The Assembling of the Church: Matthew 18 and Discipline
Alan Knox has an interesting post on church discipline as it relates to Matthew 18: 15-17, Matthew 18 and Discipline. I think it is very timely and I appreciate Alan thinking through this issue and the text because I think it is an issue that I and many others misunderstand and misapply. As you would expect, Alan’s view is not necessarily the same view that is often shared in the church at large. If I can be so presumptuous to summarize his point, it is that church discipline is the responsibility of the entire church, not just a select few. Alan closes his post with this thought:
It would seem, if we take Jesus' words at face value, that church discipline depends upon each believer - that is, discipline is all of our responsibility. Furthermore, neither structure, nor organization, nor leadership are necessary for effective church discipline, at least, not according to this passage. Perhaps, church discipline is not effective because I have not been upholding my responsibilities.
I love this viewpoint! I would perhaps even go a step further and suggest that sometimes or even oftentimes, the structure and organization inhibits Biblical church discipline. Jesus doesn’t say: if a brother sins against you, go tell the pastor and he will decide what to do (or not to do). There is not a management hierarchy in the church, rather each Christian is individually responsible before the Lord and if someone has sinned against you, it is incumbent upon you to go to your brother and talk to him. The structure we have created around the local assembly has formed an enforcement system that takes the words of Christ in Matthew 18 and replaces that simple method of dealing with relationships in the body with an enforcement system. Biblical church discipline has as its goal the restoration of a wayward brother. That cannot happen without a prior genuine relationship between believers. That is why "relationship" is far more meaningful than "membership" when it comes to discipline in the local assembly.