CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AND DISCIPLINE
This is a Bible study outline concerning Church Membership and Discipline prepared by Brother Kevin Beier who is a missionary in Australia.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The Body Of Christ – Acts 9; Eph. 1:22-23
The Local Assembly – 1 Cor. through 2 Thessalonians; 1 Cor. 1:2
WHAT MAKES A PERSON A CHURCH MEMBER?
Must be a credible profession of faith. – Acts 9:19
We should give the benefit of the doubt when a person has been actively serving the Lord following their profession of faith. – Acts 9:26-27
A changed life and Christ-like attitude should be displayed by the person as a witness to their salvation. Acts 9:20, 27-29;11:23; 2 Cor. 5:21
Baptism is a necessary aspect of showing open obedience. – Acts 8:36-38
Since the Spirit of God indwells the new Believer, obedience should be revealed in a continuing change of character and conduct.
When a person immediately shows resistance to the things of God, then there is reason to believe they are not saved.
There should be an overall desire and joy to obey the simple precepts and principles of God’s Word.
Long-term assembling with fellow Believers. “A whole year they assembled themselves with the church.”
Consistent and committed assembling with fellow Believers.
This cannot be a hit-and-miss relationship.
* We are trying to do the work of God and cannot include those who may or may not show up! It is somewhat like a job; you need to be able to count on them.
This is a person you can count on for each meeting (unless hindered by the Lord).
The assembling of Believers is a top priority. Remember, Jesus said if you did not love Him above all things you could not be His disciple. The church is the bodily, physical representation of Christ on earth.
Contribution made to the Assembly to edify them in the work of God. “And taught much people.”
While everyone may not be able to teach well, everyone should have something to contribute to the church beyond just physical labour and/or physical presence. The church is a physical body but is more importantly a spiritual organism. Our main priority is spiritual, not physical. These must be in balance. – Romans 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-26
As members of the Body of Christ, God has given each of us a specific role to play which will manifest Jesus Christ to the unsaved and edify the other Body members. – Eph. 4:16
One common task which is given for all to take part in is evangelism. – 2 Cor. 5:18-20
* I have observed that as professing Believers, we have become so preoccupied with “life” that the real purpose God gave to us has gone by the wayside and is neglected almost completely by the vast majority of those who claim to be saved.
Discipleship. “The disciples.”
This is not:
Do it your own way.
Willing, joyful following of Jesus Christ.
Absolute surrender and commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
A testimony that causes people to view us as being like Christ; i.e., Christians. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
It is one thing for a person to take to themselves the name or title of Christian and quite another for someone else to observe a person and call them a Christian based on what they see and hear.
Unfortunately, the word has lost its significance today.
Likeminded – Phil. 2:20-21
Common direction to declare the Gospel – Phil. 1:27
Toward one another – Rom. 12:16. à No glory seeking. One is not better than the other.
By speaking the same thing – 1 Cor. 1:10
In how we press toward the mark – Phil. 3:14-16
In our understanding of what the Scriptures teach on:
Basic, sound doctrine
The virgin birth
The deity of Christ
The Godhead – (concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost)
Soteriology – the doctrine of salvation.
Righteousness and unrighteousness (morality and immorality, right and wrong, etc.)
This is not infringing upon Christian liberty, sometimes called Individual soul liberty.
Christian liberty pertains to those things that are not specifically named as “sin” in the Word of God; e.g. martial arts.
Our like-mindedness concerning righteousness and unrighteousness pertains specifically to those things that are sinful as outlined in the Word of God; e.g. sodomy.
The purpose of our existence. – 1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11
Our joy is NOT God’s purpose!
However, we will have joy et. al. when we fulfil our purpose toward the LORD.
* In summary a local church membership consists of those who are pursuing the work of God and the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God with a group of other likeminded, obedient Believers.
WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES AND PRIVILEGES OF BEING A CHURCH MEMBER?
Some Of The Responsibilities Include:
Romans 12:9-21 – This could be a “requirements” list by itself!
Unity – 1 Cor. 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Faithfulness – 1 Cor. 4:1-2, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”
Edification – 1 Cor. 14:12, “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.”; Eph. 4:16
Being charitable – 1 Cor. 16:14, “Let all your things be done with charity.”
Soul winning or Preaching the gospel – 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Prov. 11:30; Acts 1:8.
Giving – 2 Cor. 8:7, “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.” 2 Cor. 8-9; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Phil 4:16-18
Burden-bearing – Gal. 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Kindness, tender-hearted, and forgiveness toward one another – Eph. 4:32
Spirit-Fullness – Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:21-22.
Holiness – Eph. 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” ; Eph. 5:27; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Lev. 10:7
Teach and admonish with music – Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Comfort – 1 Thes. 4:18
Warn the unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, and be patient toward all men – 1 Thes. 5:14
Prayer – 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1-3.
Study – 2 Timothy 2:15.
Provoke to love and good words – Heb. 10:24, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”
Attendance – Hebrews 10:25
Some Of The Privileges Include:
A body of Believers to serve with.
Identity with Bible-believers.
Love from the Brethren.
Edification from the Brethren.
Kind, tender-hearted people who forgive. (When we make the effort to do right.)
Labouring with Spirit filled Believers.
Being taught and admonished with music.
Comfort by the Scriptures through the Brethren.
Brethren who will provoke you to love and good works.
An assembly to attend!!! (Some do not have this!)
* It is important to remember that membership and service in a local assembly is NOT a RIGHT; it is a PRIVILEGE! (Privileges hang upon duty and responsibility)
WHAT ABOUT DISCIPLINING MEMBERS OUT OF THE COMPANY?
The Reasons For Discipline And The Actions Taken
Cases that deal with personal offences – Mat. 18:15-17
1st Step – Go to him that committed the offence(s) in private. – vs. 15
When a trespass takes place we MUST tell that person. It is not righteous to refrain from telling them.
The trespass must be against you in some way. I.e., he has caused some type of injury to you personally and that injury requires reparation.
When a trespass takes place we are obligated to go to the person involved in the trespass and speak with that person personally and privately. DO NOT GOSSIP ABOUT THEM TO SOMEONE ELSE.
If you are able to resolve it privately then you have gained (reached) the brother, there is a restored relationship, and no one else ever had to be involved.
2nd Step – If he will not hear you in private, take one or two witnesses with you. – vs. 16
Every word is established by two or three witnesses. 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19
It is a safety precaution for both people. If there is a misunderstanding, it can be resolved. If one of the people is being obstinate, then that can be testified to by the witnesses.
The trespass is still not public and could be resolved with only a few having known of it.
3rd Step – If he will not listen to you and the witnesses, then tell it to the church. – vs. 17
The trespassing person has by this time proven their disregard for you, the witnesses, and for coming to a resolution.
The matter now becomes public.
As a professing Believer, he should be willing to submit to the consensus of the church body. If not, then he has no desire to be in fellowship or company with that church body.
4th Step – If he will not hear the church, then cast him out as a heathen. – vs. 17
He is behaving like an unsaved person and is, then, to be treated like one.
He has already parted fellowship by trespassing without remorse or repentance.
It is the obligation of the church to remove the trespassing person from their company.
Cases that deal with public offences – 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Thes. 3:14-15
Immorality – 1 Cor. 5:1-13
The context is fornication (any sexual contact between a man and woman who are not married).
Immorality is cause for the whole assembly to mourn so that the offender “might be taken away from among you.” – vs. 2
* There is mourning, not pride, anger, or vengeance. The church should be deeply grieved. The mourning is over the deed AND that the unrepentant offender must be removed from the company.
A spiritual person makes judgment about such matters and concerning the offenders “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” – vs. 3-5, 12
A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. – vs. 6. Leaven is used to illustrate sin and in this case fornication. – vs. 6
Purging (cleansing; purifying) leaven results in a new lump. – vs. 7-8
* This is called “punishment” in 2 Cor. 2:6. It is not malice.
We are not to company (associate) with professing Believers who are: – vs. 9-11
Fornicators – people who are not married engaging in sexual contact
Covetous – excessively eager to obtain and posses
Idolaters – idol worshipper; one who pays divine honours to images, statues, or representations of any thing made by hands
Railers – someone who is abusive; a scoffer or insulter
Drunkards – someone who is frequently or regularly drunk; someone given irresistibly to alcoholic drink.
Extortioners – The act or practice of wresting any thing from a person by force, duress, menaces, authority, or by any undue exercise of power
The steps to be taken:
Mourning (express deep grief or sorrow)
Judgment (to try & to pass sentence)
Deliver the offender unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh. – vs. 5. This is not a loss of salvation. The spirit is saved, but the body is destroyed.
The principle taught here:
These actions are in relation to anything that morally and seriously disturbs the unity, peace, or testimony of the church and more importantly the testimony of Jesus Christ.
We cannot as a church bother those wicked people who are not part of our local assembly. God will deal with them. – vs. 13. That is one reason for putting those who are part of our assembly out when there is an absolute refusal to repent; i.e., so that God will judge them, apparently through satan.
As for those who are in our assembly, the church has the right and responsibility to deal with them. – 1 Cor. 5:12-13
Disorderly – 2 Thes. 3:6-12
This deals specifically with people who are lazy and will not work to keep themselves fed.
They use the assembly as a free ride.
Every man needs to work to supply his own food. Even Paul worked when by rights he could have relied on them to supply his food because he preached the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:11
The trouble with non-working people is that they become busybodies ( a meddling person)
We are very simply told to withdraw (avoid; retreat) from these types of people.
There is a principle to follow: people who will not follow the tradition of behaviour as laid down by the Holy Spirit (through Paul in this context) are to be withdrawn from (avoided).
* While they are not necessarily put out of the company yet, they are avoided.
Disobedient – 2 Thes. 3:14-15
This is connected with the point above.
The principle is, if a person who has been doing wrong continues to be disobedient after being warned and exhorted, then “have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”
The steps are:
Show them what the Bible says – vs. 14
If they will not obey the Word of God, note them (mark them or take heed). – vs. 14
Have no company with them. In other words, do not associate or mix with them. – vs. 14. Put them out of the assembly and stay away from them!
Remember he is a brother and not an enemy, but he needs admonished (reprove or warn). – vs. 15
Cases that deal with doctrinal offences
Heretical Doctrine – Titus 3:10-11
Def. of heretick – someone who maintains erroneous opinions concerning the Scriptures and/or the Christian faith and doctrine; a schismatic person concerning the Christian faith and doctrine.
Heresies manifest what is TRUE by contrasting truth with error (heresy) – 1 Cor. 11:19
God allows heresy to come into churches in order to reveal who and what are true and who and what are erroneous.
When there is error mixed with truth, divisions occur. – 1 Cor. 11:18-19.
Heresies are a work of the flesh – Gal. 5:19-21
* That is, bad doctrine or error in doctrine is the result of flesh being in control instead of God’s Spirit.
To deal with heretical doctrine the steps are:
Admonish them two times – possibly once for the head and once for the heart.
Reject them (shun; put out) because a person who will not change their heretical beliefs is subverted (overthrown; destroyed; perverted) and is sinning by their bad doctrine. They have condemned themselves! They are submitting to the flesh and will not change or be corrected.
Unholy Doctrine – 1 Tim. 6:1-5
This context deals with how servants are meant to behave toward their masters.
However, a generalisation is made in verse 3 concerning any wholesome words and to doctrine “which is according to godliness,” which is to say, holiness.
When a person teaches doctrine that is contrary to a godly life, they are as described in vs. 4-5.
Unholy doctrine supposes “that gain is godliness.” -vs. 5
To deal with unholy doctrine there is only one step – “WITHDRAW THYSELF” – vs. 5
* That is to say remove yourself from them and quit companying with them.
Divisive Doctrine – Romans 16:17-18
Some people teach things that are not in line with New Testament Church doctrine.
The people teaching these various doctrines cause divisions (disunion; discord; variance; difference) and offences (stumblingblocks; disturbance; cause to fall).
People who do such things DO NOT serve the Lord Jesus Christ. – vs. 18 – They are self-serving.
The danger of allowing them to go on is that they “deceive the hearts of the simple” – vs. 18
To deal with divisive doctrine the steps are:
Mark them – vs. 17 – make note; take heed
Avoid them – vs. 17 – shun; keep at a distance
The Goals Of Discipline
Purity or Purifying
When someone must be removed from the company of the church, they have shown themselves to be unwilling to do right in light of God’s Word.
Removal of those who ignore God’s Word eliminates division and sin from the local body of Believers.
One of the functions of the Word of God is to clean Believers. Eph. 5:25-27.
If a Believer wants to remain dirty, they must be dirty alone, not in the company of other Bible Believers who will be defiled by him. 1 Cor. 5:6-7
Training or Teaching
The one(s) causing the offence
Discipline teaches them that God has an order and plan for taking care of rebellious Believers.
Discipline trains rebellious Believers in the right ways of the holy God.
The local body of Believers
Discipline teaches the local body the results of rebellion.
Discipline teaches the local body the attitude God has toward rebellion.
Discipline trains the local body to avoid rebellion.
Discipline teaches the local body about the hard-heatedness of some Believers and the softness in heart of other Believers.
By the one(s) causing the offence
Discipline is meant to turn those who are in rebellion to God’s Word.
As with any proper, Biblical discipline, it is implemented in love and intended to bring the peaceable fruit of righteousness by stopping and changing the rebellious behaviour.
By others who are headed in a similar direction.
* Discipline DOES deter rebellion in others.
When the offender repents, he is to be restored back into company and fellowship with the church – 2 Cor. 2:6-7
They are to be shown love – 2 Cor. 2:8
They are to be forgiven – 2 Cor. 2:10-11
The Result Of Discipline
Destruction of the flesh – 1 Cor. 5:5
* God allows satan to destroy the flesh of a “fleshly” or carnal Believer. It allows for the spirit to be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Shame for the offending party – 2 Thes. 3:14
Purity in the local body
Sin weakens the ability of the church to minister effectively.
Sin contaminates and takes effect on everyone. – 1 Cor. 5:6
Disciplining these sins out helps in keeping the local body of Believers uncontaminated.
Purity in the Body of Christ
The overall Body of Christ is hurt when Believers live in rebellion.
If a local church will not exercise discipline, then they are partakers of those sins and all Believers suffer for it.
By each local church exercising discipline, the whole Body of Christ is strengthened and kept pure in the eyes of non-believers and the LORD.
Vindication of Jesus Christ’s testimony before the unsaved world
This world hates Jesus Christ and His disciples.
Many professing Believers care so little about anyone but themselves that they live in open rebellion that even unsaved people know is not becoming to a Believer. This reflects poorly on other Believers and Jesus Christ.
When churches use discipline the way God outlines it in His Word, it vindicates the pure testimony of Jesus Christ and His Body – the church.
Obedience and blessing – 2 Cor. 1:23-2:3
When we obey with a right heart there is joy.
When we obey we prove our love for God and His Word.
When we obey we are prepared for God’s blessings.
Church membership in the Bible was not about voting people in or out. It was about serving God together.
Church membership is a privilege which should be sought by Believers. It carries many responsibilities.
Church membership IS the will of God for all Believers.
We do not need to be too hasty in these matters so as to be certain of our actions being led by the Holy Spirit.
We need to have charity in our dealings without compromising what is right.
If we take a light stand on these matters we are only hurting ourselves and the church and disobeying the LORD.
When we know what is right but we do not do it, that is sin – James 4:17
Let’s be diligent to have clean lives. 2 Tim. 2:19. Then we can avoid discipline.
If it isn’t clearly taught in the Bible in isn’t on!
Ephesians 5:15-17, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.