The New Testament Pattern of Church Discipline

Author
Dennis McCallum

Though neglected by many congregations, church discipline is based on divine discipline and, therefore, is an act of caring love (Hebrews 12:5-12, Matthew 18:11-14). The practice encompasses a broad spectrum from casual correction to removal from fellowship, though all forms are meant to help believers mature spiritually and flee dangerous behaviors.

A full picture of how discipline is practiced at Dwell is outlined in the essay Leading Church Discipline. As an introduction, consider these points:

  1. Discipline is always remedial in intent, for both the church and the individual (1 Corinthians 5:5-7). It is distinct from judgment.
  2. It is possible to argue for a distinction between public and private sin areas, but this point is unclear. For instance, compare Matthew 18:15-17 to Titus 3:10.
  3. Private offenses should be dealt with privately initially (Matthew 18:15-17), but public offenses can be dealt with corporately from the beginning if the church is endangered. Of course, public offenses can also be dealt with privately. Representatives from the elders or deacons should represent the fellowship in the case of public offenses.
  4. Failure to practice church discipline at all is a direct violation of God's will (1 Corinthians 5:2). At the same time, considerable latitude is allowable in the interest of the believer.
  5. Failure to discipline victoriously and righteously results in a build-up of frustration and anger within the church. Anger can result in destructive outbursts when self-control is lost.
  6. Study the following passages and determine what they teach about church discipline. 

  • Matthew 18:15-17
  • Romans 15:14
  • 1 Corinthians 5
  • Romans 16:17-18
  • 1 Corinthians 11:29-32
  • 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
  • 2 Corinthians 7:8-12
  • Galatians 6:1
  • Colossians 3:16
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
  • 1 Timothy 1:20 
  • 2 Timothy 2:17-18
  • 1 Timothy 5:1-2
  • 1 Timothy 5:19-20
  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • Titus 1:13
  • Titus 3:10
  • 3 John 9-10
  • Revelation 2:2, 14-16, 20