Paul's Passing Thoughts

Church Discipline? What Church Discipline?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 5, 2016

ppt-jpeg4This post is about another Protestant delusionary concept supposedly exegeted from the Bible. Along with myriads of other fantasies including their doctrine of salvation this one goes something like this: Matthew 18:15-20 teaches that members need to be disciplined from time to time by the elders. Supposedly, Matthew 18:15-20 describes the disciplinary process conducted by the elders. Yes, Matthew 18:15-20 is about “church discipline” and how the elders are supposed to conduct it.

Let’s begin with some basics as a way to segway from the fundamental absurdities of this concept to the multiple absurdities regarding the practice of so-called “church discipline.”

First, the term “church discipline” is not found in this passage nor is it found anywhere in the Bible. Furthermore, elders are nowhere to be found in Matthew 18:15-20. They just aren’t involved in the subject of the passage at all; they are totally absent from the process, and any argument that they are is predicated on pure assumption.

The Bible does describe two specific disciplines. There is discipline by the Lord inside and outside of the church (Hebrews 12:5-11, 1Cor. 11:30), and self-discipline by believers (1Cor. 11:31,32), but there is no “church discipline” practiced by elders or the church. If the real process goes south, the church assembly of Christ ceases to have fellowship with the individual which results in the Lord’s discipline not anything the church actually executes. This is not an insignificant point; historically, the idea that the church executes the discipline has resulted in “heretics” and the “slothful” being burned at the stake, hanged, and drowned.

Such activities fall well short of the Lord’s mandate for Christ’s assembly. Here is another important point on the execution of church discipline: the Protestant practice and its interpretation of Matthew 18:15-20 was contrived under the auspices of a church-state during Medieval times; America is a representative republic. Hence, churches that practice elder discipline merely replace the burning stake and gallows with things like slander, revoking eternal salvation, false prosecution, instructing the disciplined person’s family to not associate with them, counseling a spouse to divorce them, and financial ruin to name a few.

Then there is the issue of how many Protestant elders are defining “sin” worthy of church discipline. The consensus among them seems to be that ANY sin is game for church disciple. In other words, church elders can bring you under church discipline for any reason they see fit.

Also, according to what has become the norm for application, this so-called church discipline is a process that can go on for months and even years. One can be “in the discipline process” until fruit inspecting elders “release them from the process.” Of course, the plain sense of the Matthew 18:15-20 text shows forth the real context: it is a short process for conflict resolution between everyday run-of-the-mill saints.

In the Holman Christian Standard Bible which includes commentary throughout by well-known evangelicals, Pastor Mark Dever states that church discipline has two categories. This is in reference to Matthew 18:15-20 on page 1649 of the HCSB. He states that the teaching received at church is preventative discipline, or “formative discipline.” This implies that the average saint has a propensity for sin and is therefore always under discipline as a preventative measure which hopefully negates the necessity for “corrective discipline.” In other words, any Christian who joins a Protestant church is automatically under discipline. If this concept seems creepy to you, it should.

Again, this is just another example of how Protestants torture Matthew 18:15-20 for control purposes. Notice that the emphasis is not instruction for loving God and others, but rather “prevention.” This is a sad commentary in regard to how Protestant elitists see the laity that supports their extravagant lifestyles. Moreover, notice how Dever replaces the two biblical disciplines, the Lord’s discipline and self-discipline with the errant orthodoxy of “formative discipline” and “corrective discipline” exclusively applied in-house by the elders alone.

All in all, Matthew 18:15-20 is the best argument there is for home fellowships attended by members of Christ’s body practicing their gifts and encouraging each other unto good works as opposed to an institution. One reason Protestant scholars take so much liberty with this passage is because the simplicity of it will not work in an institutional setting. In a mega-church of say 5,000 people, how do you “tell it to the church”? And how then is the offender supposed to “hear” what the whole church has to say about it? This is exactly why most churches do not follow this passage as written; an institutional setting prevents it, so the protocol must be changed. But now apply this passage to a small home fellowship setting; it works perfectly.

But apply the text as written apart from the whole concept of church discipline because such in not in Matthew 18; nor is it anywhere in the Bible.


3 Responses

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  1. Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on August 5, 2016 at 1:51 PM

    All fantastic points!

    I would also add that this passage is part of a much larger context that involves the entire of chapter 18, and the context is actually about “forgiveness”. Not only that, but it also implies that forgiveness is assumed (“seventy times seven) because it is dealing with those who are members of the same Body. So if one were to study the passage in context alone, the issue of “church discipline” would be moot, all your fine points notwithstanding.

    One other thing regarding forgiveness is that when this passage is cited as a “forgiveness” passage, it is most often with regard to an elder demanding a victim of some abuse grant forgiveness to their perpetrator. This is a most evil application of this passage because it circumvents justice and obfuscates condemnation with consequences. When one “brother” has committed a CRIME, that certainly rises to a higher degree of seriousness that just having “offended” another!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Johnny said, on August 6, 2016 at 12:59 AM

    Excellent post! It is much needed. There is usually no noticeable counter argument out there to the increasingly popular discipline movement.

    For me it is undone quite simply in verse 17.

    “…but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” –Matthew 18:17

    For the church discipline doctrine to look legit the elder overlords intentionally gloss over the word “thee” in the last “step” of church discipline. Note that “thee” is second person singular… Jesus was giving instructions to the offended brother –an individual and not to the church as a congregation! If he was telling the church to give someone the boot it would have been translated “YOU” which is second person plural. (No wonder these guys love the ESV.) I believe the final “step” is there to free the offended brother from any further burden he may have for attempting to reconcile. Once the church has attempted to help and there has been no reconciliation, the offended can honestly say he tried everything. I also do not believe these verses are intended as a rigid flowchart but instead anticipate and answer Peter’s questions about how much we should forgive someone. Answer: “A lot. And you better make a serious effort at it even if it involves the whole church.”
    Church discipline? Phhht. There is a much more important theme to the whole chapter and it isn’t about punishing sinners. Where did this concept ultimately come from? The Calvinists sure embrace the idea but Catholics perfected it way before that murder John Calvin came along. Augustine perhaps?


    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on August 7, 2016 at 10:06 AM

      Much confusion can be avoided if one translates the word “ekklesia” properly. Translating it as “church” gives the implication of an institution along with its necessary authority structure; i.e. “church” really means the leadership. But the correct translation “assembly” implies a body; i.e. the individual members that comprise the body. Such a disagreement between brothers would have its greatest impact among small gatherings of believers because it would affect the tone and atmosphere every time they gathered for fellowship.


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