Vol.XV No.VI Pg.2
August 1978

The Forgotten Command

Robert F. Turner

It would be trite to say authority and discipline are unpopular in current society; and unnecessary to say this spirit has affected the church. Hundreds of churches have existed for years without exercising corrective discipline in a single case — and not because everyone was faithful. Bring up the subject, and brethren tremble because we see trouble at the door.

Why does church discipline have such a reputation? 1) Brethren have not learned to think objectively — to separate personal feelings from principles — to lose self in the greater cause of Christ. 2) Discipline, has been abused, used vindictively (when we wanted to "tell off" someone), or practice majority rule. Or, 3) it has been neglected for so long there is no "easy" place to start. We await some horrible deed that will shock us all — and we are building an immunity to shock. Perhaps some churches have acted to SAVE FACE respecting highly publicized events; or a few may have made a "flag" of disfellowship —proving "soundness" by something akin to martial law; but for the most part we have neglected corrective discipline.

A comparison of Job 36:10, 2 Tim. 1:7, and 2 Tim. 3:16 — in K.J. and A.S. versions, will show discipline and a controlled and instructed mind have much in common. Discipline begins as we present the call of the gospel to an alien. He is "called out of darkness" (1 Pet. 2:9), is taught to crucify the "old man" in obedience to a "form of doctrine" that he might become a "servant of righteousness" (Rom. 6:3-7, 16-18). While not corrective or punitive in the sense of disfellowship, this hedges about and brings into line in a most positive way. If we are careful to explain the cost of discipleship (Lu. 14:26-f) and the necessity forgiving "self" unto the Lord, this initial "discipline" will spare the need for much later correction.

1 Jn. 1:5-7 makes the relation of discipline to fellowship very obvious. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie..." The means of forgiveness, hence of fellowship with God, is provided by Christ; but my forgiveness, my fellowship is contingent upon my walking in the light. This involves a humble walk, ever acknowledging my inadequacy, my need for Him. ("If we confess ...he is faithful and just to forgive" v. 9.)

Church discipline, properly viewed, is a part of the mutual assistance we should expect among Christians in our effort to walk in fellowship with God.