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cdThe following notes are from Jonathan Leeman’s short and very helpful book, Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

3 Forms of Discipline

  1. Formative discipline helps to form the disciple through instruction.
  2. Corrective discipline helps to correct the disciple through correcting sin (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 5:11; Titus 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 5:1-13).
  3. Preemptive discipline disallows someone from participating in the fellowship of the church in the first place (2 John 2:9-10; see an example of this in Acts 8:17-24).

The following notes have to do with “corrective discipline.”

6 Reasons Churches Should Practice Church Discipline

  1. Church discipline is biblical.
  2. Church discipline is an implication of the gospel.
  3. Church discipline promotes the health of the church.
  4. Church discipline clarifies and burnishes the church’s witness before the nations.
  5. Church discipline warns sinners of an even greater judgment to come.
  6. Most importantly, church discipline protects the name and reputation of Jesus Christ on earth.

4 Ways Church Discipline Demonstrates Love

  1. Church discipline shows love for the individual, that he or she might be warned and brought to repentance.
  2. Church discipline shows love for the church, that weaker sheep might be protected.
  3. Church discipline shows love for the watching world, that it might see Christ’s transforming power.
  4. Church discipline shows love for Christ, that churches might uphold his holy name and obey him.

5 Purposes of Church Discipline from 1 Corinthians 5

1. Discipline aims to expose.

Sin, like cancer, loves to hide. Discipline exposes the cancer so that it might be cut out quickly (see 1 Cor. 5:2)

2. Discipline aims to warn.

A church does not enact God’s retribution through discipline. Rather, it stages a small play that pictures the great judgment to come (v. 5). Discipline is a compassionate warning.

3. Discipline aims to save.

Churches pursue discipline when they see a member taking the path toward death, and none of their pleading and arm-waving causes the person to turn around. It’s the device of last resort for bringing an individual to repentance (v. 5).

4. Discipline aims to protect.

Just as cancer spreads from one cell to another, so sin quickly spreads from one person to another (v. 6).

5. Discipline aims to present a good witness for Jesus.

Church discipline, strange to say, is actually good for non-Christians, because it helps to preserve the attractive distinctiveness of God’s people (see v. 1). Churches, remember, should be salt and light. “But if the salt loses its saltiness . . . ,” Jesus said, “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt. 5:13, NIV).

4 Foundational Assumptions for Church Discipline

1. An expectation of transformation.

The new covenant promises that Christ’s people will live transformed lives through the power of the Spirit. Even if change comes slowly, churches should expect change—the visible fruit of God’s grace and Spirit. Discipline is the right response to a lack of visible fruit, or, even more, the presence of bad fruit.

2. The work of representation.

Christians are to be little Christs, representing Jesus on earth. The concept of representation depends on the idea that Jesus is Savior and Lord; it depends on the fact that Christians are given a new status and a new work. Discipline is the right response when Christians fail to represent Jesus and show no desire for doing so.

3. The local church’s authority.

Jesus gave the local church the authority of the keys to officially affirm and oversee citizens of his kingdom. Churches do not make people Christians. The Spirit does that. But churches have the declarative authority and responsibility for making public statements before the nations about who is and isn’t a Christian. A church’s act of excommunication, therefore, does not consist of physically and forcibly removing the individual from its public gatherings, as if the church had the state’s power of the sword to physically move people’s bodies; rather, it consists of the public statement that it can no longer vouch for an individual’s citizenship in heaven. Excommunication is a church’s declaration that it can no longer affirm that an individual is a Christian.

4. Membership as submission.

Christians are called, as a matter of obedience to Christ, to submit to the affirmation and oversight of local churches. When threatened by a possible act of disci­pline, therefore, church members cannot simply preempt the church’s action with a resignation. That would be analogous to an individual resigning his national citizenship before a court could prosecute the criminal activity for which he had been indicted.

5 Principles for the Process of Church Discipline

  1. The process should involve as few people as possible for yielding repentance.
  2. When the process moves beyond one or several people, church leaders should lead the process.
  3. The length of the process depends on how long it takes to establish that a person is characteristically unrepentant.
  4. Individuals should receive the benefit of the doubt until the evidence indicates otherwise.
  5. Leaders should involve and instruct the congregation as appropriate.

What Excommunication Signifies

“The church removes its public affirmation by barring the member from the Lord’s Table. It takes away his passport and announces that it can no longer formally affirm the individual’s citizenship in Christ’s kingdom” (p. 50).

1 of 3 Conclusions Churches Need to Arrive at before Determining It Is Time to Act

  1. When a church becomes convinced that a person is genuinely repentant, it should not proceed with any form of discipline (and I cannot think of a single exception to this principle).
  2. When a church becomes convinced that a person is characteristically (not temporarily) unrepentant, it should proceed with excommunication.
  3. When a sin is so deliberate, repugnant, and indicative of a deep double-mindedness that a congregation is left unable to give credence to a profession of repentance, at least until time has passed and trust has been re-earned, it should pro­ceed with excommunication, determining to test for repentance after the fact. 

See also, Pastors, Don’t Let Your People Resign into Thin Air and 22 Mistakes Pastors Make about Church Discipline.

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11 thoughts on “Church Discipline: Principles and Reasons”

  1. Ted Bigelow says:


    One of the things that has always appeared to be an inconsistency, and even a sin among congregationalists, is involving the congregation in rendering judgment.

    It is highlighted by point 2 under “Conclusions” above:

    When a church becomes convinced that a person is characteristically (not temporarily) unrepentant, it should proceed with excommunication.

    The church must become as convinced of unrepentancy as did the initial accusers, and also the leaders, lest each member of the church judge the matter in presumption.

    Yet, the process by which the initial accusers and leaders became convinced required a full examination of all the evidence (Mat. 18:16). Not to belabor the point, but that takes interviewing all involved (usually multiple times), untangling various accounts from all people, understanding the details of any cover-up on behalf of the alleged unrepentant person… speaking to all persons who are directly involved, etc. Typically dozens, if not hundreds of hours are involved. In the legal profession it is called discovery and cross examination.

    Congregationalism proposes to take the results of that, in a case of unrepentancy, to the congregation for final judgment.

    And apart from this process (discovery, cross-exam, etc.) rendering a judgment of unrepentancy is presumptuous.

    Now in congregational context, since it is believed authority lies in the church members, and they will have to give an exacting account before God for their judgment (whether it be made in presumption, without the benefit of all the facts), isn’t it incumbent upon the leaders to fill in the entire congregation on all the details, not only of the process, but of all persons involved? As judges, aren’t they meant to hear all the details lest they render a tainted and inaccurate judgment?

    And won’t divulging to the congregation all the details almost certainly involve making public private details concerning people who aren’t being disciplined, thus causing all sort of sins of slander, indecency, and possible libel? And as judges, should the congregation have the full right to its own cross-examination of all involved – the unrepentant member, the accusers, and the leaders?

    Point 5 above under “5 Principles” speaks of appropriateness:

    Leaders should involve and instruct the congregation as appropriate.

    But without full (and I mean “full”) disclosure to the congregation, whom you believe God wants to be judges over the matter, how can the members of Christ in the church truly know how to render a valid ruling in tangled matter of sin and righteousness?

    And how can the leaders know, before God, that they have given an appropriate amount of detail to the congregation so that they (the congregation) aren’t rendering a judgment on partial facts?

    For if God expects congregations to make rulings on sin and righteousness, isn’t full disclosure to them not merely advisable, but required by such a doctrinal commitment as congregationalism entails?

    And isn’t it impossible to give them full disclosure without sinning?

    Therefore, congregationalism as proposed by Leemen and others is impossible. The congregation cannot be treated as judges while yet believing God wants them to be judges. Instead, the leaders must present only a tiny subset of the “evidence” (Mat. 18:16) to the congregation, causing them (the leaders) to treat their own judgment above the congregation’s and thus sinning by presenting to the congregation only what they decide the congregation should hear.

    And as any experienced congregationalist knows, when church discipline cases are handled as though the congregation really are final judges, far more shepherding problems are created than are solved.

    1. Jonathan Leeman says:

      Great comments. Thank you. A few thoughts:

      1) The congregation’s authority of the keys needs to work together with the elders authority of oversight. The congregation’s authority should generally contradict the elders’ leadership only when fidelity to the gospel or Scripture are at stake. Generally speaking, they should follow the lead of the elders. In other words, congregationalism is not representative democracy, where they install elders to represent their will. The congregation’s authority is not the authority of the jury, where, yes, a process of discovery is required. Rather, congregationalism is the office occupied by members of the new covenant (where there are no human mediators between us and God, as in ancient Israel: “everyone knows the Lord, Jer. 31) by which the congregation is responsible to protect the WHAT and the WHO of teh gospel. It’s a mere authority. It’s a veto power. It’s a backstop. You see this practiced in Galatians 1, 1 John 4, 1 Cor. 5, and elsewhere. In other words, Ted, my understanding of congregationalism does not require it to do everything you’re saying I’m saying it must do.

      2) When our elders present a motion for discipline to the congregation, we give them the bare facts (e.g. “John is divorcing his wife; and he does not have biblical grounds.”). And at that point, there is some expectation of trust in the elders’ process of discovery, etc. So, yes, they need to know something, but we don’t tell them everything. There’s a balance to strike here. That said, we typically give the congregation a couple of months to pray, think, and involve themselves, which is our way of fulfilling Matt. 18:17 (“Tell it to the church, and if he doesn’t listen to the church…”). Matthew/Jesus seems to envision the church somehow becoming involved and addressing the situation. We also say something like this: “If you have a relationship with John, we’d encourage you to talk to him etc. If you don’t know him, do pray. If nothing has changed between now and the next regularly scheduled members meeting, the elders will move in that meeting for John to be removed from the church.” In short, there’s a balance here, Ted. The congregation is involved, because every member should care for every other member (see 1 Cor 12). And the authority of the whole congregation is involved, because all are responsible to protect the gospel. Seriously, read 1 Cor. 12 and the bits about all suffering when one part suffers. How would you advise doing this when John decides to leave his wife? Should not all mourn the sin? Should all not mourn with her?

      3) Your basic claim, as I understand it, is, everyone needs to know everything to excommunicate responsibly. Flatly, I just don’t agree. There are many places in life where I’m asked to make a decision, and exercise my authority, even when I don’t have all the facts, and I’m required to trust someone else, who does have more of the facts. I do this in decision-making with my wife, where I trust her recommendation. I do this at work all the time. In regard to the church, I think your basic principle discounts the trust church members should have in their leaders. In other words, I can imagine Jesus saying two things to me at once: “The final call is yours AND I want you to trust and submit to your leaders.” You’re forcing an either/or here, where I don’t think there needs to be one. Ordinarily, I trust and submit to the leaders. At the same time, I will give an account for the gospel witness in my church, and so there is a final veto power that I possess should the elders go astray. Now here’s the irony of your argument. The alternative to what I’m proposing is that the decision lay entirely with the elders (or an outside presbytery or bishop). Of course, by your standard, that would be an even greater abdication of my responsibility as a Christian to care for the gospel and for my church, because no veto power here is even possible. And so if my elders or the presbytery go astray, there’s no recourse.

      4) Where I’d caution you more broadly at the level of theological method is, I think you’re applying the model of a courtroom wholesale to the church, a bit like a business mindset can do by leading a church to adopt the marketing methods of Fifth Avenue Now, I’m not throwing out the wisdom of the courtroom. There should be due process. I’m just adding to that wisdom by also saying, elders and congregation need to work together, each in its part: the elders leading, doing due process, the congregation being trained to care for the gospel by following and, if need be, intervening with a veto. So all your critiques are good “common sense” or prudential critiques. They raise questions that a congregationalist should consider and even account for. But none of them are finally decisive or determinative for our polity. Scripture alone is determinative. After all, I could raise a similar host of prudential critiques and challenges to any alternative polity that you might present to me. Presbyterianism? Let me take my turn at listing the practical problems. Episcoplalianism? Same thing.

      5. Last and perhaps most important comment: Two questions for you: whom does Paul instruct to hand the man over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5:4? How would you advise fulfilling Matt. 18:17?

      I’m writing a book on congregationalism. I might want to cut and paste your critiques! Very helpful and thoughtful. Thank you again.

      1. Ted Bigelow says:

        Last and perhaps most important comment: Two questions for you: whom does Paul instruct to hand the man over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5:4? How would you advise fulfilling Matt. 18:17?whom does Paul instruct to hand the man over to Satan in 1 Corinthians 5:4?

        Paul instructs the church in 1 Cor. 5:4, as an institution, to deliver the man to Satan (“when you are assembled”).
        He does not leave the decision with the members, however. One of the difficulties for congregationalists – and one which I’ve not seen addressed, is why, if Paul believed the congregation had final authority to expel members, does he command them to expel to the man in 1 Cor. 5:13? What would have happened if they had disobeyed his apostolic command and voted not to discipline the man (assuming church votes, of course)? They were pretty skilled at being disobedient, you know…

        In Mat. 18:17 Jesus instructs the congregation to do what the first accuser, and then second set of accusers did: confront the man and call him, by words, to repentance. Only if “if he refuses to listen even to the church” is he to be removed.

        What does that mean, “to listen even to the church?” To take a vote, or verbally confront? To “listen” in Mat. 18:17 means the same as to “listen” in Mat. 18:15 and “listen” in Mat. 18:16. Did the first accuser, or the second set of accusers, vote, or verbally confront?

        Jonathan, here’s an email address to reach me if you want to escape the comm box dilemma – tbalive4ever at gmail dot net.

    2. Rich C says:

      First off, I’ve spent some time reading a few articles on your website and really appreciate (and concur) with most of your conclusions. The evidence of elder led churches is overwhelming in the NT. I especially liked your “Precept and Example” process.

      But I’m confused as to whose “authority” you are promoting in your above comment. Matthew 18 (which you refer to as a proof text), clearly defines the process of the brother sinning as follows:
      1. Private reproof (v15) then, if no repentance…
      2. 2 or 3 witnesses to confirm the facts (v16)
      3. upon lack of repentance – tell it to the church (v17)
      4. the church reproves the offender (v17) then, if no repentance…
      5. treat him as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer (i.e. an unbeliever)

      I guess I read your comment as saying that the church (the congregation of that particular gathering) can’t handle the truth and should be protected by withholding the sordid details.

      I’m not sure what particular situation you’ve seen, or been involved in, that might lead you to this conclusion, but I personally think that you should let the problem play out as the Scripture indicates.

      My experience (I’m an old guy) is that the process usually doesn’t get much beyond point 2 with the witnesses. But there shouldn’t be a problem presenting the issue to the church should the violator press the issue. I believe the church would grow in discernment in these instances. There is perhaps a need to be trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).

      In a nutshell, as per Hebrews 13:7,17 the elder “authority” lies in their leading “amongst” the flock of God.
      1. Elders lead by speaking the Word of God (Heb 13:7)
      2. Elders lead by an exemplary, proven character and faith (Heb 13:7)
      3. Elders lead by persuasion of others to yield to their teaching (Obey in v17 meaning to persuade (peitho).

      Maybe I read your comments wrong and I am misrepresenting you and if I am I apologize. I think your blog should be required reading by the way.

      To Jonathan Leemen –
      Under point 1 of conclusion you state, that upon evidence of genuine repentance, church should not proceed with any form of discipline (and that you cannot think of a single exception to this principle).

      The one exception I’ve seen is where a pastor genuinely repented of an inappropriate relationship but saw no reason to “step down” from the role of pastor. The church and leadership (eventually) had to ask him to resign.

      I can’t question his genuine repentance, but the church definitely had to discipline him regardless. It has to do with the “above reproach” and “good reputation” of overseers in 1 Timothy 3.

      Thanks for the article.
      Rich C

      1. Ted Bigelow says:

        Hi Rich,

        I am made thankful to the Lord after reading your comment, dear brother. I am sure your are a blessing to your brothers and sisters in your church in many, many ways. And thank you for the kind comments on my web site,

        As to your question/concern:

        I guess I read your comment [on Mat. 18:17] as saying that the church (the congregation of that particular gathering) can’t handle the truth and should be protected by withholding the sordid details.

        As you probably know the Lord’s words in Mat. 18:15-17 are exceedingly dense – not only is every word important, but every word is connected, too. When the passage is carefully read, though, it makes for a wonderful and robust teaching that is sufficient for the institutional church to handle the knotty matters of sin and righteousness in a public context.

        In Mat. 18:17 our Lord instructs us, “tell it to the church” and the question always is, “tell what, exactly, to the church?” The answer is provided in the context, and Jonathan, I believe, really nailed it above. I recommend his wise words above in his first response to me on what to tell, and not to tell, the congregation.

        1) Tell him the accusation:

        Jesus expects the church members to go and tell the accused to repent of the accusation, “tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church…” The word “listen” was used in the previous context, describing the accused response to being verbally confronted. Thus first, the church members need to know the accusation: adultery, stealing, lying, laziness, etc.

        2) Tell him to repent:

        Jesus also expects the members to go and tell the accused to repent since He attaches consequences, “if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

        And that’s really all the congregation needs to know. The accusations) and the call to repent. The hard work of establishing the man’s impenitence has already been handled by the two or three witnesses in Mat. 18:16, and the congregation is to rely on their testimony so fully that they go and confront the accused, with grieved hearts, but out of obedience to Christ.

        Anything more than this goes beyond Christ’s words in the passage, and can quickly lead to further sin.

  2. Jonathan Leeman says:

    Further clarification that occurred to me to mention in a lunch conversation: most people view ecclesial authority as if there is one kind of authority, and the only question is, who had it? I think there are at least two kinds of authority: the congregation’s authority of the keys, and the elders’ authority of teaching and oversight. And the resolution of the difficulty you raise, Ted, is found in the balance between those two kinds of authority.

    1. Ted Bigelow says:


      Thanks for your comment here – I didn’t expect to hear from you, and it is a pleasure to interact with you on these important matters. I got your follow on comment as well. To that I would encourage you to think through the distinction of the church as an institution, and the church as a congregation, and try applying the “church as an institution” to Mat. 18:19.

      But regarding your first response let me begin by thanking you also for your clear and articulate affirmation and defense of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ over the years. Many of us have profited from your passion and teaching gifts for the truth. Your ministry is great blessing.

      Now, I’m going to shift to polity, where we are a bit different. It’s funny, but when it comes to polity, we all have a vested interest to protect the way our church does things and to seek out Scripture passages to defend what we experience. If that weren’t the case, would there even be the multi-perspective books on the topic? I doubt it.

      I’ve been a pastor in two congregational churches and now serve on the elder board in an eldership church, where I am privileged to do most of the teaching and the congregation has the misfortune of having to endure it. I share full-charge leadership with other men who haven’t had the benefits of all the training I’ve received, but because they meet the 25 qualifications of 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, share in the leadership fully, with full authority. To these men the congregation submits in all things, as expressly taught by the apostles and prophets in passages like Heb. 13:17 and 1 Thess. 5:12-13.

      It is all very loving and very happy, save our sin. But that is the reason only men who are mature in the faith are given the authority Scripture calls ‘stewards of God” (Titus 1:7). But here I want to make a distinction.

      Eldership doesn’t exist as an alternative to congregationalism, or to connectionalism, or to episcopalianism. All three of those polities affirm and further enable schism in every place they exist. It’s like the comment, “Christians vote with their feet.” That exposes the loss of the unity of the body of Christ (all the regenerate) where you live, which biblically, is to be one body in one church.

      Eldership exists to hold the body of Christ together under the Head, the Lord Jesus, which is why eldership is more than just a polity in the delicatessan of ecclesiology. It is defined in Scripture so clearly and in so many places in order to prevent schism and isolate heresy. It works in harmony with the body of Christ that takes 1 Cor. 12 a lot more robustly than the three polities that have come along since the days of the apostles.

      Your posts some time ago on a big worship service where all the believers got together was an expression of what the Holy Spirit has given you a deep longing for – unity with all those Christ has efficaciously drawn to Himself where you live. They are a part of the body you are a part of. Eldership as a polity exists so robustly in Scripture because it contains the authority and unity to unite the body of Christ in every locale, and to heal the schism caused by, in historical turn, episcopalianism, connectionalism, and last but not least, congregationalism.

      How can we know this be truth and not conjecture? Eldership is taught by both precept and example in the NT; church voting and quorums have neither. Those practices are derived from a few nebulous NT examples.

      But what I’ve written isn’t any more likely to convince you that your take on congregationalism and Mat. 18:17 is off base. So in the severe mercy of a comm box, let me make some comments that might help you write your book.

      You probably should clarify with more precision the authority of the congregation. Or just make a longer list with more distinctions between types of authority.

      On one hand Justin has you saying, “It’s a mere authority. It’s a veto power. It’s a backstop” only when fidelity to the gospel or Scripture is at stake (paragraph 1). But on the other hand Justin summarizes you as saying “churches have the declarative authority and responsibility for making public statements before the nations about who is and isn’t a Christian.” This appears to tie to your prior claim that the congregation alone has the power of the keys, “to make visible who represents heaven.” (

      And on a third hand ;) you have claimed the congregation also has final authority in discipline: “the entire church body has the final authority under God’s Word in matters of… discipline” (

      From my little chair up here in Connecticut it appears that what you give the congregation with your third hand (final authority) you have taken away with your first (mere authority). You have replaced final authority to mere authority. My comments above assumed your third hand was your first.

      Your tension, esteemed brother, is brought out in your statement,

      “In other words, I can imagine Jesus saying two things to me at once: “The final call is yours AND I want you to trust and submit to your leaders.”

      But authority is ordained of God, so wouldn’t that be sin? Wouldn’t it be more in line with the way God has ordained authority to instead say to the elders, “since the final call belongs to the congregation, you must trust them”?

      To me, it looks like you have to go to casuistry – making claim for all sorts of levels of authority in the local church. Maybe that’s is where your book has to go – the X levels of congregational authority?

  3. Jeff Swan says:

    The dilemma I see is that, on one hand, it’s obvious that there is hardly any church discipline at all in 95% of churches with over 2,000 members, like the churches I have always attended, since the church staff and lay leaders seem pretty out of touch with the day-to-day lives of the congregants, unless there’s a spectacularly public breach. But on the other hand, my sense is that every Christian has “sins” that they harbor over time, and that they work on correcting some sins, and delay truly correcting others. Thus, it seems impossible to me that more than a small fraction of any local church body would be “fully repentant” of every one of their sins, especially since they are probably not even aware of some of them. And if the church leaders were to really start micro-managing their members lives, I would suspect that someone like CS Lewis would get kicked out, because he never stopped drinking, smoking or telling off-color jokes. Nobody’s perfect.

    So, that’s my dilemma: Where should the local church really draw the line when it comes to discipline? Adultery seems to be the one that is easy to spot, or stealing and defrauding other people. But what if somebody has a hard time refraining from a few cuss words every week? Has one too many once in a while? Subscribes to HBO? Stretches the truth when trying to close a sale? Is a gossip? is greedy or envious? Eats too much and just never gets in shape, thus treating their body shabbily for years and years? Seems to me there are millions of American Christians who are not close to repenting of gluttony, sloth, greed and envy, but if somebody gets drunk at a sports bar, well, hey, time to step in. So, seriously, I wonder what the correct approach is to specific levels of “sin”?

    1. Rich C says:

      If I may,
      I have found that we must differentiate at the following levels. I find these levels in 1 Corinthians 3:10-18 as a start.
      1. The Careful teacher (3:10). This teacher (or anyone who thinks he is a teacher) must teach doctrine carefully. We are all subject to the Word of God. The Careful teacher is one who is found to take God’s Word seriously in study and conversation with others. He is patient to instruct and does not take offense with other views. He wants truth to prevail, not his own abilities.
      2. The Careless teacher (3:15). All of us are prone to teach a doctrine carelessly, without thinking through the ramifications of what we teach in light of the full revelation of God’s Word, especially the Apostles doctrine. The answer to Careless teaching is Careful teaching, by others more trained in the Word. Sometimes Careless teachers will listen, often not. These Careless teachers will “suffer loss; but he himself will be saved…”. Fill in the blank for what Careless teaching might be, but disagreement of the Word should be looked at as an opportunity to instruct, not put believers (albeit unlearned or ignorant) out of fellowship. That is why there should “be not many teachers… (James 3:1) because it’s a serious role.
      3. The Out To Destroy teacher (3:17). These are false teachers, unbelievers. They are out to destroy the church. “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Cor. 5:13).

      In terms of Matt 18, wickedness could be exhibited in the refusal of a person to repent in spite of the church’s (and elders of course) appeal to sound teaching or conduct.

      I have found that if I am able to separate teaching into one of these 3 categories, I am less inclined to accuse someone of heresy (Out to Destroy teaching) from maybe someone who just doesn’t know any better. But fitting other believers into a category of “wickedness” due to the many sins that beset us (which you have mentioned) is a dangerous error.

      As Paul said to Timothy, “PREACH THE WORD, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Tim. 4:2).

      What we need are more Careful teachers, right Ted?
      Rich C

  4. Larry says:

    “When a church becomes convinced that a person is genuinely repentant, it should not proceed with any form of discipline (and I cannot think of a single exception to this principle).”

    Not sure I agree with so sweeping a statement. There sometimes must be consequences for sin, even when repentance is genuine. For example, an elder who has an extra-marital affair should certainly not be excommunicated if he’s genuinely repentant but he still may be asked to step down from his position in church leadership – and legitimately so.

  5. Slimjim says:

    Thank you for this

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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