Discipline in the Church

There are certain perils which threaten the doctrine and purity of the Church. The pastoral epistles in particular are full of warnings against false teachers. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that after his departure grievous wolves would come in, not sparing the flock, and that from within, men would arise teaching perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30.

The attack would be twofold—from without and within. In the pastoral epistles Paul describes various forms of departure from God.

1 Timothy 1:19—Shipwreck. This was the result of being unstable and badly taught. The context shows that this was erroneous teaching regarding the resurrection which led to blasphemy.

1 Timothy 4:12—The cauterized conscience. This was the result of apostasy from the faith, the work of seducing spirits and doctrine of demons.

1 Timothy 5:8—Denial of the faith. The believer who neglects to provide for his own house is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:12—Cast away their first faith. These are people who have lost their first love, consequently their joy in the Lord. They fill the vacuum by being idle in God’s work, this leads to excessive visitation with friends ending in the disreputable condition of being busybodies, tattlers, gossips, and talebearers.

1 Timothy 6:10—These have erred or wandered from the faith. This error would be found in the business world. This is one of the tools of the devil today. Many a bright and promising young Christian has wandered from the faith in their realm.

1 Timothy 6:21—Erred concerning the faith. Missed the mark. Intellectualism is a cancer which is eating at the vitals of the Christian faith.

Notice the spheres that these errors operate in: domestic, social, business, intellectual.

As well as describing the errors to expect, Paul also instructs Timothy and Titus as to the methods of dealing with the false teachers and their doctrines. There are at least four instances of discipline in these epistles.

1. Excommunication—1 Timothy 1:19-20. Paul singles out two men whom he had to put away from assembly fellowship. Their sin was that of blasphemy. If the Hymenaeus of 2 Tim. 2:17 is the same person mentioned in 1 Tim. 1:2, then the sin that they were guilty of was teaching that the resurrection was past. They were guilty not only of a grievous doctrinal error but guilty of leading others astray. The way to deal with this was excommunication from assembly fellowship.

Another sin is fornication—1 Corinthians 5. Paul says to the Corinthian church, you have miserably failed in your responsibility, by allowing these persons who practice this sin to remain in fellowship. “Deliver them to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” That is, “put them away from fellowship.”

When known sin is allowed to remain unjudged in an assembly it has a corrupting affect on the whole. V. 7—“Purge out the old leaven.”

Now look at verse 11. While I believe that this verse primarily governs our social life, I also believe that it has an indirect bearing on assembly fellowship. We are instructed not to eat/socialize with people who practice:

1. Fornication—illicit sex relations

2. Covetous persons—a person guilty of excessive greed

3. Idolater—one who is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God

4. A railer—a person with a foul tongue, a slanderer, abusive.

5. A drunkard

6. An extortioner—swindler, one who robs people

These sins are some of the reasons why Paul says, “Let a man examine himself.” These sins then would debar the people who practice them from fellowship. Now here is a timely warning. If any time anyone brings an accusation against a brother or a sister in fellowship, he had better be sure that his facts are right, because if they are not they could be guilty of the sin of “railing” which in turn would require the elders to act.

2. Open Rebuke—1 Timothy 5:20. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” This also is a serious step. Discipline of this nature should never be carried out in a hurry, and only carried out after much exercise and prayer. The word “rebuke” means to convict, and to put to shame. The sin has to be such as would affect the public testimony. I take it also that responsible brethren have attempted in a private way to instruct this sinning believer, but their admonitions have gone unheeded hence the public rebuke.

3. Silencing the unruly and vain talker—Titus 1:10-11. Unruly means that this person will not submit to any authority. Vain talkers are those who talk but do not accomplish anything, their testimony or preaching is useless and afflicts God’s people. Paul says, “Their mouths must be stopped.” That is, something must be put in their mouths, a gag or muzzle. The man, then, who afflicts an assembly with unprofitable ministry who is on his feet at every opportunity, who by his actions stifles the true ministry of the Holy Spirit, and drives people away, has to be muzzled or gagged.

4. The faction maker—Titus 3:10-11. The heretic here is not so much the dispenser of erroneous doctrine as the man who divides the assembly because of his one-sided interpretation of scripture, and his presence of superior faithfulness to the Word. Paul warns the Roman church “to mark them who cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them, for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own flesh; and by goad words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18.

The divider of the Saints has to be warned twice. If these admonitions fail, then he is to be rejected. The nature of the teaching and the seriousness of the circumstances would determine the action to be taken.

Disciplinary measures is the work of the whole assembly rather than the elders alone.

The reception policy.

The headship of Christ.

Gen. 24—Rebecca “covered herself.”

Isa. 6—Seraphim, each of them had 6 wings, with two they flew and with the remaining four they covered themselves.

The point in view is “subjection.”

v. 7—the man does not wear a covering because he is the “glory of God.” The woman who is the “glory of man” is exhorted to be covered. In obeying God’s command she not only covers “man’s glory” but also covers her “personal glory.”