· Open your bibles to Matthew 18:15-18
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. ESV
My subject is, ‘discipline – the third mark of the local church’.
R. Albert Mohler in the opening paragraph of his article titled ‘Church Discipline: the Missing Mark’ state the following. “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.” He goes on to say; “the absence of church discipline is no longer remarkable- it is generally not even noticed. Regulative and restorative church discipline is, to many church members, no longer a meaningful category, or even a memory. The present generation of both ministers and church members is virtually without experience of biblical church discipline.”
Mohler further points out that most Christians introduced to the biblical teaching concerning church discipline confront the issue of church discipline as an idea they have never before encountered.
· New Hope we need to hear this
o Evangelicals have long recognized discipline as the “third mark” of the authentic church.
o Authentic biblical discipline is not an elective, but a necessary and integral mark of authentic Christianity.
o Without it and the recovery of functional church discipline – firmly established upon the principles revealed in the Bible – the church will continue its slide into moral dissolution and relativism
· What is the purpose of discipline? Why do we need discipline in the local church?
· I would answer this way, we need discipline here at New Hope for
o The restoration and reconciliation of the believer who is going astray
o Sin hinders fellowship among believers and with God so restoration is restoring the believer to right behavior and reconciliation is re-establishing the harmony of fellowship with the church and God
o Discipline is needed to keep sin from spreading to others (a little leaven leavens the whole lump). And yes brothers and sisters and individual may have to be removed from the fellowship to keep the sin from spreading within the fellowship
o Another purpose is to protect the purity of the Church and the honor of Christ. Who do men say that Jesus is? And who do you say he is?
o Brothers and sisters, we all sin and none of us are perfect and have a pure heart in this age and time
o But when a church member continues to sin in a way that is outwardly evident to others, especially to unbelievers, this clearly brings dishonor to Christ and weakens the testimony of the church
o This is a very serious matter that we all must take heed of - Amen
· My first point is based on a reading from a book D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones titled, ‘The Church and the Last Things’, where he say;
· There are those who often try to justify the absence or lack of discipline in the local church in terms of Scripture and the parable of the tares in particular.
· This parable is found in Matthew 13.
· Those who hold this view will say
o Discipline should not lead to putting someone out of the church because to do so would violate and contradict Jesus’ instructions in this parable.
o For when the servants said, “Shall we pull up the tares and destroy them?”
o The master said, “No lest you uproot the wheat at the same time. Let them grow together until the harvest.”
o Furthermore, for exactly the same reasons, some people object to any separation of Christian people from what may be regarded as an apostate church.
o Our job is to show them love
o Well let’s turn there; Matthew 13:24-30
· Matthew 13:24-30 24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” ESV
· The bible is it’s best commentary and for this parable we are fortunate that Jesus’ disciples asked him about it
· Look down in the same chapter at verses 36-43
· Matthew 13:36-43 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ESV
· Notice the following;
o This parable does not refer to the Church but to the kingdom – verse 24, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to’
o The Church is part of the kingdom and is an expression of the kingdom but the kingdom is bigger than the church – verse 38 the good seed is the children of the kingdom (the invisible church that I preached about)
o The weeds are the sons of the evil one
o The field is the world verse 38, not the church, even though the church is in the world
o The harvest time is the close of the age
o The reapers are angles not man
· The parable of the tares has no bearing upon the question of discipline within the local church. It is a picture of the whole world which belong to God, but within the world are two groups – those who are Christian, who belong to the eternal kingdom and those who belong to the devil.
· I pray that this equip you to handle situations that may come on you by others who bring up the parable of the tares as a reason for not having discipline in the local church
· I also pray that this clear up any confusion you may have had about this parable and discipline, and that you will avoid this error as you continue to grow in the Lord whereby we are able to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God
· Now Matthew 18:15-18, is speaking to the local church.
· This series has added to my prayer lists and prayer time.
· As we look at discipline, I do pray that we do not become discipline police or discipline inspectors digging up stuff or taking our cues from the popular television series ‘CSI’ (crime scene investigators). It is not that!
· Sometimes when someone sins against you the more righteous thing to do is to ignore it out of love. Listen to these passages; one from the book of proverbs and the other from 1 Peter;
o Proverbs 10:12 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. ESV
o 1 Peter 4:8 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. ESV
· But sometimes you can’t. And there is not a need to go into various situations or circumstances. Someone has sinned against you and you can not ignore it.
o My brother, my sister, first that does not mean that you don’t love them
o Let me repeat this; discipline is an act of love (say that out loud for me – ‘discipline is an act of love)
o Discipline is not an act of hatred or an act of indifference or a way to get rid of people
· Matthew 18:15 tells you what to do; ‘go and tell him (or her) their fault, between you and him alone.’
· Here is the key New Hope. You are instructed to go not stay or gossip but go
· Next you are told to do this alone between you and the person, that means privately
· Too many times you don’t go and may even get upset that others have not gone or you may be really upset that one of the pastors has not gone
· Listen to the verse again; ‘If your brother sins against you’, not the pastor, not someone else but you. It is between you and him (or her) alone
o Isn’t that what the verse says?
· Go in prayer and go by the leading of the Holy Spirit
· Go trusting the Lord with all your heart and not leaning on your own understanding
· If he listens to you, you have gained your brother or your sister and that is restoration and reconciliation.
· But also the discipline stops there and go no further
· My brothers and sisters the serious and big things leading to a removal of a member did not start off that way but is the result of you letting it go on and on and it grew and grew and became knowledge to the entire fellowship.
· That leads to a major crises, hurt feelings and misunderstandings
· This is not something that is foreign to us for if you are a parent, teacher or deal with children or adults, you know that the best time to deal with negative situations or negative behavior is at the start not after it has been allow to grow
· It tough to say to your teenage son or daughter, “we are going to start doing things different around here, I want discipline in this house.” When all they have been exposed to is lack of discipline
· But what if he does not listen? We pray that the Lord will bring us back together next Sunday to see what happens when the brother or sister will not listen to you.
· But until then I leave you with this question, are you willing to love enough to put your friendship on the line by telling the truth?
· If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
· Let us pray