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Excommunication is the formal removal of an individual from church membership and the informal separation from that individual. Matthew 18:15-20 gives the procedure and authority for a church to do...
Churches should be careful about disciplining believers who are living in sin. They are just as saved as everyone else, they are just out of fellowship with God and the church. But God does discipline his children, even to taking their life early as was about to happen in First Corinthians 5:5. Salvation is a free gift from God, but after we have been given the seal of the Holy Spirit and are born of God, we can lose our life early, and all our rewards burned up. We can not lose our salvation because Christ bore our sins on the cross and we can no longer be condemned to hell. John 3:18. But God' wrath does come on the Sons of disobedience. Notice it says sons. These are children of God who are saved because they have believed, but Just will not obey their heavenly Father. But this kind of discipline should only be done as a last resort, and should not be over doubtful things, or things that are not clearly spelled out in scripture as sin. Drunkeness is sin, but not drinking in moderation. Tobacco use is not mentioned in the bible. We are all sinners to a degree, so do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We can not add our own rules and regulations to what the bible says and make them binding on everyone. We are to correct those who are living in out and out sin. Adultery, fornication, drunkenness, homosexuality, proud, boasters of themselves. We can bar them from fellowship. Ephesians 4:30 tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit in whom ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Born again believers can be living in sin. But we are not to associate with them and treat them as an unbeliever.
I am submitting an answer to the question "What is church discipline?" which has been merged (inappropriately in my opinion) with another question about excommunication. Wikipedia defines church discipline as "the practice of censuring church members when they are perceived to have sinned in hope that the offender will repent and be reconciled to God and the church. It is also intended to protect other church members from the influence of sin." This is a good workable definition with one exception. It does not clarify and confirm that every church member, including all church leaders, are all sinners. If discipline was exercised against all sinners then the church would dissolve, because there would be no one left. So what does the bible teach us about church discipline? I would like to focus on 2 discipline issues that are addressed in the New Testament churches. 1. Protecting the truth of the gospel message proclaimed by the local church to the world 2. Protecting the integrity of holy life displayed by the local church to the world The truth of the gospel: The word "truth" appears 103 times in the New Testament of my NIV bible and the word "false" appears 43 times. It is a really important subject. Every church mentioned in the NT needed defending and protection against false teaching. The church in Thessalonica was being taught falsely that Jesus had already come for the second time and they missed it. The church in Rome was being taught falsely that church members should keep on sinning so that God's grace would abound even more. The church in Ephesus was being falsely taught that the resurrection had already taken place. The apostle John, in the book of 1 John, is writing to defend against the false teaching the Jesus is not the incarnate Son of God. There are many other examples. So what is the gospel message that needs so much defending? The entire bible is actually the good news about Jesus, but the essence of the gospel message is this: 1) God created human beings in his image, to live holy and perfect with God forever, 2) humans rebelled against God's command and sin entered the world and a sinful human nature has been passed on to every generation of people, 3) God is holy, righteous and just so sin must be punished, 4) Jesus, the only Son of God agreed to become a human man, he lived a perfect sinless life and then laid down that life as the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for all the sin of the world, 5) Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven as proof that his sacrifice was enough, 6) every human being who hears this good news, confessed their sin, turns away or repents from it, accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and the Lord of their life, receives the forgiveness of their sins and salvation from God's eternal judgement, receives the gift of eternal life through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, 7) every believer is being sanctified and made holy to reflect the image of Jesus Christ, 8) every believer will be resurrected in a glorified new body when Jesus comes again to establish life in a new heaven and earth. The integrity of holy life: Any believer who willfully and deliberately sins in a public manner known to the local church, is mocking the sacrifice by Jesus Christ and ridiculing the faith of every believer. Such a person becomes a cancer of destruction to the local fellowship of the church. The apostle Paul dealt with this type of behaviour in the church at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-6 we read "it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have put out of your fellowship this man who has been doing this.... hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. Later Paul tells the church to welcome him back after he has repented.
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