First, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God demonstrates a church’s lack of faith. Faith is more than a feeling; it is an active obedience to the word of God (Romans 10:17; James 2:18-26). If an individual or congregation refuses to obey God’s word, they have forsaken the faith (Revelation 2:1-7).
Second, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God elevates the wisdom of the church over the wisdom of God. In essence, a failure to obey God is an assertion that one knows better than God. The number one cry against the practice of church discipline is “If we withdraw from this person, they’ll never come back!” The second cry is “What about their children!” Both arguments assert that God did not understand the ramifications of His command and that His way simply will not work. Whatever happened to trusting God and His word regardless of whether we fully understand and agree with it or not(Genesis 22;1-19; Hebrews 11:17-19)? May God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
Third, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God demonstrates a failure to share God’s holiness. Though God is longsuffering and merciful towards members who are weak and babes in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9; Jude 22-23) He will not tolerate rebellion and immorality (1 Corinthians 5; Hebrews 3). To tolerate immorality and rebellion is to lack the holiness of God (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:16). May the church always realize what it means to be the holy bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Fourth, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God attacks the justice of God. When we fail to enforce the discipline God requires we assert that God’s discipline is unjust. The world often argues against the existence of Hell by questioning, “How could a loving God send people to hell?” Though we reject such a notion, do we not raise the same objection when we argue, “How is it an act of love to withdraw from a member of the church?” God is just in sending people to hell for their disobedience, and He is also just in requiring congregations to withdraw from immoral and rebellious people (Luke 13:3; Romans 11:22).
Fifth, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God demonstrates a failure to understand the love of God. Consider what the Hebrew writer had to say in Hebrews 12:5-11:
- And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
- If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Sixth, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God gives lost souls a false sense of security. In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul handed two men over to Satan that “they might learn not to blaspheme.” The purpose of church discipline on rebellious and immoral brethren is to impress upon them the severity of the consequences of their sin. To fail to discipline is to usher a soul through the gates of hell (Jude 23).
Seventh, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God threatens the safety of the congregation. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 5:6 “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” If immorality and rebellion is allowed to exist in a congregation it will breed more immorality and rebellion. Do not be deceived into thinking a you can keep from happening what God promised would happen.
Finally, a failure to practice church discipline as required by God removes Christ as the head of the church. Since Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22), and since all things are under his authority (Matthew 28:18), the body (church) must do whatever the head tells it to do. The day the body ceases to receive instructions from the head is the day the body dies (Revelation 2:12-17). If we are to wear the name of Christ, may we follow our head in all things, no matter how dark or difficult the way may be.
For further material on the subject of church discipline we recommend the following works: