Although in recent decades the biblical expectation of church discipline has fallen on hard times, there is a renewed understanding of its importance and practice among those whose desire for a faithful church is greater than their desire for a popular church. This is one of many reasons I’m so thankful for the ministry of 9Marks which, of course, derives its name from Mark Dever’s book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. While re-reading the book the past few weeks, as part of our inaugural pastoral internship at the church where I serve, I sensed it would be helpful to pass on to you the five reasons Mark gives for this oft-neglected, but necessary practice. I will cite only the reason and its supporting Scripture. There is more explanation, of course, in the book.
- For the Good of the Person Discipline (1 Cor. 5:1-5; Gal. 6:1; 1 Tim. 1:20).
- For the Good of the Other Christians, as They See the Danger of Sin (1 Tim. 5:20).
- For the Health of the Church as a Whole (1 Cor. 5:6-8).
- For the Corporate Witness of the Church (Matt. 5:16; John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 5:1; 1 Pet. 2:12).
- For the Glory of God, as We Reflect His Holiness (Eph. 5:25-27; Heb. 12:10-14; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; 2:9-12; 1 Jn 3:2-3).
It is also crucial to remember that corrective discipline must take place within the context of a church that also practices positive, formative discipline, which is “the stake that helps the tree grow in the right direction, the braces on the teeth, the extra set of wheels on the bicycle.” Therefore, as Mark wraps up his chapter on this topic, he gives the following admonition which is rooted in love.
We need to live lives that back up our professions of faith. We need to love each other. We need to hold each other accountable because all of us will have times when our flesh wants to go in a way different than what God has revealed in Scripture. And part of the way we love each other is by being honest and establishing relationships with each other and speaking in love to each other. We need to love each other and we need to love those outside our church whom our witness affects; and we need to love God, who is holy, and who calls us not to bear His name in vain, but to be holy as He is holy. That’s a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility.
Another recommended resource is the article A Biblical Theology of Church Discipline by Bobby Jamieson.