The heart of the matter, I would propose, is this: church discipline is tough because it feels like the opposite of salvation. It feels like anti-salvation. It feels like salvation’s evil twin. Salvation brings ‘em in; discipline kicks ‘em out. And if our job as Christians is to bring sinners into the church—didn’t the resurrected Jesus say something about that right before he ascended to heaven?—why would anyone talk about kicking them out?
Most of us don’t naturally think in precise formulas like the following, but our trouble with church discipline as Christians, I suspect, comes down to an impulse which instinctively recognizes this tension:
- salvation depends on (i) God’s grace (ii) in spite of sin (iii) because of Christ’s work on the cross. Whereas
- church discipline looks like (i) the church’s judgment (ii) because of sin (iii) in spite of Christ’s work on the cross!
So here’s the challenge: Is church discipline really salvation’s evil twin, or is it something else? Is it really the church stepping where angels fear to tread—playing judge; or is it what the Bible commands churches to do? If the Bible does, how important is it? And how do you do it wisely?
Must reading for the pastor and church leader interested in a healthier local church!