Practical Aspects of Healthy Church Discipline (1 Corinthians Sermon 18)
February 10, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Church Membership, Marks and Purposes, Church Dysfunction
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
So turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 5, we're looking for a second week at practical aspects this week, practical aspects of healthy church discipline. As we read the Bible, we learn that the first sin that occurred centered around something very simple, something as simple as eating a piece of fruit. But then it quickly metastasized to something worse and worse, soon to murder and beyond that to being so great a universal problem that the hearts of human beings were only evil all the time in the days right before the flood. God put Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden, and given them total freedom in that place, to eat from any tree that they wanted, any tree that is except one: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was forbidden by God to eat from that tree, and he was warned that if he did eat from that tree, he would surely die.
He was specifically put in the garden, it says in Genesis 2:15, to serve it and protect it; those are good translation of those two Hebrew verbs. And the word protect could also be translated to guard it, as a night watchman would guard a defenseless city or as a sentry guards a sleeping army at night. The word implies danger and the need for watchfulness. And that word guard will show up again in a moment in my message. But Adam failed to do his duty, the serpent came and deceived his wife, and Adam stood idly by while that evil conversation went on. Eve was deceived and ate from the forbidden fruit. Adam was rebellious and ate as well, and sin entered the world, and death through sin.
And the Bible teaches us that the wages of sin is death, but Adam and Eve didn't die right away. Actually, first death came in the very next chapter when their two sons, Cain and Abel, were grown men. Both of them made offerings to God, but Abel followed God's command to offer animal sacrifice, and Cain did not. God looked with favor on Abel's obedience and his offering, but He did not look with favor on Cain's disobedience and his offering. And Cain was jealous and hated his brother, the text tells us, and rose up and killed Abel in the field. God confronted Cain, saying, "Where is your brother Abel?" And Cain answered, "I don't know… am I my brother's keeper?" Now, that word comes from the same word that I mentioned earlier in Genesis 2:15. That's what Adam was told he was supposed to do with the garden: To be its guardian, its watchman, its protector. Cain is saying, "Am I the one who's supposed to be the guardian, the watchman, the protector of my brother?"
Now, in the New Testament, John in his epistle, likens that sinful disregard for others and that sinning toward others to Cain's hatred of his brother, Abel. And that cold-hearted question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" especially hypocritical in that he had been his brother's murderer. But in the church of Jesus Christ, we have agreed to be each other's keeper. We have agreed to be each other's guardians, we have agreed to be each other's night watchmen. In our church covenant, which we just read this morning, we have agreed to watch over one another in brotherly love, not like Cain, who murdered his brother, and then it seems hid his body in the field. Not like the priest and the Levite in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, who saw a man lying by the side of the road bleeding and just crossed by on the other side, passed by on the other side. Jesus is very clear to say they both saw him but they walked by on the other side, the priest and the Levite. Not my business. Live and let live. I'm not getting involved, not like that. But instead, like the Good Samaritan that, at great personal cost, did get involved, got invested himself, and cared for this individual.
But instead, we've agreed that we are going to have each other's back spiritually. That's one expression we use. If you say that I've got your back, I think that means I'm going to protect your blind side, I'm going to protect you where you're vulnerable, your blind spots, where an enemy could sneak up on you and attack you unawares. So in promising to watch over one another in brotherly love, we are not merely promising to care for each other physically. We are doing that, and most churches are going to do that, they're going to bring meals to the sick, they're going to bring money we're needed if there's some financial need, they're going to do those physical things, and we should do them; I'm not minimizing it.
1 John talks about seeing a brother in need and caring for the material needs. We do that, but we know it means so much more. Most of the things we promise to do in our church covenant are spiritual, and so when we say we're going to watch over one or another in brotherly love, we're really going to shepherd each other's souls. We're going to care about what's happening in each other's lives spiritually, because all of us are under constant assault by invisible spiritual enemies, that would destroy our souls, the world, the flesh, the devil, constantly assaulted. And we need help.
Now, Christ's answer for us is multifaceted and powerful. We begin with God Almighty, sovereign power over the world and the universe, and His protection of His people as the almighty king of the universe, that's the central security that we have. And Jesus' own intercessory ministry for us, and His kingly power, and that all authority in heaven and earth has been granted to Him, and He rules over everything for the benefit of His church. And then the Holy Spirit's ongoing power within us to keep transforming us and to guide us and direct us. So the Father, the Son, the Spirit, that's the greatest power that we have, but part of Christ's multifaceted protection of us in our great danger is the local church. Covenant membership in a healthy local church, a church which does commit to watch over one another souls in brotherly love.
So this morning we're going to look for a second Sunday at a healthy exercise of biblical church discipline. And I want to expand it beyond what we looked at last week, which was the issue of excommunication. And I want to go to a more comprehensive vision of how a local church fights sin in each other's lives, long before we ever get to excommunication. How we should be active in fighting sin in each other's lives, helping each other growing spiritually, that's what we're going to talk about today.
So let's begin by reviewing what we saw last week in 1 Corinthians 5. It's the most important and detailed chapter on church discipline in the Bible. And the real issue that we're dealing with, just as the Corinthians were dealing with, is the danger of indwelling sin and God's amazing wisdom in settling his children in local churches, where we can know and be known.
Now, I mentioned that our powerful enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. We need to be mindful of that all the time, we tend to forget that we have a warfare going on. Changing the order a little bit to the devil, the world, and the flesh, let's start with the devil. The devil is the ancient serpent, also called Satan, the accuser. Paul calls him, "The god of this age," who blinds the minds of unbelievers so they can't see the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. He also is served in an evil organized kingdom by demons who are skillful in tempting people as the devil himself is. Satan is shrewd, he's clever, he's filled with schemes which tempt us towards sin. And then once we have sin, he turns and accuses us of those very sins. In this way, as I said to the BFL class, he is the greatest hypocrite in the universe, both aggressively alluring people to sin and then righteously accusing them of the very sins he tempted them to do.
Then there's the world, the world system. By this we don't mean the planet Earth, etcetera, but we mean the evil system that Satan has crafted in the kingdoms of the world all over, which constantly allure people toward the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the boastful pride of life; these are the things that are in the world. And then there's the flesh, our own internal enemy, which if you could picture your soul like a walled fortress, it's the traitor that gets up in the middle of the night and unlocks the gate to let the outside enemy in. That's what the flesh is. It's interested in and attracted to the lusts of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. It connects with it and wants it, it is evil and wicked. It is, as Paul says, "Sin living in me," Romans 7. So these three enemies conspire against our souls every day. And local churches are responsible for the holiness and the health of the souls of the covenant members. We're committing to do this for each other.
Now, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul confronts the Corinthian church about one of their members who is sinning in a very noteworthy way, a scandalous way, scandalous sexual sin, and the Corinthian church has done nothing about it. And Paul clearly commands the church in Chapter 5:2, to expel this individual from church membership. That's the end of church discipline, there's no step beyond it, there's nothing that goes beyond it, that's it. Excommunication. And he says it four times. Look at verse 2, he says, "You should have put this one out of your fellowship." Verse 5, he says, "Hand this man over to Satan." To explain last week is just put them out in the world. He's not an insider anymore, he's not in any more. Paul says to get rid of the old yeast of wickedness. So there's that same image of expelling, getting rid of. And then he says it very plainly at the end, again verse 13, "Expel this wicked man from among you," four times. Very clear what he wants done. And it exactly lines up with what Jesus said, as we saw last week in Matthew 18, about a stubborn sinner who will not repent despite being confronted by an individual, by a group of individuals, by the whole church, will not repent. Jesus said, "Treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." It's consistency.
I. Five Motivations for Church Discipline
Now last week we saw five motivations for church discipline.
The Glory of God
The first, as it is the motivation for everything we do in the Christian life, is the glory of God. We were created for His glory, we were redeemed for His glory. What this means is to put God on display, to put His attributes in a very radiant, shining way and display. So we are to do that, we are to be the light of the world, shining the glory of God, but a church that will not confront sin does not shine with the glory of God, does not glorify God. And so we do church discipline so that we can glorify God.
The Possible Repentance and Final Salvation of the Sinner
The second motivation is the possible repentance and the final salvation of the sinner in question. "Hand this man over to Satan so that his flesh may be destroyed and his spirit saved in the day of the Lord." Final salvation, that's the goal, and that is the hope. And it's interesting, it seems many scholars believe that the same one that was disciplined, expelled from membership, was urged by Paul later in 2 Corinthians 2 to be welcomed back into church fellowship. Show your love to him, extend forgiveness to him, be kind to him and welcome him back in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we're not unaware of his schemes. That's amazing. So it's kind of like Paul's saying, "Hand him over to Satan, and then when he repents, get them back from Satan." And here we see that Satan's working both sides of the equation on this issue of church discipline, generally works on the church to be lax and lazy and indolent about sin issues, and not do church discipline, and not deal with it at all. But if the church will do discipline, it's going to push the church to become legalistic, and harsh, and unloving.
Think of that individual there in Corinth, he's repented, he's grieved, he's brokenhearted, he trusts in Jesus, loves him, but he's got no church that will welcome him in because there was only one church then. And that would be very much to Satan's purpose to say effectively to that individual, "You have committed the unforgivable sin, you're cast out forever; there's no hope for you." Now, what effect would that have on the whole church of those that hadn't crossed the line yet? They're all into a legalistic works vision of the Christian life, and that's exactly what Satan wants. In order that Satan might not outwit us, welcome him back and be gracious to him. So that's the hope.
Practically speaking, what that means is somebody is excommunicated; though you don't socialize with them, you should evangelize, you should reach out spiritually, treat him as you would a pain or tax collector would be. You're going to share the gospel, you're going to be appealing through the word of God to this individual. And as I mentioned, many times in Baptist churches, the individual would be encouraged to come on Sunday morning. We open our Sunday mornings to everybody to come. We want them to hear the word of God, we want them to drink in the word. And then many times in Baptists past, the individuals would repent and come back, and you had the chance to observe their life before that happened, and then it's like, "Yeah, they brought forth fruit and keeping the repentance, they're back in." And so that's the healthy practicality.
The Protection of the Church from the Internal Spread of Sin
The third motive is the protection of the church from internal sin. Even if motive number two never happens, you still have done good, a good work in the life of the church. And that is you protected the church from the spread, the contagion of evil. It's like a disease that spreads, like yeast that works through the whole lump, and if you don't deal with it, it's going to spread. And so we've at least protected the church from thinking that sin is okay.
The Restoration of Unity in the Church
A fourth motivation is the restoration of the unity of the church, and that is sin has a rending effect, it rips families apart, rips individuals, there's anger and frustration and all that. When sin is dealt with biblically, that can be healed, the rupturing that sin causes can be healed, and they can maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace by dealing directly and helpfully with sin.
The Reputation of the Church and of the Lord in the Community
And the fifth is the reputation of the church and ultimately of the Lord in that community. This was a scandalous sin, it was reported, people knew about it. If the church didn't deal with it then the church would lose its reputation as salt and light, it would lose its power to call sinners to repent from their sin and cross over into Christ's kingdom. And Christ Himself, His reputation would be harmed, as it says in Romans 2:24, "God's name is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you." And so those are the five motivations we talked about last time for church discipline.
III. Common Objections and Issues with Church Discipline
Now I want to talk about some common objections and issues that come up with church discipline. And last week I mentioned that the American church context, in our context, most churches have basically forsaken the practice of church discipline. A LifeWay survey showed... They surveyed pastors, and more than 80% of the pastors that they surveyed said that their churches had disciplined no church member in the last year, 80% had done no church discipline at all. More than half of those same pastors actually hadn't heard of anyone that had done any church discipline. In their realm, in their network, they didn't know anyone that did. Half of the pastors hadn't even heard of it being done. 55% of the pastors said that no member of any of the churches they had ever pastored had been disciplined, so not just the last year, in their entire career as pastors, a little more than a half of them said we've never done this, ever. The pastors almost universally admitted that this was a topic that was almost never discussed at all.
“It’s Not Loving”
So why don't churches do this? And we talked about a number of these reasons last time, but the number one thing that we bumped into right away when we sought to proceed in really a clear church discipline case was we were told that it was unloving. Well, we're supposed to love one another, this is not loving. Seemed harsh. But let me give you a medical analogy. Imagine you saw somebody with the symptoms of a possibly fatal disease, and they were unaware of their condition. Would it not be actually unloving to not address it, to not talk about it, to not say, "Hey, I see something in your skin, and I know enough to know that you ought to go get this looked at." Or "I see something in your eyes, or something in your mannerisms, there's something that you've got a serious medical issue." How could it be loving to say nothing, I'm just not getting involved. It's even worse if that condition is highly contagious. So that even if they don't have any interest in getting any med... What about their family, the people that are around them? You should show some love to them and address it.
But the idea, we're just not going to get involved, I think that people who argued that church discipline is unloving invariably are underestimating the danger and damage of sin. Greatly underestimating sin, that's why. And so they also have a wrong idea of what love is, but that's just one of many arguments that people make.
Chuck Lawless listed Twelve Reasons Churches Don’t Practice Church Discipline
My friend Chuck Lawless, who's a professor at Southeastern, wrote an article on 12 reasons that churches don't practice church discipline. I'm not going to go through an articulation of each of these, but it was a helpful list.
First, he said, they don't know the Bible's teaching on discipline. They just have never heard it. Nobody's ever walked through 1 Corinthians 5, or Matthew 18. So they don't even know that it's there.
Secondly, they've never seen it done before, they have no pattern set up in their lives, they just don't even think this is part of a healthy church life.
Thirdly, they don't want to appear judgmental. Jesus said, "Judge not, lest you be judged. And yet, right here in the passage at the end, Paul says, "Are you not to judge those inside the church? God will judge those outside." So there's some judging you must do and some you must not do and you just need to be discerning which is Which.
Fourthly, the church has a wide open front door policy. This would be in the vernacular here, down in the south. Y'all come. I'm not going to do that often, but from time to time. I'm never going to say "All y'all. I'm never going to get to that point, but I've heard it said, and I think I understand what it means. But the idea is we welcome anybody and everybody and that's fine, to worship. It's fine Sunday morning, but they're talking about even membership. It's just an openness to membership. Anybody can come in. They're not discerning at all. So they have very low expectations of church membership. They're not serious about their covenant. They're not serious about the new member process. You could join the church right there on Sunday come forward. They read your name and you're in, they vote you in.
Fifthly, they've had a bad experience with church discipline in the past. It wasn't handled properly. It was done harshly or not biblically and so or maybe not just done it all and they weren't ready to accept it.
Six. The church is afraid to open a Pandora's Box. They fear it's a slippery slope and there's no way to... When does it end? Am I going to get voted out if, such and such? And we'll talk about that at the end of the sermon, how we address sin at a multifaceted level. No, we don't wheel out ex-communication for everything. Not at all, but they just think it's Pandora's Box, we're in a slippery slope. We're never going to get all this figured out.
Seventh. They have no guidelines for discipline. They don't know what to do, how to go about it.
Eighth. They fear losing members and dollars. Now, I don't know everything about the history of our church, but I do know this church regularly practiced church discipline at the end of the 19th century, and regularly did not from the 1930s on. And you may ask why, and I don't know why, but I'd have a guess. And I think it has to do with the building that we're all in here today. It was expensive and built on borrowed money, and then, that was in 1927, and then in 1929, the stock market crashed, and they still owed money. And many churches had to foreclose, but this church had an intense subscription list in terms of finances and made significant sacrifices financially. But one thing I'm just noting is, from around then on no church discipline. Also I noted no church planting either. Those two things stopped from that point. And you can kind of see why, financial conservativism. Want to protect the church's resources. So if you do church discipline you might lose members and money.
Number nine. Their vision of Christianity is individualized and privatized. It's just me and Christ. I don't really, I barely even need to know, I barely even need the church. You can get all kinds of good preaching and stream it right to your devices. Why would I even need to go? And so people are very individualized about their Christianity, very privatized and they don't have a corporate vision the way they need to.
As I've already said, number ten. They fear being legalistic. They use that word regularly. They use legalistic.
And number eleven. They hope for transfer growth, and this is how it works. The person will grow when they transfer out of our church. So let some other church deal with it. The problem is other churches don't know about it, because they don't ask questions. One of the questions we ask at new members interviews, Are you under any disciplinary proceeding with another local church? Often like a foreign language to the people we talk to, because they don't even know what we're talking about. But then educated people would know what they're talking about.
And then twelve, Leaders are sometimes dealing with their own sin issues, and so they don't want to be hypocritical just in their own lives, and so they're held back from being faithful in this area.
The Most Common Sin Addressed: Forsaking Assembling Together
Well, what kinds of things get disciplined? Well, the first church discipline case of the type we're talking about here, excommunication, that happened in my 20 years here, happened a few years into my ministry here. And it had to do with a very tragic scenario, of a woman who had met another man, and was in the process of leaving her husband and her children for this other man, and numbers of people went to confront this individual, many godly women went to talk to her, but she was adamant and entrenched and angry. And actually got to the point where she said that she was going to call the authorities if any more FBC people came to her door. Kind of like a universal restraining order for anyone at FBC, I don't know if that's even legal, but those were the thoughts in her mind. She didn't want any more contact from the church, and that's when we had to deal with whether it's loving or not. And so, we had to address it. Filled with grief, Paul told them to put out of fellowship the one who did this. It was sad. And we kept praying for her repentance, even for years after. And we've lost track of this family. They're not part of the church, either one now.
However, such cases are rare, by far, by far the most common church discipline action we've taken has to do with Covenant members who stop attending Sunday morning worship. That's by far. Now sometimes, we don't actually even know where they are. We've lost touch with them or they don't return our calls, but they're just not here. And so that is a very important issue for us as elders. We generally follow the, if there's smoke, there's fire approach. If you stop attending worship, and you're able-bodied. Now, keep that in mind. I'm not saying you're a shut-in, homebound, I'm talking about you're out at work during the week, playing golf on Saturday, or shopping or something like that, but you're just not making it to church on Sunday. Something's up and we just want to find out what's happening, want to ask questions, want to bring them back to a healthy involvement in not forsaking the assembling of themselves together. We want them to be involved in the life of the church. By far, that's been the most common thing that we've voted people out for. But again, it's always after a process of trying to win them back in.
The elders consistently go over our membership list. We consistently, as we have elder meetings, we ask, Are there any problems? Are any indications of difficulty? We actually just don't have time to talk about members that are doing well. And we'll talk more about that in a moment, but we're looking for early indicators of some changes in the person's life, so that we can nip something in the bud. That's how we shepherd.
IV. “We Will Watch Over One Another in Brotherly Love” (Heb. 3:12-13)
Alright. Now I want to turn our attention to the key concept, and that is, we will watch over one another in brotherly love. And I'd like to ask that you turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 3, 12, and 13. Those of you that have been through the new member process know how important this text is for us. The commitment we have to watch over one another in brotherly love, we take first and foremost, to mean spiritually, not physically. We're not saying that we don't care about each other physically, we do, but we care very much how people's walks with the Lord is going, and this is a key text for us. Hebrews 3:12-13. It says this, "See to it brothers that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God, but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:1213.
We believe this is probably the number one answer to the question, "Why should you be a covenant member of a healthy local church the rest of your life until you die?" And the answer simply is to protect yourself from your own sinfulness, to get the help you need in reference to your own internal sin nature. That's why. There are many other reasons, but that's the number one reason. We all have indwelling sin. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 7, "The very thing I hate, I do. The thing that I want to do, I do not do. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it's no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." And so we want help with that.
The Great Danger: Apostasy
Now, if you look at verse 12, the great danger here is generally called, apostasy. Verse 12, "A sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." That's what we're dealing with. Do you see it there in verse 12? Hebrews 3:12. The danger is that we would turn away from following Christ and that we would go into a life of open rebellion. That's apostasy. Now, if any one of you thinks that could never happen to you, you don't know your own heart, and frankly, you don't know the inroads Satan and sin has already made into your heart. You should absolutely think this could happen to me, if the Lord doesn't hold. As the hymn we sang earlier in, Come Thou Fount, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love." Every one of us who knows our own hearts knows that that is true. We have to be tethered to Christ because we are so prone to wander.
Well, how does it happen? How does a person who professes faith in Christ later turn away from the living God, having a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God? Well, verse 13 tells us the mechanism. They have become hardened by sin's deceitfulness. That's how it happens. We are progressively hardened by sin's deceitfulness; Verse 13. Temptation and sin are exceedingly deceitful. They do not tell us the truth about their basic nature, what they intend. Sin doesn't knock on the door of your heart and when you open up and look at it, say, "Hello, I'm sin and I'm here to destroy your world. I'm here to steal, and kill, and destroy. I'm here to take everything from you that you value. I'm here to take away your family, your wife, your children. I'm here to take away your possessions. I'm here to take away your job. I'm here to take away your reputation in the community. I'm here to take away your sense of peacefulness in your own heart and your joy in life. I'm here to take away your health, and I would like to take away your very life and your soul." And that's what sin intends, but sin doesn't do that, it deceives. It lies to us. It promises rewards of pleasure.
Furthermore, it talks about being hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Remember I said, "I got your back." Means I've got you at your blind spot. Well, we all have blind spots, and so, sin's deceiving in ways we don't see. And it has a hardening effect on our hearts. What that means is the heart being hardened is less submissive to God. It's less yielded. It's hard when the Holy Spirit speaks. We don't listen anymore. We don't hear Him speaking anymore. It's exactly the same I think of being stiff-necked. I think it's just different words for the same thing. Stiff neck, equals hard-hearted. It means you're not yielded. We're like the seed in the soils. It's like the seed that hits the concrete pavement. There's no yieldedness. And so, sin's deceitfulness gradually hardens our hearts. What happens is things that we were aghast at and shocked at in others or even in ourselves early on, the more that we are involved in them, little by little they're not so shocking anymore. We become callous and unfeeling. Furthermore, then we don't hear the still small voice of the Lord through the Holy Spirit calling us to prayer, calling us to the Word, calling us to patterns of obedience. We're not listening anymore, because we don't really hear him. We became hard of hearing.
Sin's deceitfulness, and our minds become more and more worldly. We're thinking about worldly things more, about the pleasures of this world, and the entertainments of this world, and the possessions of this world. And after a while, we have developed a sinful heart of unbelief that's heading toward turning away from the living God, that's how it happens. Alright, so what's the remedy? Well, the remedy here in this text is the church. There are the remedies I've already talked about, but here I'm focusing on the church. See to it brothers that none of you has this happening in their lives. So were supposed to see to it. It's literally see, look, so open your eyes.
Now, I believe the eyesight of the soul is faith. So by faith, see what's happening, but also physically, what's happening physically in their lives. What's going on. See. Now, above all the elders are called to do this. One of the words for elders in the Greek is overseers. Those that are seeing from above. It doesn't mean that they're better than anyone else, but they're up on a hill, like a shepherd, looking down on the flock to see who's wandering.
The Elders: Those Who Must Give an Account
And so, the author to Hebrew says, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, they keep watch over your souls, like those who must give an account." So we have to give an account for the folk. And so, that's elders are definitely supposed to watch over one another in brotherly love, but we're just all supposed to do it. So we see it and we're going to watch and we're going to see if there are new habit patterns. Is someone drifting, drifting in their lives? Are there new patterns that are hurting them? We're going to see that none of us has a sinful unbelieving heart, not one of us. We don't want to lose anybody, and so there's that mutual shepherding. So we're going to see that. And then the remedy is encourage one another daily as long as it is called today.
Now, be at peace. We're not advocating daily church right now. But we can encourage without being a church. Now, the word encourage is a very beautiful Greek word also used to speak of the counselor, the comforter, the Holy Spirit in John 14, and the one called alongside to help. But it's a multi-faceted word, sometimes translated encourage, sometimes exhort, sometimes warn or admonish, different things for this word. We're supposed to do that for each other, speak to each other, talk about it with each other. And it says daily, so that's day by day by day. There's such a theology of today. Today, if you hear His voice don't harden your heart. So the today, talk to each other, today. So we can get on the phone with each other, we can text each other, we can hang out with each other during the week, but we do this for each other. And watch each other's life pattern and say, What's going on in so and so's life that could be causing them spiritual trouble? It it prosperity? Maybe some success? Money? Power? Or maybe it's the opposite? Scarcity, maybe they lost their job and they're in financial straits.
Okay. We've got a physical need, but what's going on spiritually? Could this be a temptation that's causing them to drift? Or maybe a medical need? They're afflicted medically, alright, that's their physical condition. What's going on in their hearts? Are they continuing to be healthy with Christ through that affliction or not? Keep in mind, and this is so important, remember how Jesus said to Simon Peter when he knew exactly what Peter was going to do that night? Remember, the night before Jesus was crucified, He said this, "Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you... " Plural. "All of you like wheat. But I've prayed for you Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus is the right hand of God, and is interceding for us that our faith will not fail. So that's how we should watch over one another in brotherly love. That so-and-so's faith will not fail. That they'll continue to love Jesus and walk with Jesus through this trial. That's how it works. That's how we should pray for each other and minister to each other.
V. A Toolbox for Skillfully Dealing with Sin
Now, as we close, I want to talk about the multi-faceted response we should have to sin. And I gave you a bulletin insert, probably should have projected on the screens as well, but I'm so old school. I'm still learning to use technology. Please don't tell my alma mater anything about that. It's terrible. One of the biggest misunderstandings about church discipline is that we will excommunicate people for minor infractions. Friends, we will not excommunicate people for minor infractions. What we want is we want an appropriate response to differing situations. Now, church discipline always has to do with sin, the threat of sin, always. So the approach is that we should use the minimum amount of interaction needed to bring someone to repentance. Don't wheel out the heavy artillery when it's not needed. So around the time that I was writing a chapter on church discipline, I was also building a tree house. It was a ridiculous thing, but I love it, and it's just how it is, and I enjoyed building it.
And as I was thinking about church discipline, I was thinking about the different tools I used to build the tree house. And I noticed that I used four different hammers. I used an 8lb maul, like a sledgehammer, to drive the ridge pole, the roof ridge, the 2 x 10 in place. I was whanging on that thing, and I never used the maul again, that was it. Then I had a 28oz framing hammer that was longer than your average hammer. It was really heavy, and I got really strong in my right hand forearm, it got to be very big, as I was driving those big spikes in the platform and the other things, the frame. Then the third hammer I used was a more ordinary looking hammer, a 16oz hammer. When you think of a hammer, you probably think of that. And the last hammer I used was a tack hammer, which was just 5oz, and it was tap, tap, tap, tap with these tiny little nails for the molding around the windows. I'm just going to use the right hammer for the right job.
Now, it occurred to me as I was driving in this morning. Friends, we're not talking about hammering people. You do realize that. I didn't realize till today what a terrible illustration this is, but I got to go with it now, alright. So we're talking about addressing sin in each other's lives, we're not talking about hammering people. That's exactly what we're not saying. We're trying to use the minimum amount of influence or force to bring someone to repentance, that's the desire. Why would we do that? Look at Jesus in Matthew 18, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you." It's interesting, isn't it? Let's keep the circle of knowing. Now it's a different kind of sin than in 1 Corinthians 5. But that's how we get the idea of keeping the circle of knowledge small, keeping the amount of force, or whatever is needed to bring the person to repentance.
Alright, take a look at the insert now. And across the top there are four headings. Member condition, spiritual danger, proper response and scriptural support. So the idea is, What's going on in the life of the member? Okay? In every case, there's a danger with that person, that has to do with sin. What would be the words the New Testament translations tend to use to address that? There's a lot of words that're supposed to do with each other. And you'll see them listed there, and then there's scriptural support behind them that you can look up later. I'm not going to go to the cross-references. So first, the member condition, the member is living fruitfully. I already told you we don't spend a lot of time at elder's meetings talking about those in this condition. We're glad they're living fruitfully, but it doesn't mean you don't care about them. The danger is that they'll stop living fruitfully. We want them to continue to do it.
And so there's a number of words that I would give would be, encourage or praise. You should praise brothers and sisters that are doing well as Epaphroditus was praised in Philippians 2. We should say like in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, "You're doing this, now we ask you to do it more and more…" so I see this already at work, in you. Let's do it more and more." So that's praise. And I praised you folks last week for being the kind of church that doesn't fight on church discipline. You want to do it just as long as it's done biblically and faithfully. So I praise you for that, let's just do it more and more. So, that's encouragement and praise. Second member condition is, lacking information. So that'll be somebody that just is ignorant of doctrine. They don't know key verses that are relevant to their situation. The biblical response then would be a teaching ministry, an instruction ministry. This is what some people call, formative church discipline, as opposed to punitive church discipline. Formative goes ahead of the sin and heads it off at the pass by giving you a good biblical instruction and what not to do or what to do.
So you teach people like that, teach them the Word of God, so that they will not sin in the future. Okay, the third member condition is, the need to get moving, to get up off the dime, to get off square zero, okay? The problem here is laziness or neglect, sins of omission, through just not being active as you should be in a certain area. All of us tend to do that. We know what we should be doing, but we're not doing it. You don't need any more instruction. You already know, but you're not doing it. So what verbs would the New Testament use? There you would go to, exhort. Or spur on. I love that, spur one another on toward loving good deeds. Think of an old western, that round piece of metal with the sharp edges to encourage the horse to get going. So the horse is encouraged, or spurred on toward moving. And so the author uses this. Let's spur one another on toward love and good deeds. That's what we should do. So you exhort. Come on, let's go, let's move. You urge.
Fourth member condition is somebody going through a trial. They're going through difficulties. They're going through afflictions. And the danger, spiritual danger for them, is discouragement men or depression. So the Biblical words there would be comfort or console that person. Mourn with those who mourn, be with them, don't be Job's friends, judging the person, get alongside them and love them and get them through the trial. Member condition could be starting to go astray. They're starting to go in a decisively sinful direction, but they've just begun to go in that direction. You're really trying to nip the sin in the bud. It's a new sin pattern. The New Testament uses words like, warn, admonish. The word, admonish or correct. So you give the warning there. Many verses speak of this. What about somebody that's determined to wander? You've already warned them, and they just keep on doing it. Well, there you get into the biblical word we see frequently, rebuke, but rarely do. What is a rebuke but a verbal spanking basically. Strong rebuke, like Jesus to Peter, "Get behind me Satan." That's a rebuke.
So it's a very strong word. I'm not saying you should say, "Get behind me Satan." To somebody who needs to be rebuked. But what I'm saying is, it's a serious thing and you really want to wake them up to the danger. The word rebuke is used. And then finally, stubborn and repentance. Or you could say notorious and egregious sin. That's where Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 would be different. And that's where you bring out excommunication. Does that make sense? So there's just different levels of addressing sin in the life of the church.
Now, as I finish, I just want to say, as I did in my prayer, I know that not... I don't know this, but I assume that not all of you are born again, not all of you are Christians and not all of you members of a healthy church. This has been for church members. If you walked in here this morning, not yet born again, this is not what you need. What you need is to repent of your sins universally and turn to Christ. Christ is the savior for sins. He's a savior for sinners just like you and me, and all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And there is only one Savior. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven, given to men, by which we must be saved. Turn to Christ. Trust in Christ, and then once that's happened, get water baptized and join a healthy church like this one, where you can receive the benefits of people who will know you and you'll know them.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time that we've had these two weeks to look at details of church discipline. We thank you for the array of responses that we can have as members to other people's sins. Father, I pray that you would strengthen us to do our duty in each other's lives. Help us to be faithful. Help us to care enough, to care enough about how others are doing, to get close to them and be effective through the Holy Spirit in bringing them to repentance. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.