Church Discipline - part 9
The more that I am blessed to study the Word of God and apply it to the Lord’s church, the more I am reminded that much of what we see right and wrong in our society is directly related to how the church follow the Word of God. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world says Jesus. The world may not like us but they must look on us with dignity and we must be above reproach. If the church has no authority and lose it’s respect, how can we expect it to be in our homes, in our schools, on our jobs, and in our communities? If the church will allow anything and everything within its doors, how can we expect any more from anyone else or anywhere else?
What is so wonderful about our God is that none of this has surprise Him or caught Him off guard. It may overwhelm us but not our God. Looking at what we have preached on, there are several differences between the situation in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5; one difference is the magnitude – in Matthew it’s a private situation between two, while in Corinth, it’s public involving the entire fellowship. Matthew’s situation can be approached with patience, while Corinth’s is more immediate. Both are the Word of God but Matthew is Jesus’ speaking while Corinth is a letter from Paul.
I ask for your patience as we look again at Matthew 18 for I would like to conclude this portion on discipline with examining three points that Jesus made at the end of this portion of Scripture. So once again open your Bibles to Matthew 18, and starting at verse 15 please stand with me and follow along as I read from the English Standard version.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ESV
· We have made it through the stages of discipline, so what’s left now? And the answer to that question is the encouragement of verses 18, 19, and 20
· Thus the subject today is ‘encouragement to the church in discipline’.
· By ‘encouragement’, I mean to inspire you with the quality of heart, mind and spirit that enables you to face what may be thought as difficult times with confidence.
o Coaches encourage their athletes
o Teachers encourage their students
o Encouragement is one of the qualities of parenting
o A good supervisor or commander will encourage his workers or soldiers.
o And we are told to equip the saint for the work of the ministry and part of that equipping is encouragement
· Each of these three verses make up a point or subheading and each of the three can stand on its own and offers its own encouragement that is needed in the entire area of discipline
· When I say the entire area of discipline, I am talking about from verse 15 through verse 17. And I am also talking about the success or failure at each stage and the reconciliation, restoration, and repentance or the excommunication, seeing the person as a Gentile and a tax collector.
· We need encouragement at the start of discipline when your brother sins against you and you go to him,
· We need encouragement when he listen and you gain your brother or sister
· But we also need encouragement if discipline ends up with the man or woman being removed from the fellowship by leaving on their own or being asked to leave by the church.
· Listen to this; “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
· My brothers and sisters, that is not James or John speaking, it’s not Peter or Paul, Titus or Timothy, but it is Jesus Christ Lord and head of the church.
· In the context of discipline, Christ is saying when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there among them. He is literally in your midst brothers and sisters!
· Now that’s time to say amen and shout Hallelujah!
· Discipline at the stages starting with two or three and then going before the pastors and the church is difficult, stressful and fearful. And it is filled with uncertainty, that is, not knowing how all of this will work out, but trusting in the Lord with all your heart and not leaning to that stressful, fearful, doubtful understanding, Jesus encourage us to know that He is in the midst of this.
· And Christ is not just standing around but He is working this matter out among His people – Amen
· Isn’t it interesting the phrase two or three could mean the two who go with the offended to the offender in stage three or it could mean the leadership, the pastors, when making a decision to go to the entire fellowship or for removal.
· New Hope, you have gone through some rough times in your short history (less than 100 years as a fellowship), people leaving, splits and breakups but through it all your Lord and Savior says that He was in the midst working it out. - Amen
· You who sit here today are the product, the fruit of the Lord’s presence here, my brothers and sisters. Even to our visitors, I can say, your visit here is not by chance or luck but it is because our Lord is in the midst of us working it out, solving, molding, making, shaping, and building His church
· And He’s here this very moment and what you need is waiting at the table!
· But before moving on, do you also hear a warning in this verse?
· In giving the preface of this entire portion on church discipline, I mentioned earlier and at the start that the decline of church discipline is perhaps the most visible failure of the contemporary church. No longer concerned with maintaining purity of confession or lifestyle, the contemporary church sees itself as a voluntary association of autonomous members, with minimal moral accountability to God, much less to each other.
· So the warning is that since there is not two or three gathered in Jesus’ name, then he is removed from the midst of the local church in a problem solving way and thus leaves that local church to themselves in solving or ignoring their situations.
· And the result? Well listen to the Word of God for this is what the Lord says about this
1 Corinthians 11:28-32
28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. ESV
· So the result is that the local church is weak and ineffective, with both in-reach and out-reach
· Our in-reach is just a noise in the camp just like in Moses days
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. ESV
· The modern or contemporary local church, without discipline, is no different than the Old Testament Hebrew who is an idol worshipper, they have failed to follow the Word of God and have substituted another word of man in its place. And it may look good and sound good for awhile but if the Lord isn’t in it, it is subject to fail and great will be the fall
· There may be times when things, situations look discouraging but know that Jesus is very much aware of those things and that situation and with that in mind he still said; “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
· That’s just one encouragement, there are yet two others.
· Since Jesus is not far from you doing discipline, why not talk with him?
· And the encouragement here is that it does not take a whole lot of people to do this, listen
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
· That’s like saying that not only is Jesus here with you down here on earth but God the Father in heaven is His backup!
· If you are not careful discipline can be taken up by your emotions, feelings and opinions but the remedy to this is prayer
· And pray according to the will of God and not the will of man (your will to be more exact)
· Do you see the beauty of this verse, If two of you agree on earth about anything, many times you have to set up camp at this point
· And by setting up camp I mean that in most cases you can’t get to this prayer because there is not agreement, so you stay at this point until there is agreement.
· Setting up camp mean you may have to search the Word of God and pray about the Lord blessing you with proper discernment of His Word in order for agreement to take place.
· Setting up camp means agreeing to take of the back pack of “this is what I think it means” and setting before the fire of “thus says the Lord” where that fire will melt away the pride of ‘my opinion and my experience’ and arriving at the comfort of trusting in the Lord with all your heart and not leaning to your own understanding.
· And be encourage that there is someone else at the camp site with you and His name is Jesus because if you are attempting to agree in the Word in order to pray about discipline, then your gathering at the camp site is in His name because it is His Word being that He is the Word made flesh – Amen!
· Brothers, sisters, and visitors, let me tell you this, my words fall short in explaining what prayer is like when you have this agreement among yourselves. There may be different people praying but the same prayer and the presence of the Lord and His Spirit is overwhelming.
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
· You know that God has heard your prayer and you know that He is moving and doing just as this verse says He would and that’s encouraging very encouraging
· That’s two encouragements and there is one more, listen to this in two versions
Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. That’s the English Standard Version.
18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. The New American Standard Bible 1995.
· The ‘New American Standard Bible’ is known for being more literal to the original language and it helps us to understand this third encouragement
· Now this is a wonderful encouragement for all of us to take note of.
· You and I have seen members leave our fellowship.
· Some have been involved in the split of a fellowship
· Other may have had to leave another fellowship
· Here is what verse 18 is saying and be encourage; It is not that heaven will abide by whatever earth does but rather Christ is assuring His church that they (few in number), are only confirming outwardly what has already been determined in the heavens whenever they carry out church discipline prayerfully and entirely.
· Entirely also includes restoration and reconciliation.
· Entirely includes in the presence of Jesus with much prayer in agreement
· Entirely means trusting Jesus the Christ to bring about the outcome.
· This means brothers and sisters, what may surprise you has not surprised God. What may have caught you unprepared has not caught God unprepared.
· What we think is messed up and in chaos down here is part of a divine plan up there
· Jesus said and He means and stand by what He said; “Upon this rock, I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” - Amen
· But there is more to this encouragement. I spoke of the erosion of authority and how this is flowing into the church, this verse gives it back to the local church.
· Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven
· When you bind something or someone, you prohibit or restrict.
· And the church has the authority to do this, in the name of Jesus. And the leadership within the church has the authority to do this by His Word
· Through prayer and study and falling on our face before the Lord, we have the authority to say that this will not be allowed in this church.
· You have the authority to give correction
· And the opposite, when you loose on earth shall have been loose in heaven, loose you allow and make unrestricted, free up
· We are authorized and thus have the authority to say forgive this brother or sister, or this brother or sister has been restored to fellowship with all rights and privileges of any other member
· To these three encouragements I say and the church should say – Amen
· Look at the application of this
· In the home with how we discipline ourselves, each other, our children and grandchildren.
· Invite Jesus in your home when discipline is needed, take time for prayer and be assured that this is part of His plan for you, your family and His church
· On the Job and in our schools why not take a break and pray, asking Jesus to be with you in your school or on your job and being assured that your being there is part of His plan for you and His church
· I close with this passage
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ESV
Let us pray!