And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 19, Number
In this issue:
The Hebrew writer tells us, “…we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Heb. 2:1, NKJV). Drifting away is an ever-present danger! It often takes place without us even realizing it has happened, because it occurs slowly and gradually. One area in which the local church is in danger of drifting away is when it comes to practicing Bible discipline. Thus, we study.
Instructive discipline is preventive in nature, and “an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.”
Illustrated in the Old Testament. This is what Moses did in the plains of Moab as he repeated the law of God to the people of God and exhorted them to obedience, pointing out the blessings for submission and the curses for rebellion to the will of God (Deuteronomy). This is what Joshua was doing in his parting speech to the leaders of Israel, entreating them “…to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Josh. 23).
Taught in the New Testament. Reminding the elders of his work in Ephesus Paul said, “…I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). The aim and end of public and private instruction may be summed up in these words: “…Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:27-28). This must be done with proper balance and patience as Paul charged Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “…warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thess. 5:14). The Galatians were taught, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). James instructed, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Everything possible should be done to prevent the necessity of taking corrective disciplinary action.
Even with the ablest instruction and sincerest appeal, there are occasions where corrective discipline cannot be averted. Man is a creature of choice, and every so often there are those who choose death and evil over life and good (Deut. 30:15). Corrective discipline, which is punitive in nature, must be applied. This is what happened when Israel could not stand before her enemies and was removed from off the good land. Commands to “put the evil away” (Deut. 13:1-5; 17:2-7, 12; 19:16-20; 21:18-21; 22:13-24; 24:7), the stoning and burning of Achan (Josh. 7), and the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) show God never has tolerated sin in the camp. New Testament teaching requires that corrective discipline be administered by the church.
Matthew 18:15-17. A personal, private affair may become a public, congregational matter. Jesus said, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Attempts to resolve such must first take place at the personal level, “…between thee and him alone…”, without anyone else knowing about it!
Romans 16:17. Sowers of discord (Prov. 6:19) and promoters of false teaching must be marked and avoided. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
1 Corinthians 5. The setting finds common report of fornication among the church and brethren puffed up about it. Notice the proper course of action: “…he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you” (v. 5), “…deliver such an one unto Satan…” (v. 5), “…not to company with…” (v. 9), “…with such an one no not to eat” (v. 11), and “…put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (v. 13). The purpose of such was threefold: 1) To save the individual, “…that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5); 2) To keep the church pure, “…Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (v. 6); 3) To prove obedience, “For to this end did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things” (2 Cor. 2:9). And it worked! “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye confirm your love toward him” (2 Cor. 2:6-8).
Titus 3:10-11. A factious man is to be rejected.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15. Apostolic command demands, “…that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (v. 6). When some of the Thessalonians were “…working not at all, but are busybodies” (v. 11), they walked disorderly. This was contrary to the instruction of the apostles which came by example in that they, “…wrought with labour and travail night and day…” (v. 8) and by command as they, “…commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (v. 10). Notice how this was to be handled: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread….And if any obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (vv. 12, 14). Our relationship with the person does not end here as verse 15 says, “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
Though grievous, Bible discipline is a necessity (Heb. 12:5-11). When we do not practice discipline as the Bible teaches, we prove ourselves disloyal to the Lord.
Signs of Drifting Away
If we do not give earnest heed, it’s not a matter of if but when and how far we will drift away! Here are some signs of drifting away from practicing Bible discipline:
Soft teaching and preaching. When the teaching and preaching in the local church does not measure up to the Bible standard, we are drifting.
Not teaching on the subject. When the church is not being educated in what the Bible teaches about instructive and corrective discipline, we are drifting away! How long has it been since you heard basic teaching on this Bible subject?
Failure to apply Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20. When we do not seek to “restore” and “convert” brethren in sin, we are drifting.
When we become weary. In the midst of discipline teaching, Paul warned, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thess. 3:13). When we grow tired to the point of not practicing discipline as the Bible teaches, we are drifting.
Refusal to practice corrective discipline. When the local church refuses to withdraw from the disorderly, it is a sign the church is drifting away. Some have been heard to say, “If we started practicing that here, there wouldn’t be anyone left!” or when it is one’s relative, “You just don’t do my son that way. If you do that to him, we won’t be back!” When discipline is viewed as something other than an attempt to rescue a Christian from spiritual death, we are drifting.
When we substitute for God’s way. Some must think they know better than God in how to correct the erring Christian. Instead of not having company and not eating, they reason that there needs to be more social interaction (food, fun, and frolic) with the individual. Do we not believe that God’s ways are higher than our own and will work when practiced correctly and consistently (Isa. 55:8-9)?
When the church will not discipline those who are not faithful in worshipping God. Hebrews 10:24-26 teaches, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” When there are those sinning wilfully with nothing being said or done about it, we have drifted away!
May we stay the course of Bible teaching in practicing discipline. The souls of men and women, the purity of the church, and our obedience to the Lord are at stake! If we have drifted, let us make the necessary changes.
-Truth Magazine, May 2015, pp. 30-31
Two similar stories caught my eye this week. First, in Pierce County, WA, “a woman wants to find the young man who left an apology note at her door with $5 in it. The note read, ‘I am sorry that we stole your windchimes our mom died and liked butterflies so my sister took it and put it by our window I am sorry this is only money I have please do not be mad at us. –Jake’ Chrissy Marie says she is not mad and actually wants to find Jake so she can return the $5” (“Stolen wind chimes lead boy to send apology note, $5”, Q13 Fox Seattle, foxnews.com). The second is from Exeter, PA: “Three anonymous teenagers have delivered an apology note and $50 to the Pennsylvania library where they sprayed a swastika using shaving cream in a parking lot. The teens left the envelope containing the note and the money in a book depository at the Exeter Community Library. Police and firefighters were called to wash away the graffiti on Friday. The envelope was found by library workers on Monday” (“3 teens send anonymous apology, $50 for library swastika”, AP, foxnews.com).
A necessary part of being forgiven of sin is acknowledging our wrong. When King David hid his sin he had no mercy and relief (Psa. 32:3-4). When he acknowledged his sin to God, he was forgiven (Psa. 32:5). A contrite heart, filled with godly sorrow, is necessary in order to take ownership of one’s sins, which leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
Have the faith and the courage to confess your sins to God and to those you have sinned against (1 Jno. 1:9; Jas. 5:16). To do so shows godly sorrow that leads to repentance and your forgiveness.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 03/10/2017
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA