You can be a Baptist by: Circumstance - Convenience - Preference - Conviction.
· As a child growing up, I was a Baptist by circumstance. My parents took me to a Baptist church where I was saved, baptized and became a member.
· As an adult living with my parents after I got out of the U.S.M.C., I was a Baptist by convenience. I went to church with them.
· As I began to read the Bible, I was a Baptist by preference. I thought the Baptist church was probably the best church of which to be a member.
· As I studied the Bible, I became a Baptist by conviction. That is when I came to understand the nature and importance of church discipline.
The scope of this lesson is that we might understand the purpose and necessity of discipline, because the whole emphasis of discipline is not to exclude, but to restore.
Romans 14:1 - Receive into your fellowship and treat as a Christian him who is weak in the faith. The members of the Church, whose designation was “saints,” were addressed and commanded to “receive the weak in faith.” Please note though that the new member should “grow in grace,” (2Peter 5:18). Church members are supposed to be regenerate persons bearing the image and cherishing the spirit of Christ, in whom the peace of God rules, and who walk and work in “the unity of the Spirit, and the bond of peace.” But unhappily, even the saints are sanctified only in part, and troubles sometimes arise among brethren. The evil passions of even good men may triumph over piety, and partisan strife may destroy the peace and the prosperity of the body of Christ.
Illustration: I admit to heresy in reference to baseball and organized sports. Baseball is something you watch other people do (high paid performers). I much prefer to spend my time doing things myself. But don’t more and more Americans devote their energies to listening or watching, a comparatively few professional players do the job, from which they only derive pleasure vicariously. This is one main reason for the necessity of church discipline, members are not in the game, they are not involved, their heart is not with the church family. We need more participants and fewer spectators. We talked at length about this in the last lesson (#35).
We now proceed to show that the N.T. churches had the right to exclude unworthy members and that they exercised the right. The Discipline of a church consists in their admitting or rejecting those who offer themselves to join with them; in the members watching over each other; in reproving and admonishing those who walk disorderly, and taking all proper methods to reform them; and in rejecting those who will not be reclaimed, but continue to be obstinate and unreformed, when all proper means have been previously used to bring them to repentance. Corrective discipline seeks to heal offenses; but it is better to prevent them, than to heal them. It is, however, better to heal and remove, than to endure them and run into worse problems down the line.
1Cor. 5:1-13 - Here we read of fornication, perversion and impurity of a member whom Paul advised the church to exclude and turn over to Satan. This required members to withdraw all fellowship and spiritual influence from him, and to quit praying for him, so as to permit Satan to afflict his body thus perhaps bringing him to repentance. This was effective, for in his second letter, Paul wrote the church to forgive him lest he “should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2Cor. 2:6,7). The right of a church to exclude from it’s communion disorderly persons is recognized in 2Thess. 3:6. To withdraw from a “disorderly brother” is the same thing as to exclude him. There is a cessation of church fellowship. To exclude someone, it is necessary for the church to be assembled with the power and authority of the lord Jesus Christ. So Paul ends up by saying in 1Cor. 5:13, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Here is a command, given by an inspired man, requiring the exclusion of an unworthy member from the church at Corinth. Paul virtually admits, though, that nothing could be done unless the church chose to act.
Formative church discipline consists of the teaching and training of believers relative to their responsibilities as Christians and church members. This teaching and training might well be called preventive discipline in a great number of cases, for the teaching of the word is an adequate antidote to all manner of sin. Ps. 119:9 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” This is the main thrust and purpose of our Sunday School and why we sometimes have problems with those who do not attend or feel they don’t need it. Sunday School is the teaching arm of our church.
Christians should ever be in a state of progressive spiritual improvement (Eph. 2:19-22, 4:11-15; 2Pet. 1:5-8). The “perfecting of the saints” is an object of vast importance. The new convert to the faith is a “babe” and can only take in “milk” and as he grows, the “strong meat.” Formative church discipline contemplates the vigorous growth of the babe in Christ. bringing the baptized disciple into the local church organization has this purpose in view. They are to be taught (Matt. 28:20). Formative discipline, in its sanctifying influences, ought to reach every church member - old - middle aged - young. If every church will experimentally and practically learn the lessons taught in 1Cor. 12:12-27 the subject of formative discipline will be well understood. But if they fail to learn the lessons referred to, and make comparatively no progress in the divine life, they will remain in a state of spiritual infancy (Heb. 5:12-14; 3Jn. 2). What if the measure of our physical health were to be regulated by the health of the soul, what a nation of invalids we would be!
Matt. 18:15-18 - Offenses and occasions of dissension in the churches arise from various causes, and are largely preventable. Most frequently they come by the following means:
1. Because of the too suspicious and sensitive disposition of some who imagine themselves to be wronged.
2. Because the Pastor, deacons and others, do not carefully and constantly enough watch the beginnings of strife.
3. Because evil-doers by delay become more persistent in evil, while others are drawn into their snare of gossip and dissent.
4. Because that when the difficulty becomes chronic and deep seated, the church is likely to undertake the discipline with judicial severity.
The carnal remains of depravity in the individual Christian renders it certain that offenses will arise in a church. The honor of Christ and interests of His cause are affected and such things must be corrected as soon as possible. There are two commands of Christ which if faithfully obeyed would solve most church problems: Matt. 5:23-24, the offender go to the offended. Matt. 18:15-17, the offended go to the offender. Notice the step by step pattern to be followed in personal and private offenses. The object of the offended brother must be to gain the offender.
2Thess.3:6,15; Rom. 16:17,18 - Public offenses are not against any one person more than another, but are such as are supposed to be a dishonor to the church of which the offender is a member, and a reproach to the Christian profession. They constitute a violation of the code of Christian morals, if not of our common worldly morals. The most common causes of this class of offenses are the following:
· False doctrine (Gal. 1:9, 2Jn. 10)
· Disregard of authority (Matt. 18:17, 1Thess. 5:14)
· Contention and strife (Rom 16:17)
· Sowing discord (Pro.6:19)
· Immoral conduct (1Cor. 5:11)
· Disorderly walk (2Thess. 3:6,9)
· Covetous spirit (Eph. 5:5; 1Cor. 5:11)
· Arrogant conduct (3 Jn. 9)
· Going to law (1Cor. 6:6)
Anything that seriously disturbs the union and peace of a church should be corrected.
Corrective discipline is one of the most unwelcome subjects that can come up before a church business meeting, and consequently, it is a responsibility that is often shirked. In every segment of organized society, from the federal government down to the smallest club, one expects to find good order and discipline maintained. Many Pedobaptist churches dare not take any action against ungodly members who were accepted as members while only infants (unsaved). If our church continues to emphasize doctrine and the requirements of the church covenant there will be less need of corrective church discipline.