly taught the fundamentals of the church? Are they being admonished to live day by day the precepts of God? Are we teaching and training our young in the truth, and their duty to the church? Are we anxious enough over missing members to find out why they missed, and to exhort them to come regularly? Heb. 10:25. All of these are a vital and necessary part of discipline for the church. Of course discipline when carried to its final end will be withdrawal in the necessary cases, but that isn't the proper aim of discipline, for in most cases with proper teaching and admonition there will be no call for withdrawing from those who sin, as they will be led to repent. If we have followed the teaching of Matt. 18:15-17, in correcting sin, and the sinner doesn't respond to it, then it is a matter to bring before the church and let the church settle. Here then we see the wisdom of the Lord in providing for the church a means to keep the body pure, and not to allow some unscrupulous person to run rough-shod over it.

"Suppose," somebody asks, "that we think that we have a case of sin that merits withdrawal, how can we tell if it is so or not?" By simply turning to God's word for his teaching we can answer that without any doubt.

Consider those who would cause division in the church, by any method and for any cause, what should be done with them ? If they will not listen to the church and cease their troubling, we are to mark them and turn away. (Rom. 16:17). What about Fornicators, Idolaters, Drunkards, and such, what should we do with them ? If members are guilty of these sins, and will not with proper teaching turn away, then we must put them from us. In 1 Cor. 5:1-5 we see that they should be delivered to the Devil, for the express purpose of saving their soul. Remember that disfellowship is not for the purpose of getting even with someone that do not like, but for the benefit of his soul. In 1 Tim. 1:20 it is seen that Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme, and for no other reason. The church then can and should clean house of such characters mentioned in 1 Cor. 5, and the other catalogues of sin. (See ye to it). 2 Thess. 3:6 teaches that we should weed out all who walk disorderly. How can we know who is walking disorderly? By simply comparing their teaching and ways with the traditions of God. Paul says that it is the tradition that we received of The Apostles and Christ, or the word of God, verse 14. He says to note the man that will not obey it and have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. We are to count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. If then we have any who do not teach the doctrines of Christ (for such was the doctrine of Paul) then we have but one course to follow, and that is to either correct them, or cut them off from the assembly. The factious, we are to refuse after the first and second admonition, Titus 3:10. Also we are to refuse those who reject the word of Christ, 1 Tim. 6:3-5, 2 John 9. This means that we cannot have social contact with them until they have made right their wrong. Surely we are to do all in our power to win back a brother that has sinned against us and the church, Jas. 5:19-20. Remember then that only by observing the strict teaching of Christ, and not compromising it for a minute in the favor of the ungodly, can we hope to save the souls of sinners.

Should we have forgotten that discipline is more than withdrawal, let us remember that we are trying to save souls, and that we do not in such cases throw the offender out of the church, but we merely cut him away from congregational ties, that he might realize his sin. We cannot judge or condemn a man, for only Christ can do that, John 5:22. Certainly it is God who will do the final taking away, for he it was who added in the first place. Consider then the punishing of a child; do we cast him from the family when we correct him? Certainly not, we chastise him that he may become a better part of the family. We may separate him from the other members in the process, but he is still a part of the family. The church will live together until the judgment, at which time God will render to each his just dues, Matt. 13:24-30; but in our course on earth as God's people the church may see fit to separate itself from certain sinners that they may not be rejected at the day of God.

A member of the family of God should know that he can't quit being a child of God. He is born into the family, John 3:5, and he will be a child no matter how wicked he lives, and will always be a reproach to the church in that condition. God can and will disinherit the ungodly, though they still be his child. God disciplines those who are his, not because he finds it enjoyable, but only that his integrity and righteousness shall be upheld. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to a knowledge of repentance.

Proper discipline the church should know and teach to every one of its members, and having done so we will see the church gain in years to come. The church should know, WHAT it has to do in the way of teaching, training, and correcting, and WHEN it has it to do, and HOW it must be done. Knowing this and using it, the church then will understand the WHY of discipline, which is to preserve the purity of the body. Realizing the zealous desire of God to keep the church pure, Eph. 5, discipline yourself to Godliness, and the church will have no problems to correct, now or in the future. Do you love the church enough to see it is pure and clean in God's sight?