Cafe Bethel: 8.22.12
Issues of the heart for future leaders
Text: Matthew 18: 15-20
Humility: How to lead with meekness (earlier)
Church Discipline: how to lead with toughness
Textual: the reason why the text is superior to our own thoughts. Vs. 15. The phrase, "against thee" absent from most manuscripts and this suggests a wider concern than merely personal offenses. Not talking her about personal preferences, or issues of disagreement: no issues in mind here of hair length, music preferences; not dealing with reactions to preaching (he offended me because of what he said in the sermon…)
- Responding to sins of the BODY
- Looking forward to a working church community
- The proper use of church discipline
- The great desire: to create a community whereby there is love, holiness, and unity
A place for excommunication?
The state of a persistent impenitent offender is to become at length to the person he has offended, and to the whole church, one with whom to beheld as non religious, and as little as possible social fellowship.
His religious aspect is expressed by his treatment as a heathen
His social condition is expressed as a publican
Heathens were excluded from the temple and had no parts in Jewish rites. Publicans not excluded from the temple but regarded as social pariahs by all Jews.
A.B. Bruce: " let the impenitent offender be to you what heathen are to all Jews–persons with whom to hold no religious fellowship; and what publicans are to Pharisees –persons to excluded from all but merely unavoidable social intercourse." pg 209
The church is to be viewed as family– a commonwealth, where the concerns of one are the concerns of all. An offense against the consciences of the whole community is an offense against each individual member.
Disjointed spiritual relationships potentially brings spiritual harm to all.
- The offended with his offender (again not preferences driven but son driven).
- Third parties brought in: witnesses/ assistants for the work of reconciliation
- Public discussion of an issue… Whole church
- The spiritual work is tilted toward the attitude of the offender to recognize sin and experience private shame
- It requires the purest of motives by elimination of "all church" tattling. Going to the person directly.
- It curbs resentment by requiring a patient pursuit of offended toward desired course.
- It gives no real encouragement to the "professional weaker brothers", who is "offended" regularly by everyone who does not see life "his" way. The standard here is real charges… Not hearsay– not legalistic axes to grind
The training from Jesus
We should be horrified by the presence of sin in the body and by any person’s sin that has led to church sanctions could become so commonplace and typical that we no longer care. (Freedom schools example).
When we remove the priority of membership in the church from the status of a sacred fellowship with obligations, expectations, and boundaries; when we remove from each one of us the necessity of understanding and appreciating the precious nature of our fellowship in the church, we transform the church into what one person has said, " a hotel, where all kinds of people meet for a short space, sit down together at the same table, then part, neither knowing or caring about each other…" (pg. 211).
The law of love necessitates appropriate church discipline because as a member of a fellowship, I am bound to regard each member in the church as my brother and therefore I am bound to be concerned about his behavior. " I am willing to love you but I cannot be on friendly terms with your sins! … And if you refuse to part from this behavior, and by such require me to become a partaker in them, then I am free from this brotherhood and from the obligation that come with them."
When we reduce the value of our membership in the body we no longer insist on the necessity of Christian virtue that is found in its care.
Let him be as a heathen and a publican. Christ desires his church on earth to closely resemble His church in Heaven.
- To the Faithful: removes the diseased limb that threatens the whole trunk
- To the unfaithful: To retain scandalous members inside a loving fellowship is to damn their souls and exclude them to the greater joys and purities of heaven. Delivering them to the "realm of Satan", is to provide them a "first look" at what he’ll-fire is like: (I Corinthians 5:5).
The Final check
In matters of church discipline, Excesses are certainly possible but laxity is a greater danger.
The reason we often "excuse such spiritual work" is that we too often desire to multiply membership more than righteousness.
The importance of 18:18 is now understood better in the context of real authority of the church. These verses serve the context by reinforcing the actions of a Christ controlled church.
The promise of 18:19-20 is important to men so invested in themselves.
Mark J. CongrovePastor, Bethel Baptist church
facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjcongrove