MEMORY VERSE: Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me: it shall be excellent Oil. Ps. 141:5a.

BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 141:1-9.

INTRODUCATION: In our last lesson, we defined the Church and specified the conditions for membership. In this second part of the study on the Church, we wish to discuss Church Discipline. Discipline means taking corrective measures as punishment in order to maintain the good conduct of Church Members. The Apostolic
Church was strong because it was pure (Acts 5:1-11). Many churches today are weak because they have compromised and condoned sin in the members. Discipline is good and wholesome for the Church as a whole and for individual members.

Discipline ought to be taught after conversion but before baptism. During the baptism preparation, we set before the candidates Christian standards. Along side this, we ought to teach them the punishment for disobedience. Every full member of a Church ought to be well informed on what will happen to anyone who either openly commits a sin or does so secretly and is found out.

There are three basic things to be taught. First is the basis of the authority of Church leaders to discipline and the necessary steps to be taken before discipline is administered (Matt. 18:15-17). The process is as follows: If any man sins, and another member finds out then,
(a) Go to the erring one alone to exhort him to repent;
(b) If he resists, take with you two or three others as witnesses;
(c) If he continues to harden his heart, inform the Church;
(d) If he does not accept the discipline handed down to him by the church let every one consider him as a sinning heathen and act accordingly.
The second thing to be taught is what could lead to discipline or occasions for discipline.

(a) False doctrine (Tit. 1:10-14). The Church must take a strong stand against any teachings that have no Biblical support.
(b) Open sin (Tim. 5:20). A church that condones open sin is grieving the Holy Spirit and such a Church will soon become worldly. Because the Holy Spirit is Holy and cannot abide in sin. Moreover whenever there is sin in the Church, innocent members suffer too (Jos. 7:10-12).
(c) Immorality (1 Cor. 5:1-5). The man referred to here was excommunicated for he had committed fornication with his own mother or step-mother. Fornication and adultery are terrible sins that God will never condone in any form (Rev. 21:8).

The third thing to be taught is the extent of discipline. Some sins merit outright excommunication (1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Cor. 5:13). But in most cases, if the guilty person shows genuine repentance such a person could be kept away from the Communion table or Church office or any special gathering of believers for a set period of time (Three months, six or twelve in accordance with the crime committed).

First of all, those who have the authority to discipline must live clean disciplined life themselves, above reproach in word and deed. Beside this, there are five important points to note. Discipline must be done.
(a) In humility (1 Cor. 10:12). There should be no “holier than thou” attitude.
(b) Insincerity (Matt. 7:3-5). Remove the beam from your own eye before you mention the mote in your brother’s eye. That does not mean that we are to take the attitude that “I am not perfect, therefore, I will not discipline my brother.” This is wrong. All you are expected to do is start by disciplining yourself first.
(c) In love (1 Cor. 13:4). We certainly must deal in love. The person we are trying to bring back to the narrow way may respond to our love when he may resist our words and arguments.
(d) By Scripture. Be sure that you can prove that what he has done is sin from the Scriptures.
(e) By testimony. Be willing to share personal experiences on the subject. This will establish a brotherly confidence – a mutual trust.

The secret of the strength of the army is its rigorous discipline. A Christian is called to be a soldier not a civilian. A disciplined Church is a powerful foe to Satan, just as a disciplined member is a terror to the devil. “…… Paul I know but…” Are you disciplined? Are you known in hell?

1. What is the object of Church discipline?
2. Why Church discipline is seldom practiced today?
3. List three occasions for Church disciplines?
4. How should discipline be taught?

FURTHER READINGS: The following passages will tell you more: Heb. 1:13, Rom. 7:13, 1 Tim. 1:20, 1 Cor. 6:1-3.

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