Vol.XV No.VI Pg.4
August 1978

Church Discipline

Robert F. Turner

We introduced this subject on the editorial page; indicating the relation of initial instructive discipline to fellowship with God. But discipline should not stop with the call of the gospel. "Together" activities of the saints add another dimension to fellowship — the joint participation or sharing of "fellows" in their endeavor to serve God — and this also calls for a type of discipline.

As we "edify in love" (Eph. 4:16), or "teach and admonish" in singing, or study, pray, and sacrifice together; we are assisting one another to be faithful to the Lord. We have need of one another (1 Cor. 12:14-f), and the more we recognize and supply that need, the closer will be our fellowship, the more effective our day by day "discipline by example" Our spiritual brothers must become our peers, whose approval or disapproval mean the most to us. This is the sort of communion that gives meaning to the various scriptures on corrective discipline, and without which they lose their effectiveness.

Disfellowship HAS meaning only to the extent that fellowship HAD meaning to us. Would you rather your social companions go to hell than for them to be embarrassed by the truth? Are you embarrassed that God's people are different from those of the world? Is your relation with Christ and the saints of secondary, or thirdary [sic], importance in your life? If "Yes," then you will balk at church discipline. You will neither be profited by it, nor will you profit others in its application. Discipline works only with those who to serve the Lord.

I can hear it now. "Those people do not need discipline." I fear this comes from brethren who view discipline as a means of forcing people to serve the Lord. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal." (2 Cor. 10:) We can not force the discipline of the gospel call, nor of Christian service, upon anyone. We deal with adult men and women whose hearts must be made captive to Christ.

Consider our first example. "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" (Matt. 18:15-17). The object is to gain the man, not your way. The clear message is that he is in the wrong, and you, your helpers, and finally the whole church speaks in an effort to bring him back into fellowship with God. The church can neither put him in, nor take him out, of such fellowship except as he is persuaded to act. Failing in this, they recognize him for what he has made himself — "as one of those without." Neither hate, spite, nor vindictiveness is indicated here. Do you "hate" or "spite" a non-member when you fail to call upon him for public prayer or service??

In 1 Thes. 4:10-12 Paul "besought" those brethren to quietly work and tend to business, but apparently some gave no heed. So in 2 Thes. 3: he "commands" them to "withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly" or "out of step" with apostolic teaching. "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" vs. 14-15). (continued next page)