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    "You are really cool you are married to an European!! How cooler can you be??"
    Fisherman Pecheur

    "Smarty Pants"
    Mad Matt

    "Oh, you did not ask for Bonhoeffer's opinion did you? You wanted mine..."
    the SOFYST

    "You are like the master at this "feelings" stuff!
    Kind Kristi

    "I enjoy your comments, but they are always delightfully enigmatic"
    Dyspraxic Fundamentalist

Monday, April 17, 2006

Church Discipline – One or two witnesses, those who are spiritual and the Church

In the case of a personal offense the qualifier for further action is “if he will not hear thee” (Mat. 18:16). That is not determined by verbal descent but by a repetition of the offense. If the offender verbally rejects your complaint but then desist in the offense it’s obvious he’s heard you and there’s no need for further action but what about someone who appears to repent but persist in the offense? Most of us want to believe our brother when they agree with us so this type of violation is doubly offensive. In either case if a brother persists in an offense then we’re obligated to go to him once more seeking restoration but this time with one or two witnesses.

These witnesses have only one responsibility. They are to witness the exchange between you and your brother and they are not to interfere. Remember this is a personal issue and the more people who become involved the less likely the situation will be resolved between you. The quality of their testimony is in direct proportion to their standing in the assembly. Wisdom would dictate that these witnesses be of good report in the congregation and must certainly be impartial. While the scripture does not specify it may be best that these witnesses be elders in the assembly. The rules of engagement are identical to the first confrontation and the goal and the purpose are the same. Even the results should be judged using the same criteria. The only difference is in the fact that these brethren have witnessed the exchange and they are aware of the situation and they should concur should further action be requested.

In the case of a general offense there is not a specification concerning the number involved but the criteria for these should be no different. There is however, special emphasis placed on the fact that they should be “spiritual” or certain of their own standing in and relationship with Christ and the assembly. The goal in this act is the same as with a personal offense, that the erring brother be restored. This act is not a reprimand. Neither should it be considered a formal act of the assembly. It is a plea to a brother to mend his ways made by those who love him and should be approached as such. The results should be judged as described previously.

It is hard to imagine that after all this a brother would persist in an offense but the Lord made allowance for those that would. “The Church” is to be informed and “the Church” is to charge him to cease in the offense once more. He still has an opportunity to repent and only after all of this and if he continues in the offense does Jesus then command that he would be to the Church as a heathen and a publican. This action is what is meant by the phrase “removed from fellowship” and is the only authority granted the Church concerning misconduct. It is my opinion that the intent in this instruction is that our attitude toward the offender be very similar to what many call “shunning” and that the person who finds himself in this situation is like the adulterer spoken of in 1st Corinthians 5:1-7.

I hope it is clear by now that the Church is not charged with any punitive responsibilities and that the whole focus in discipline is toward restoration only. I think the next greatest fallacy, with regard to discipline, concerns what constitutes a general offense and I will attempt to address that in the next article on discipline.

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Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

Good thoughts, KC. I can testify to the fact that this biblical method works. I have seen it put to the test on a number of occasions, and very rarely have I ever seen it progress to the third and final step. It is when people want to solve the problem their own way that feelings get hurt and division occurs. God bless you for this series.

4/17/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

If it's all by the spirit and not by the letter... that sounds pretty good. I appreciate a lot about what you're saying. On the other hand, someone who takes this same post and uses it as a "cookbook" or "manual" may possibly or likely be in for a disaster! (Would you agree?)

Am I then correct in assuming that your purpose here is NOT to provide a "manual" for proper procedure, but to describe the biblical instructions in order to emphasize the spirit, heart and purpose of those scriptures?

I do see you emphasizing over and over in these posts that "discipline" is not for "punishment" but for "restoration"; and if that is your main purpose, it is well worth pointing out, and greatly appreciated.

Am I understanding correctly, or is it part of your purpose here to try and outline the "proper procedure" for such things?

Just checking, I think... (?)

4/17/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you."
Deuteronomy 8:5

and this is not done to harm us but to restore our path straight because He loves us.

happy easter, papu!

4/18/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

A hearty "hear, hear" to herobill's cookbook remark.

I just took the family on an impromptu overnighter to Lancaster, PA, the very heart of Amish country. We got into an interesting conversation with the driver of our Amish Buggy Ride, regarding breaking fellowship. She herself, is not Amish, but was simply helping out with her dad's buggy tours business.

Amish people are given free choice whether to join the church. Some, like our driver, do not choose the Amish lifestyle. She is not treated badly, nor despised in any way. However, if she chooses to join the church, and later changes her mind, she is shunned by the community, even her family. They do not speak, eat at the same table, do business, nor allow her into their homes.

Interestingly, there is a grace period, during which the person can repent and come back to the church. But once that time has ended, the shunning is for life.

I couldn't help but notice some of the parallels to our discussions, especially concerning the reconciliatory aims of discipline. I guess the big difference is that an Amish guy can't just hop down the street to First Community Amish Life Center and join another congregation.

4/18/2006 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

The fact that you distinguished between personal and general offenses already helped this whole thing 10 times more clear in my head. I understand it a lot better now.

4/18/2006 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I do think the Church has a purgative reponsibility in that it is to 'Put away that wicked person.'

This is to ensure the purity of the gathering as well as for the offenders benefit.

Every Blessing in Christ


4/18/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Gordon thanks very much for the blessing. I really believe this is important to the welfare of the body.

HB I want to be honest about my intent in this. I believe Christ laid out the proper procedure but that it has been overlooked, abused and misused throughout the centuries by many to usurp His authority. The net effect of this misuse is the general tendency of many today to avoid it altogether for fear it will lead to the same end. This also has had a devastating effect in that sin has been allowed to fester like an open wound in the body. These wounds are so obvious to many of the youngest generation and through a sincere desire for purity are being led captive by those who would control the Church through coercion and intimidation. In essence the pendulum is swinging back toward the dark ages. I am blessed to be able to communicate with some from both sides ad my hope in this is threefold. First that those who tolerate these offenses for grace sake would understand this is not the will of God. Second that those who would judge and condemn others have no authority to do so and are also ignoring the will of God. Third that both sides would know that love is the answer I both cases and we are commanded by Christ to do so.

Pia, thanks for your contribution dear sister and a very happy Easter to you! ;-)

Dorsey I really admire the Amish in many ways though I think they too are divisive in many ways. Your point about concerning the effectiveness of their discipline is what I intended to illustrate to HB in the Arlington/Mobile scenario. One thing I don’t find is that shunning is intended as permanent. I think scripture is clear on forgiveness and unless you’re a severe legalist and keep count past 70 times 7 you probably don’t have a scriptural leg to stand on for that one (hehe).

Kristi your words are so encouraging. I truly hope this series will be a blessing to those who read it and never cause them to stumble.

Matthew, I agree but I think restoration should always be possible. Thanks for your thoughts brother.

4/18/2006 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jayne said...

There seems to be a fine line in all of this. At what point have we crossed that line and now we are judging others actions?

Maybe those that have always known what their path is can handle this better, but for those that are struggling with a path and what they believe, it seems we may have already turned them away.

4/18/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jayne I think the potential for abuse is great and you've made an important point. Self-examination is always the first and most critical step but most believers today are never taught to do so, much less even how because we're afraid to teach it.

I think if we focus on restoration through love then discipline means we struggle together and not alone. If we follow the command as Jesus instructed then those who are struggling will get the support that can only come through the community of faith and even the judgmental believer would be isolated and restored.

I really appreciate you sticking with me through this one.

4/18/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Good post and great job on your series kc.

I glad herobill made the statement he did............I was ready to go to kinkos and start passing out the instructions.............I know alot people that need shunned...........LOL you know I'm just kidding.

anyway, good stuff brother, even though I don't always comment on everything(shock)I read,it has helped me look at this issue in a better light.

I think dorsey should star in national lampoons Amish Vacation.

4/18/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks mi amigo! I'm anxious to see how the rise of Dorceism will affect its founder. Will he be a celebrity or will the doctrine require him to be a martyr? That may be something to consider while there's still time to add another point or two as a failsafe (hehe).

4/18/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

In the interest of the movement, it's probably best to martyr me now before I totally screw up. A little celebrity will ruin me altogether.

Point #18 - If you love me, feed my lambs...to me, preferably broiled with a rosemary & garlic rub, medium rare, finished in a balsamic reduction. Serve with new potatos and a Chimay Grande Reserve Ale, slightly chilled. Mmmmm....

4/18/2006 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

I guess that settles it. Fame, fortune and your own comedy hour! LOL

4/18/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Good post, kc. Excellent points.
I had written a longer comment, but thought it better not to air our church's dirty laundry. Who knows, one of your readers might move to Toledo!

4/18/2006 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Seeker said...

The heathen and the publican need love and a gospel witness.

4/19/2006 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

The whole purpose of church discipline must be spiritual restoration and must be done with great care and love.

I cannot tell you how many churches I've known whose "disciplinary " behavior was condemnatory, legalistic and self-righteous.

The Spirit would never endorse this.

But He would guide us to be kind, firm and purposefully Christlike.

4/19/2006 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

Your infatuation with discipline is beginning to scare me. Perhaps you are a churcho-sadist...HMMM! ;)

I sent you an email. I demand a response immediately. Or else I'll cry to my mommy.

4/19/2006 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Rose, and I pray the problems there are resolved soon. It seems like they can build up to a boiling point whenever there’s an issue that is or becomes more important than the Gospel and I suspect we can all sympathize to one degree or another.

Karen I agree and I appreciate where your heart is on this. The reason I believe that shunning is the requirement in this text is centered on the Jewish social system of the time Christ gave the command. I think He was relating with the way the Jews treated these people in order for the disciples to clearly understand His instruction.

Joe, good thoughts as always. I think the abuse of the past resulted in a backlash of toleration, which in turn is resulting in a backlash of intolerance. May God give us wisdom to accomplish His commands.

Adam, hang around for the next post. There’s sure to be some fireworks! (hehe)

(Corry made me reply to Adam before I was even awake this morning LOL)

4/19/2006 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I think I understand you, KC. It did seem like the purpose of these posts was to illustrate a balanced view in order to show a contrast against some typical extremes. It just seems like it takes so long (and gets so sidetracked) in the laying out of that balanced view that the purpose - to show the contrast - gets a little lost.

But it's interesting to me that Jesus and Paul were just answering questions, in the 70*7 and Corinthian passages. In other words - it looks like they actually hadn't spoken about that before! (Because someone had to ask!) Point: Even if they'd been waiting for someone to ask... even if they HAD a carefully laid out plan in mind, and they just happened to get the opportunity to mention one day...

Neither one spent many words or much time on this topic, even when it did come up.

And yet today, when I hear or see discussion about this (anywhere), most of us are like "but what about... and what if... and what does that mean... and how should we do it..." And maybe that's natural, normal and fine. I don't know.

It's just that I don't think these things can be ironed out and explained perfectly, with words. AND, I don't think they can be lived out perfectly, in life. Both words and action in this area are in desperate need of more SPIRIT and less LOGIC. (I'm speaking in general, not of your posts.)

It doesn't matter how well prepared or studied on these things we are - when we get into it, we ought to fall on the Lord and realize that we're going to handle things imperfectly.

If we have to err, then yes, we err on the side of grace. And yes, that's partly for the sake of past abuses. (We've got a LOT to make up for.) But that grace does NOT EVER include the toleration of sin itself. (Who could ever actually hold such an idea before the Lord?)

His blood has covered our multitude of sins, and our care of one another can make up for lots of human failure. Restoration is for the Lord.

But how do we do such things?

Who ever knows?

It will ALWAYS be a difficult thing, to walk into a tent, backwards, holding a blanket.

4/19/2006 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Wise words HB. I think more than 90% of my time in consideration and discussion is spent trying to get myself away from logical extrapolation and back to original intent. I was thinking about your last thought concerning the difficulty involved. It seems to me that the simplicity in His instruction is almost profound but that our nature constantly presses us toward an extreme perspective. I think the more we focus on the Great Commandments of love the easier it is but it will always be hard to fight our natural tendencies. I totally agree that fight can only be won through the power of God in Jesus Christ.

4/19/2006 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I can certainly say Amen to that!

4/19/2006 02:53:00 PM  

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