Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Church Discipline and Evangelism

Sounds like two unrelated topics, doesn't it. But they're not.

Actually, the issue of Church discipline, and the willingness to exercise it, is related to the saving nature of one's own faith.

Don't think so? Please turn to Hebrews 12:15. This chapter, of course, follows an entire chapter dealing with the nature of saving faith. Chapter 12 is a chapter that starts with "therefore", which points back to chapter 11. So, chapter 12 is telling us the practical outworking of what real faith is as shown by "the cloud of witnesses" who demonstrated saving faith to us.

And the key word is obedience.

Who is it that is turned away by the Lord in Matthew 7:21 and following? Simple. Those who "practice lawlessness"; literally, those who act as if God never gave them anything to obey. And that, by necessity, includes the command to do church discipline.

Hebrews 12;15 tells us to "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God..." This exhortation, as has been shown, is given in the context of the working of true faith. So, in other words, if you are saved, you will see to it that others who may think they are saved aren't merely deceived.

Matthew 18 tells us about church discipline. And church discpline, properly done, is a part of a last ditch evangelistic effort. The scriptures are plain that real Christians obey God. Oh, we may stumble around, but when confronted with the truth of God's Word, if we refuse it, we betray what we really are. And that is the thrust of what Jesus had to say about this topic. If a person is living contrary to biblical principles, confront them. If they repeatedly don't turn, they are to be cast from the fellowship. Why? Revenge? No. Rather because as long as we pander to those who profess but live in rebellion, we are merely padding their bed of comfort as they walk blindly to hell.

Oh, I know the arguments. I have heard them over and over again. It's sickeningly monotonous. I begin to roll my eyes because I'm so nauseated by it. "We have to let them stay so we can love them to the Lord". Listen beloved, love doesn't tolerate rebellion against God and His Word. Love doesn't say "Just give them the gospel and let them stay". No. The fellowship is to be pure. Don't believe me? Read Acts 5. The first case of church discipline, Annanias and Saphira were struck dead by God to demonstrate the value God puts on holiness in the church. Not very "seeker sensitive" is it? No, but that is irrelevant. God demands and deserves holiness. And where holiness is absent, disobedience rules.

You say "If we do this, it will empty our church". No. It will purify it. It may drive the tares away, but do you want tares teaching your classes and holding church offices? Give me a few faithful people over a bunch of false conversions. Give me a meeting in a basement of a house that is pure over against a "church" full of pretenders.

The Lord is building His church and as John MacArthur said, I don't care to compete with Him. And God will honor faith, including the faith of those who dare to deal with disobedience in the church. Show faithfulness and trust God with the results. If you aren't willing to do that, don't tell me you trust God -- at all. Don't tell me you're "worshiping" on Sunday when you don't care to obey Him. That is nothing more than a "Judas kiss". You follow Him no matter the cost or you don't follow Him at all. We may stumble, yes. But when push comes to shove we will show what we really are when faced with the clear decision of obedience. Eventually, what you really are will prove you to be true, or betray you.

So, let's deal with these issues. Do they show repentance? Great! And you may be leading someone to saving faith who was merely deceived before. But be prepared, beloved, to love them enough to "hand them over to Satan" if they don't.

Anything less is rebellion against our Lord, Who has commanded we confront sin in the church.

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