The Discipline of Verbal Correction

The Discipline Of Verbal Correction

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” (Titus 2:11–15)  See also 1 Corinthians 4:1-21.

             Our text teaches us that there are things that are to be taught (As we have seen, this is formative or instructive discipline.), and to be rebuked. To rebuke is to show one his fault, or to condemn one for a fault. Paul told Titus that there are things that are, after having been taught, to be rebuked with authority.

            What does the Scripture tell us about rebuke? “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” (Leviticus 19:17) In this passage we find that rebuke is a demonstration of love in which the one rebuked is shown his error, convicted of it by the truth, and called to correct the error. If we love our neighbor, we are to rebuke him so that he will repent of his sins. Jesus spoke of this saying, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:3–5) Rebuke is to occur when someone sins against us as individuals. We also know that we are to speak to our erring brothers when we see them walking away from the truth. “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) We are to seek to reclaim him from the grips of sin. This would most certainly involve loving reproof and rebuke.  (Cf Nehemiah 5:1-13 and Psalm 6:1;38:1;39:11   Proverbs 27:5;Luke 17:1-5;Ephesians 5:11-17)

            Rebuke is not always to be a matter of scathing, harsh words. In fact, while sin is to be rebuked, even publicly (1 Timothy 5:20), Timothy is given instructions regarding how rebuke is to be administered. “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1–2) In 1 Timothy 5:20, rebuke is about convicting a person of sin, or exposing sin. In 1 Timothy 5:1, rebuke is something quite different; it is striking one with words. We are not to speak scathing, harsh, and wrath filled words when we rebuke. Rebuke is to be based upon the Word of God so that we can show sin as what it is, and demonstrate its presence with the truth. Harsh words need not be spoken, because the Word of God itself pierces deep within a man (Hebrews 4:12-13). (cf Proverbs 6:23 instruction 2 Timothy3:16-17, 4:1-4)

            Reproof and rebuke are things that we need to value. Reproof and rebuke are not simply someone telling us that we are wrong, but they are designed for the purpose of setting us aright. “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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17) God’s Word is given to instruct us, reprove us, correct us, and perfect us. Reproof is part of the instructing and perfecting process. Reproof and rebukes are gifts from God to either keep us from falling into grievous sin, or to help us overcome grievous sins that we have committed. Solomon told his son, “reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” (Proverbs 6:23) Reproof ministers life to us. It directs us in the way of life. It instructs us how to live to the glory of God. We also find that godly reproof is better than the pleasure of listening to an enjoyable secular song (Ecclesiastes 7:5). In our day we value our entertainment, but we are far better off when we listen to the words of reproof and rebuke that often hurt us than if we simply tune out the Word of God and tune in the amusement of the world.

            The Bible even speaks to us about how we should respond to reproof and rebuke. David sets a godly example saying, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: And let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, Which shall not break my head: For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.” (Psalm 141:5) Solomon wisely said, “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: But he that refuseth reproof erreth.” (Proverbs 10:17) The godly response to verbal correction is to keep it, or hold on to it. This simply means that we are to accept godly correction and act on it. There is honor to the one who pays attention to godly reproof (Proverbs 13:18), and we are instructed by God to repent when we are rebuked (Revelation 3:19). (See also Hebrews 12:4-11;13:7-8,17,22.)

            We also need to see that there is a response to reproof that is ungodly, and shows our hearts and characters to be ungodly. “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” (Proverbs 9:8) There are those who reject rebuke and hate those who minister reproof and rebuke. The Scripture calls that person a scorner and contrasts him with the wise person, obviously declaring him to be foolish. Reading Proverbs 15:10 shows us that the rejection of correction indicates one who is forsaking the truth and embraces death. In fact, we find that, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, Shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1) Finally, Jesus’ words in John 3:19-21 demonstrate that those who hate reproof are sinners who love darkness. It is quite obvious that one cannot consistently resist and reject verbal correction if he is the child of God. It is the wicked person who rejects correction.

            These things being so, we can understand that verbal correction is an essential part of the disciplinary process. It is a part of godly discipleship. It is the duty of pastors to exercise this (2 Timothy 4:1-5), and it is the duty of churches to do so also (Titus 3:10).

Church Discipline pt 1

Church Discipline

Matthew 28:18-20

            As we consider the subject of church discipline, we should first ask ourselves the purpose of discipline. Note that there is a close connection between discipleship and discipline. A disciple is one who submits himself to the teaching and training of a master teacher. In so doing, the disciple submits himself to the discipline of learning from the master teacher. With the Holy Spirit being our teacher, the Holy Scriptures our textbook, and God-given pastor-teachers our guides, let us then learn of the duty of the church in discipline.

The text before us tells us that the duty of the disciples is to make disciples. We are to preach the Gospel, calling men to yield to the Lordship of Christ by repenting of their sin, trusting Christ, with the understanding that we are obligated to obey Him. Even faith in Christ is called obedience (Romans 10:16-17), and the unbelieving are called the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-3). We are then to discipline the believers in following Christ. We are to teach in order that discipleship occurs. One cannot be a disciple without learning the way of Christ, who said we are to learn of Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

            This is why the Scriptures are given to us, that we might become followers of Christ. Paul told Timothy, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17) Notice how this passage corresponds with our text. Just as we are to make disciples, Scripture shows us that salvation comes through faith in Christ; and, just as we are to teach the disciples the Word, the Scriptures disciple us by teaching us, showing us our error, correcting us, and training us to be the follower of Christ that He would have us to be. Scripture is given to us that we might come under the discipline of Christ by trusting Him and following Him.

            The early church took the discipline of teaching seriously, it seems. When many were converted to Christ on Pentecost, the next thing we read is, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:41–42) New converts were immediately brought under the doctrine/teaching of the Word of God. We also see that the apostles took the ministry of the Word very seriously, and refused to be distracted from the task, and so the office of deacon was established (Acts 6:1-7). Finally, when Paul would say his farewell to the Ephesian elders, he commended them to God and His Word, saying, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32) 

            Then we see that the church has been gifted with leaders whose job is to teach. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16) These teachers are given so that we would grow to become followers of Christ. Their teaching is to form us into the image of Christ in our sanctification. This is why pastors are required to be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2), to apply themselves to teaching (1 Timothy 4:16), and to preach by teaching the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-3).[1]

Thus we are to yield to the discipline of the Word, by both hearing and doing it (Hebrews 13:22;James 1:21-27;2:14-26). Discipleship occurs when we yield to the teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. This is both the beginning and the most important part of discipline within the church.

[1]The word “doctrine” in 1 Timothy 4:16 & 2 Timothy 4:1-3, means teaching.

The Authority Of The Local Church pt 2

Binding And Loosing In The Local Church

            Our text shows Jesus stating that there is, within the local church, the authority to bind and loose as long as it is in accord with what has been done in heaven. When we consider that the ultimate authority in the church is Jesus Christ (See Matthew 28:18-20;Ephesians 1:23;Colossians 1:18), and that God alone has the authority of forgiveness (And that forgiveness and judgment are the prerogative of Jesus. See Matthew 9:1-8;John 5:22;James 4:12), then we see that the binding and loosing must be done under the authority of Christ, or in harmony with the teaching of His Word.

            What does it mean to bind and to loose? Jesus shows us this in Matthew 18:21-35. It is here that the parable shows us how one can either be bound to, or loosed from his debt. When we see Jesus tells the church that we have the authority of forgiveness (John 20:23), we understand that He is speaking of the same thing. The binding and loosing refers to the sinning member who is put outside the fellowship of the church (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13), thus being bound to his sins until he repents; and then receiving him back into fellowship through forgiveness, thus loosing him from his sin as God has done (See 2 Corinthians 2:1-11). 

            As we consider this, it shows us that the church has authority under Christ to receive and/or reject members. This is not something that is to be done carelessly, but under the authority of Christ only. We have no right to receive or to reject anyone that Christ would not treat the same as we do. Thus it is that we see very explicit directions concerning how to exercise church discipline. We also see that the New Testament pattern was to receive the baptized believer into the fellowship of the local church (Acts 1:41-47). Though we see no formal vote that took place, we do see that those who trusted Jesus were baptized and then became a part of the fellowship of the church. We also see that Saul of Tarsus was initially rejected, but then received by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28). Later this same apostle wrote to the Roman church, commanding them to receive their weaker brethren (Romans 14:1). Thus the church has the authority concerning whom they will receive into their fellowship.

            While we see only the broad principle regarding the receiving of members into the fellowship of the church, we must recognize that this is a very important issue. What is at stake is the holiness and purity of the church. As mentioned earlier, there are issues that will be dealt with more in depth when we address church discipline; here we will let is suffice us to say that the church should be careful that they only receive into their fellowship those who give credible evidence of saving faith in Christ, baptism, and good moral character (Acts 2:41-47;1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

Respecting The Local Church

The authority and autonomy of each local church should be respected. As members of local churches, we must ourselves be respectful of the church. We should do that by living godly lives so that we can be a blessing to the church, thus upholding the Biblical standards of holiness. We should respect the local church by showing Christian courtesy in all things, so that we minister to the harmony and edification of the body in our assemblies, and so that we represent the church and Christ well in society. Finally, we should respect the local church by submitting to her teaching and discipline, as the church follows Christ Jesus.We should also show respect to the authority of the local church by respecting the rights and privileges of other local bodies as we deal with them. Whether we are receiving or granting letters of commendation for members, conducting business in associations, seeking for or planning the ordination of ministers or deacons, or whatever business we are transacting, we must always be aware that each local church must be respected as an individual body that is responsible for carrying out her own business. That being so, we should respect the freedom and authority of each local church in carrying out the business of the church.