(1) to restore the straying member to Christ and to the church (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:25; Matthew 18:15), and
(2) to maintain the public testimony for Christ that the church upholds (Romans 2:24; 1 Corinthians 5:6).
While there are many types of offenses that could constitute an occasion for someone to be disciplined, the standard should be that a church disciplines any unrepentant offense against another believer. This could include, but is not limited to, things such as murder, adultery, gossip, embezzlement, insubordination to church eldership, and other sins that would cause a disturbance within the body of Christ.
Matthew 18:15–20 gives us the clearest explanation of how we are to exercise church discipline over a brother or sister in Christ who is acting in willful and unrepentant sin. This process exists to pursue the unrepentant person for the sake of restoration to God and to others. In doing so, we, the church, are discipling that believer and the surrounding members by teaching what true repentance looks like; similarly, the church is protecting the evangelistic witness of the community.
There are several passages within the New Testament, especially within Pauline literature, where we can see that the purity of Christ’s church is important for preserving His glory among men on Earth. One of the clearest of all passages is 1 Corinthians 5:1–13. Those who willfully disregard God’s teaching will make a negative and lasting impression upon the community of God and the people outside who we are trying to reach.
It is important that we dispel sinful conduct in order to ensure the body of Christ does not get infected with their defiance against God and His Word. We must remember that the church is established on Earth to maintain the glory of God’s presence among men, and to uphold the high calling of church discipline, which is not unloving; rather, it is one of the most loving things a church can do. As a parent loves a child (Hebrews 12:7–8), so Christ loves His adopted children enough to discipline them in order to make them more like Him.
This article on church membership originally appeared here.