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Church Discipline #2 - The Process

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Church Discipline #2:

The Process of Discipline

Text: Matt. 18:15-17; et. al.

Thesis: To note that discipline is a multi-step process wherein withdrawal of fellowship

              is a last resort to bring back the wayward and to keep the church pure.


-          After establishing the “why” of discipline, we now need to understand the “how” of it.


I.                   First, you go to the straying and attempt to bring him/her back (Matt. 18:15).

A.     Some believe that this verse only applies to a private sin that has been committed against someone personally.

1.      Note: ‘Against you’ “may not have been an original part of the text. TC-GNT notes the possibility that the phrase was brought in by a later scribe under the influence of "against me" of verse 21. On the other hand, it points out that the omission could have been either intentional (so as to apply the passage to sin in general) or accidental (because of the similarity of sound between the last part of the Greek word "sin" and the Greek phrase "against you"). Therefore in the UBS Greek text the words are enclosed in square brackets to indicate that their presence in the text is disputed. The words are dealt with in a variety of ways in the translations, as the following sampling will illustrate: (1)they are included in TEV, with a footnote indicating the possibility that they should be omitted; (2) they are omitted by NEB, with a footnote indicating the possibility that they should be included; (3) RSV includes the words without a footnote; and (4) GeCL 1 st edition omits the words without a footnote” (UBS Handbook Series).

2.      “If ‘against you’ is omitted, Jesus is telling the community as a whole how to handle the situation when a brother sins” (EBC).

3.      Regardless, this verse combined with Gal. 6:1 and Matt. 5:23-24 requires that we are our “brother’s keeper” and are to go to the wanderer regardless to whether the sin has been committed against us personally.

B.     The goal is to “gain” or “win” your brother.

II.                 Second, if your previous effort fails, then you take another person or persons with you to go to the straying and attempt further to bring him/her back (Matt. 18:16).

A.    “The law required the testimony of two witnesses to establish a matter (Deut. 19:15; cf. John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28)” (LWC).

B.     Further, others may help find the right approach/words to reach the wayward.

III.             Third, if the second step is unsuccessful at restoring the wayward, then you and those who went with you are to bring the matter before the whole church and to get the whole church to reach out to the wayward and attempt to restore him/her (Matt. 18:17a.).

A.    Yes, everyone in the church is to be involved in this effort.

B.     For how long? As long as necessary!

IV.             Fourth, if the third step is unsuccessful at restoring the wayward, then the whole church is to withdraw fellowship from the wayward in a last resort effort to restore the wayward while keeping the church pure (Matt. 18:17b.; 1 Cor. 5).

A.    After a considerable amount of time has been spent by everyone in the church to restore the wayward, the church has no other choice but to withdraw fellowship from the wayward.

B.     This is to be done “that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14).

C.     How is this to be done?

1.      Obviously, the matter must be stated to the whole congregation so that everyone is on the same page.

2.      Then, everyone in the church must interact with the wayward in the right manner, which means …

a.       Do not act as if everything is as it was beforehand.

b.      Do not undermine things by going to the wayward and stating that you disagree with the congregation’s decision.

c.       Do not ignore the wayward and have absolutely nothing to do with him/her, instead be ready to admonish him/her to repent each time that you see the wayward (2 Thess. 3:15).

d.      Do not ever give up on the wayward.


(1)   If we do it God’s way, then it will accomplish one or both of its purposes.

(2)   Let us never be guilty of allowing this to be “the forgotten commandment.”

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