What is church discipline?

  • Church discipline is the church’s act of confronting someone’s sin and calling them to repent, which, if the person doesn’t repent, will culminate in excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.
  • In a broader sense, discipline is everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness and fight sin. Preaching, teaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by pastors and elders are all forms of discipline.
  • Sometimes people distinguish between these two types of discipline by calling the former “corrective discipline” and the latter “formative discipline.”
  • Corrective: The New Testament commands and depicts corrective discipline in passages like Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Corinthians 2:6, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.
  • Formative: The New Testament speaks about formative discipline in countless passages about pursuing holiness and building one another up in the faith, such as Ephesians 4:11-32 and Philippians 2:1-18. In fact, we could consider the New Testament epistles as presenting examples of formative discipline, since the apostles wrote the churches to help form them in what to believe and how to live.

(Some of this material has been adapted from What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever, 101)

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