What is it?
- In the broadest sense, church 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.
- In a narrower sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin (see Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
Where is it in the Bible?
- The New Testament commands corrective discipline (excluding unrepentant sinners from the fellowship of the church) in passages like Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 2 Corinthians 2:6, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.
- The New Testament speaks about formative discipline (our efforts to grow in holiness together) 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.
Why is it important?
Think of discipline as the stake that helps the tree grow upright, the extra set of wheels on the bicycle, or the musician’s endless hours of practice. Without discipline, we won’t grow as God wants us to. With discipline, we will, by God’s grace, bear peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:5-11).