APOSTASY AND CHURCH DISCIPINE 1
LTBS 23RD JUNE 2019: APOSTASY AND CHURCH DISCIPINE 1
I am Abiodun Adegoroye and with me in the studio is David Akpata, who also serves as evangelist with the Church of Christ, Kado, our sponsoring congregation, and Felix Ekpenyong, an evangelist of Christ serving with the church of Christ in Masaka. We also have a special guest from Sierra Leone, Peter Makundu.
Listening friend, this broadcast is sponsored and coordinated by the Church of Christ Kado. The Church of Christ Kado meets at Life Camp junction, adjacent TOFANA Hotel, 100 meters away from Polaris Bank at Life-camp junction along EFAB Estate road. We invite you to fellowship with us at Kado or any congregation of the church of Christ nearest to you in Abuja and its environs. You may obtain a free copy of this broadcast and other broadcasts of LTBS by contacting us with the following numbers: 090 771 62 877, 080 604 11 389 and 0803 382 4662. You may also contact us by email with email@example.com and as well check our website with www.churchofchristkado.org. LTBS is equally on TV. Always remember to watch TV program of LTBS on ITV UHF Channel 142, and Star Times Channel 130 every Saturday from 6:00pm -6:30pm
Dearly beloved listening friend, we have been studying the apostasy from the faith that Jesus brought and established before going to heaven. We have also studied the reality that Jesus Himself said that Satan will try to confuse the world by setting up churches which will even look like the real church. In the course of these series, we did see that many people have fallen away from the Word (The Faith) given originally by Christ. Today, we wish to once again shine the light of the word of God on the Apostasy. As we delve into this lesson, please consider the following questions:
i. Do you know that the Bible says anyone that is not disciplined by His Father is considered an illegitimate child? (Heb 12:8)
ii. Do you know that in the church established by Christ, nobody is above discipline?
As you ponder on the questions, please join us as we approach the throne of God seeking for His grace and mercy upon our lives even as we delve into this broadcast.
Once again, we greet you good listeners in the name of Jesus Christ. We want to profoundly thank you for being so active in following us on this station for many years now. We have been discussing the DEPARTURE FROM THE CHRISTIAN FAITH WHICH THE BIBLE CLEARLY DESCRIBES. This, we are doing, in order to accurately and biblically provide facts that will help us to embrace the truth so that all true worshippers of God in this 21st Century, will not to fall prey of the apostasy already prophesied in the scriptures.
On this note, today, we shall be looking at another aspect of this apostasy, which is Church discipline, hence our topic this morning is “THE DEPARTURE IN CHURCH DISCIPLINE.” Therefore, as we go through this thrilling topic this morning, we plead with you to have your copy of your Bible very close to you, to examine the truth together with us.
Our basic text this morning is 2 Timothy 3.16,17. In this Biblical injunction, the apostle Paul declares, –LTBS:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NKJV)
Paul wrote this to the young evangelist, Timothy. Before we go further, let us clarify what “DISCIPLINE” is:
Discipline, from the above text, refers to ‘Training which Corrects, molds, strengthens or perfects, recalls one to his senses, admonishes, and controls. Discipline is instructive and corrective all at the same time. Church discipline is one part of the discipleship process, the part where we correct sin and point the disciple toward the better path. To be ‘discipled’ is, among other things, to be disciplined. And a Christian is disciplined through instruction and correction, as in a math class where the teacher teaches the lesson and then corrects the students’ errors. So when we say Church discipline, we are referring to the situation whereby the Church, the called-out, which is the bride of Christ, makes bold effort to correct her members who indulge in sin in order to restore them to fellowship with God.
It is necessary in our hardened and apostate age for the church to be called back to the biblical doctrine of church discipline. In our day, the church has become tolerant of sin. This warrants the wrath of God upon the church's indifference to His holiness. The modern church seems more willing to ignore sin than to denounce it, and more ready to compromise God's law than to proclaim it. It is a mournful fact that many churches refuse to take sin seriously.
Today, the church faces a moral crisis within her own ranks. Her failure to take a strong stand against evil, and her tendency to be more concerned about what is expedient than what is right, have robbed the church of biblical integrity and power. It is true that, historically, the church has sometimes erred in this matter of discipline, but today the problem is one of outright neglect. It would be difficult to show another area of Christian life which is more commonly ignored by the modern Church today than church discipline.
The Church is distinct from the world, and that distinction is important for its nature and mission. The church has both the responsibility and the authority to be involved with the doctrine and the conduct of its members. To belong to the church requires adherence to the doctrines and standards of conduct required in the Scriptures. True disciples of Christ are always under His discipline which He administers in many ways, chiefly through the Word and the church. The very Scriptures themselves are to be an instrument of discipline, and should be taught 'with all authority.' LTBS from Titus 2:15.
“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” (Tit 2:15 ESV)
The authority of the word of God in the Scripture must be upheld and this is why at LTBS we continue to remind you dear listening friend about the dangers in ignoring the word of God which will be our judge the last day, (John 12.48) and also the blessings that God promised to those who listen and obey His words.
All breaches of the biblical standards of doctrine and behaviour require some form of discipline. Thus, every believer needs to be disciplined, and in Hebrews 12:6, God says, 'whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.'
In the religious world today, the biblical church discipline has been abandoned, and apostasy has crept in that regard. Most of the churches today in our Nigerian contemporary society are being controlled by the General Overseers, who operate and run their affairs like business entities. The General Overseer, who is the founder of his/her church, operates it as he/she wishes. Therefore, if he/she indulges in sin that requires discipline, there is nobody that can discipline him/her, since he/she is the founder of his/her church. This menace of lack of biblical church discipline today in many churches has created a vacuum for a decline in morals in Christendom. Sin is on the increase at an unprecedented rate! Some members in some churches are not concerned of moral living, based on the fact that biblical church discipline has been apostatized from.
We do not intend this morning good listener to affirm that church discipline is a cure-all for the ills of the contemporary church; nor affirm that discipline is the only or the chief way in which the Church has departed. Rather we advocate that this is part of the restoration necessary in the church today. The way to restore the church always lies along the road of biblical revelation. The purpose of this topic good listener, therefore, is simply to point the way back to the biblical practice of church discipline. So we ask, why a lack of church discipline in the modern Churches today? Why is there a lacuna in that which is so good for the soul? Why are church leaders not much concerned about the morality of their members? To give adequate answers to the above raised questions, we will like to ask and answer the following questions:
- What is the biblical foundation and authority for Church discipline?
- What is the purpose of church discipline? Why must we practice it?
- Who should be disciplined?
THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATION AND AUTHORITY FOR CHURCH DISCIPLINE
Dear listening friend, let us firstly look at the biblical foundation and authority for church discipline. Church discipline is authoritative and right to engage in because the Bible so teaches! This, of course, is where it all begins. If a church does not understand the Scripture's authority over her, it will lead to a departure in the practice of church discipline. Our authority, right, and responsibility to practice discipline are given solely by the Word of God. God, back from the Old Testament times, desires His children to be disciplined. He urged Israel to view his own discipline of them in a family framework. He declares in Deuteronomy 8.5, LTBS. -“"Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son so the Lord your God disciplines you.” (Deu 8:5)
God’s standard in the New Testament is not different. Many texts in the New Testament point to the practice of church discipline and its benefits. For instance when a couple told a hypocritical lie in the church, God disciplined both husband and wife! LTBS from Act 5:7-11 after the husband has been punished by God:
“After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (Act 5:7-11 ESV)
Please kindly note the expression, “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Correct and proper discipline will always result in the proper fear of God. If God were to strike all lying leaders of churches that claim that God spoke to them, it is certain that many churches will be without their leaders!
Another of the most well-known passages in the Bible concerning discipline is probably from Matthew’s Gospel. LTBS on what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Mat 18:15–17)
On the surface, Jesus appears to have two concerns: first, that the sinner repents; second, that the number of people involved remain as small as necessary for producing repentance. Beneath these concerns is the deeper conviction that the church should be different from the world—Christians are not to live like pagans or tax collectors. Matthew’s Jewish audience would have understood “pagan” to represent those who were outside the covenant community and “tax collector” to represent those who had betrayed the covenant community (and were therefore also outside the community of God’s people). Church members should live differently than the world. And if, after a series of gracious warnings, they don’t, the church should exclude them from its fellowship. Divine discipline shown through God’s people is not punitive but remedial. The goal of discipline is restoration not banishment.
The apostle Paul and other New Testament writers also invoke church discipline in a number of places. For instance, just like in our world today where immorality has crept in the modern church in various aspects, a condition where by the G.O of a particular denomination would be caught in an act of adultery or fornication, but would not be disciplined, because of the fact that he/she is the owner of his/her Church, Paul addressed such in the Corinthian Church. From 1 Corinthian 5.1-5, LTBS:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1Co 5:1-5)
Paul encourages the church to play a judicial function. Like Jesus, Paul is addressing a scenario where someone professing the name of Jesus could be removed from the church body because he or she is living in sin. Unlike Jesus, however, Paul does not tell the church to warn the man and call him to repentance, like Jesus advises in Matthew 18. He simply tells the church to remove him—no questions asked.
To hand the man over to Satan is to treat him, in Jesus’ words, like a pagan or tax collector; it’s to treat him as someone who no longer belongs to the covenant community. The church, after all, is an outpost of the kingdom of God. Everyone who does not belong to the kingdom of God, therefore, belongs to the kingdom of Satan. Satan is the prince of this world, and the kingdoms of the world temporarily belong to him (John 12:31; 14:30; Matt. 4:8–9).
Paul further observes that failing to remove the man from the church puts the whole church at risk. He says in verses 6-11 that “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:6–11)
In today’s world where sexual immorality has eaten deep into the fabrics of denominational spiritual façade, this instruction is not heeded. Many times, Christianity has been brought to shame and ridicule because leaders of churches have so loose morals and are even openly adulterous. Not only are they sexually immoral but they add lying to their amoral behaviour!!! Because Christianity is under a period of grace, and God is no longer striking people down for their lies and sexual immorality, many church members are beginning to think that God doesn’t know what they are doing in secret in hotels and brothels. Some sexual perverts even sexually molest young innocent boys and girls under their care and continue to lead their churches as if nothing has happened. The Scripture however reminds us loudly that “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:12-13 ESV)
Dearly beloved listening friend, it is clear and certain that many will hear on the last day “depart from me you workers of lawlessness or iniquity” (Mat 7:23) since they think they are above the law that governs the church. What is really sad about these events prophesied by Christ Himself is the fact that members of these churches appear powerless to bring sanity and practice biblical discipline. For instance, a G.O. was accosted by members of his church when they discovered that he had been sleeping with some of the young girls in the church. The man was very angry and he told them “This is my church. If you don’t like it here, you can go to another church!” Some who were disgusted with the attitude of the G.O. left the church while many cooked up an excuse not to practice biblical discipline and continued with the man that is obviously bigger and ‘more powerful’ than the law of Christ!
One can easily interpolate by the wisdom of the Law of God in the New Testament that members of this denomination will be practicing sexual immorality among themselves simply because as the Scripture says, “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump” meaning since the head is immoral, he will not have the moral justification to correct anyone who is following his footsteps.
In the final verses of chapter 5 of 1 Corinthians, Paul reiterates the fact that the church has a judicial role to play in their member’s life: LTBS from 1 Corinthians 5:12-13:
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you’ (1Cor 5:12–13)
Furthermore, he wrote to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:14–15 LTBS:
“If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2Th 3:14-15)
In Titus 3:10, he says, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” He gave an example of a brother who was disciplined when he said in 1 Timothy 1:20, “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.”
In 1 Timothy 5:19-20, he continues, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.”
In all of the above scriptures, dearly beloved listener, did you notice how serious the consequences were for those who were unrepentantly sinful? Let me reiterate those strong words:
- “Put out of your fellowship…” (1Cor 5:2)
- “hand this man over to Satan…” (1Cor 5:5)
- “do not associate with…do not even eat with such a man” (1 Cor. 5:9, 11)
- “keep away from…” (2Th 3:6)
- “take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed” (2Th 3:14-15)
- “handed over to Satan…” (1Tim 1:20)
- “rebuked publicly…” (1Tim 5:20);
- “Have nothing to do with them” (2Tim 3:5);
- “have nothing to do with him” (Tit 3:10).
Each of the above excerpts from Scripture demonstrates the fact that open, unrepentant sin in the church is a grave issue that the holiness of God conflicts with and for which God is angry. In fact, it was God Himself who exacted the punishment of death upon Ananias and Sapphira in the first recorded case of church discipline in the Bible (Acts 5:1-11). If God takes sin in the church that seriously, so must we.
This is the type of discipline that is to be embraced in the modern churches today. Our good listener, you will agree with us that lack of biblical discipline in churches today has made immorality and other vices to become common in the churches today in Nigeria. Some church leaders, including their members, over time have been caught in various vices that do not glorify God at all. These acts of lawlessness have led to the departure in the biblical church discipline which we have been looking at today. Every believer in Christ Jesus needs to be disciplined. That was why when Apostle Peter whom some people considered to be a super apostle did what was not in conformity with the word of God, Apostle Paul rebuke him sharply or we may say Apostle Paul discipline apostle Peter. LTBS from Galatians 2:11-14:
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (Gal 2:11-14)
In the church which Jesus Christ established and owns, no one is above discipline. If apostle Peter was rebuked by Paul when he did what was not in tandem with the gospel of Christ, who is that man that cannot be disciplined or rebuked today in the church?
This is LTBS and we must close here to continue next week. Remember to get your questions ready next week for an interactive session. Please contact us with with the following numbers: 090 771 62 877, 080 604 11 389 and 0803 382 4662 for a free copy of this broadcast and other broadcasts of LTBS. May the good Lord bless you and family this week and grant you grace to run the Christian race in His peace in Jesus’ Precious Name. Amen.
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Mack, Wayne The Biblical Concept of Church discipline. Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Mack Publishing Company 1974.
Pigman, Arthur. Church discipline, A Sermon Preached at Evans Church of Christ, America, 2008.
Wendel, Winkler. The Church and Self-Discipline. Zondervan, 2008.
Mutetei, Philip. Church discipline: The Great Omission: Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology, 1999.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion IV 12 1-13