What are the benefits of practicing church discipline?
To many, church discipline (excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin) sounds downright mean. Yet the Bible portrays discipline as an act of love (Heb. 12:6-11). Here are several benefits:
- Church discipline calls a professing believer out of sin. For instance, a man in the Corinthian church was having an affair with his father’s wife, and the church approved of it. Paul commanded the church to exclude the man so that the man might repent, be saved, and come back to the church (1 Cor. 5:5).
- Church discipline warns other Christians about the danger of sin. Paul told Timothy that if a leader sins, he should be rebuked publicly “so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim. 5:20).
- Church discipline purifies the church as a whole. Paul writes, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:7). Excommunicating an unrepentant member keeps sin’s destructive influence from spreading and results in a purer, holier, healthier church.
- Church discipline presents non-Christians with a more faithful corporate witness. Would you be surprised to learn that church discipline can be a powerful evangelistic tool? When a whole community lives in a way that’s radically different from the world, people notice and wonder why (Matt. 5:16, John 13:34-35).
- Church discipline promotes the glory of God. Christians should be conspicuously holy, not for our own reputation but for God’s (1 Peter 2:12). As the church increasingly reflects God’s loving and holy character, we put God’s glory on display for all to see. Like a billboard! This is why God made us (Gen. 1:27, Isa. 43:6-7, Eph. 3:10)!
(This material has been adapted from Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, 188-190)