We have continued that Christian believers can do the work of church discipline, basing our opinion upon Romans 15:14, “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” Similar expressions are found in such passages as Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God,” and Hebrews 10:24, 25, “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day drawing nigh.”
In the church there is mutual admonition. This “ordinary exhortation” is the beginning of that which we know as the exercise of discipline in the congregation of Christ.
In addition to this mutual supervision of doctrine and conduct by fellow Christians the New Testament speaks of a special, official discipline. Take note of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.” In 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15 we find this interesting instruction, “And if any man obeyeth not our word by this epistle, note that man, that ye have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed. And yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
The “disorderly” are people who set aside all regulation and rule, who live carelessly and therefore offensively. These must be set straight. This is a concern of the members in general, and of the officers in particular. It would take considerable space to describe the nature of orderly Christian conduct, but the figure involved in the word here translated as disorderly is that of an army marching on file. Those not taking care to march in line with the rest threaten both the efficiency and the respectability of that fighting unit, of course.
On the matter of official church discipline we hope to say more later. But before leaving the subject now we must be reminded of Paul’s instruction regarding the manner in which such work is done. 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15 says that those not heeding the apostolic instruction must be dealt with firmly, even to the point of deliberate cessation of association. However, even such extreme treatment is to be marked by brotherliness and not hostility or animosity. Discipline may never come from a position of pride and self-exaltation. It must reveal the unity and parity of believers in Christ as fellow-beneficiaries of God’s free grace. This is very important for the right exercise of true church discipline!