Biblical Wisdom on Church Discipline

The most serious step that a church can take is to remove one of its members and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, turn such a one “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is a sobering experience for both the church and for the individual, if he or she has a genuine grasp on the authority of Jesus Christ through His Word and as Lord of His church (Matthew 18:15-20).

Whenever a church takes this final step of removing one of her members, inevitably the question arises among sensitive and thoughtful believers, “How are we to treat those who have been removed?” Sometimes, sentimentalism trumps Scripture in the minds of some church members and the result that injury is done to the souls of those who are being subjected to the God-ordained means of discipline. Church discipline is one of the main ways that Christ pursues His wayward sheep. But if they are not regarded as wayward, or if Christ’s own words are disobeyed by believers who have sentimental, unbiblical ideas of love, then spiritual damage inevitably results as the redemptive process of church discipline is undermined.

At the 2006 Ligonier’s Conference in Orlando, Florida, Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, Ken Jones and John MacArthur were asked about this during a panel discussion. Their responses are filled with wisdom, humility and grace. I encourage you to take 9 minutes and listen to their insights in the audio clip below.

A special thanks to Chris Larsen and the good folks at Ligonier for permission to post this.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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