Discipline is a preventative and corrective training process. The preventative process is a
personal exercise, enabled by the grace of God, when you devote yourself to the local church
assembly, to the studying of God’s Word, to prayer, and to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. In the
preventative process, God disciplines because He loves us and it is for our good so that we can share in
His holiness and produce the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:3-11). It is a lifestyle of repentance and
faith as we are trained to follow our Lord Jesus Christ.
The corrective process happens only when a person moves from the preventative training
process. This is usually demonstrated when someone is in an unrepentant condition who is practicing
sin and not wanting to change (Matt 18:15-17). This is when someone’s conduct does not align with
their confession of Jesus Christ; i.e., they have moved from His domain of leadership. Jesus
commanded us to go to our brother like going to the straying sheep who has left the safety of its fold.
It becomes the responsibility of another brother to gently and humbly discuss this matter in private for
the sake of winning them from their destructive sinful lifestyle (Gal 6:1). If in the corrective process
there is no repentance then Jesus gives further steps in dealing with the unrepentant person.
The final step in church discipline is when the church excludes the unrepentant person from
their fellowship (Matt 18:17). The church has the God given authority to treat this person as a Gentile
or tax collector; an unbeliever needing salvation. This delegated authority is seen in the words
“whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth
shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt 18:18). This is the authority of the “keys of the kingdom”
(Matt 16:19) that represents the inclusion of anyone into or exclusion of anyone from the domain
where Christ, the Son of the Living God reigns; i.e., His church on earth. If someone confesses to
know Jesus Christ and does not live in accordance to the standard that is delineated in the Bible then
the church has the authority to declare that their conduct is like an unbeliever. The unrepentant person
is living like they belong to another master or ruler.
Therefore, the church has the right to exclude this individual from the church which represents Jesus’
rule and kingdom on earth. If the person repents then the church also has the right to include them back
into that realm. When a church “binds or looses” it is reflecting the very will of God in heaven. The church
is aligning herself with God not the other way around. The church’s decision must be in accordance
with the will and Word of God. When the church breaks from the authority of the Bible then it no longer is
operating under God’s authority.
Sovereign Grace Fellowship observes church discipline for the following purposes. First, we
do church discipline because we love Jesus Christ. Jesus said that if we love Him then we will obey
Him (John 14:15). Second, we do church discipline to correct an unrepentant brother (Matt 18:15).
The love of Christ compels us to win our sinning brother from their destructive practice of sin. Third,
we do church discipline to maintain the purity of the church, the body of Jesus Christ (1Cor 5:7-8).
This purity is to be demonstrated in our orthodoxy, right beliefs, and in our orthopraxy, right practice
or conduct. The church is not allowed to tolerate or accept wrong beliefs and wrong behavior. If
tolerated then it would spread throughout His body and render the church ineffective. Fourth, we
do church discipline to learn the fear of God (Heb 12:4; 1Tim 5:19-20; Acts 5:5, 11). The fear of God
helps us not to sin against Him. Fifth, we do church discipline for the glory of God. We exist for His
glory and that means that the church is to reflect the character of God. The church is God’s representative
on earth. Church discipline is God’s instrument or the church so that the world will understand the beauty of
Hisholiness (Heb 12:10; 1Pet 1:16; Eph 5:27). We are to be holy like He is holy!