Baptists warm to church discipline
KANSAS CITY—Church discipline has been described by Baptist Press as “a relic of the past” that is making a comeback in American churches thanks to pastors and deacons who are increasingly concerned with maintaining purity of confession (lifestyle) in church members.
The comeback was supported Nov. 28 at Ridgecrest, N.C., in the closing address of “Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism” when Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said that one of seven issues that all Southern Baptists agree on is the necessity of a regenerate church membership.
Scriptural support for church discipline is both wide-ranging and clear. Vic Borden, pastor of Red Bridge Baptist Church in Kansas City who completed his doctoral thesis on church discipline from Luther Rice Seminary in Lithonia, Ga., said he likes to begin with I Thessalonians 5:14, which reads: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.” This is the work of church discipline in a nutshell, Borden said.
Matthew 18:15-20 is a classic church discipline text. A pattern of how to handle personal offense is laid down so that the outcome, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may be true repentance and restoration. According to the last two verses of this passage, God puts His stamp of approval on church bodies who come together and agree on church discipline, even if they ultimately have to choose, by a congregational vote, to excommunicate a member.
The reward of church discipline is found in Hebrews 12:5-11, which tells how the Lord chastens those whom He loves. This chastening is for our benefit, that we might be partakers of His holiness, and while it certainly does not seem to be joyous, but grievous, it nevertheless imparts the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by this method.
“There is a sense of renewed holiness that what we have just been through certainly pleases the Lord,” Borden said.
Other Bible passages that Borden recommends concerning church discipline are I Corinthians 5, II Timothy 4, and Acts 5.