Please explain your views on church discipline.
Church discipline is the church’s confrontation of one’s sin and call to repentance. It is a restorative process that strengthens and preserves the church for God’s glory.
- Church discipline is the church’s confrontation of one’s sin and call to repentance.
Jesus tells his disciples, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt 18:15). The words “go” and “tell” emphasize a confrontation of the brother’s sin. What is the purpose of telling the brother about his sin? “If he listens to you, you have gained a brother” (Matt 18:15). The purpose is repentance. When one sins against another, that person is commanded to turn from his sin and pursue reconciliation with God and man. Paul also clarifies the confrontation of sin and call to repentance: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in transgression, you who are spiritual should restore in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1). He notes elsewhere, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thess 3:14–15). So, it is clear that church discipline involves rebuke and a call for repentance.
- Church discipline is restorative.
The goal of church discipline is to restore the unrepentant brother or sister. As referenced in the previous section, Jesus communicates the restorative nature of church discipline: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). If the brother listens and repents of his sin, then he is restored according to Jesus. Paul echoes the same restorative nature of church discipline in his epistle to the Galatians: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1). Paul also identifies the final step of church discipline—excommunication—as restorative in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” What is the purpose of excommunicating the unrepentant man in the church at Corinth? “So that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5). This is restorative language.
- Church discipline is a process.
Church discipline is a process that involves certain steps depending on the severity of the sin in the church. Jesus gives a clear blueprint for its process in Matthew 18:15–17: “If your brother sins against you,” says Jesus, then the first step is to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15). “But if he does not listen,” says Jesus, then the second step is to “take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt 18:16). The first and second steps of church discipline involve addressing sin privately. Now “if he refuses to listen to them,” says Jesus, then the third step is to “tell it to the church” (Matt 18:17). As indicated in this verse, if the individual continues in unrepentance, then his sin is taken publicly to the church. “And if he refuses to listen even to the church,” states Jesus, then the final step is “to let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector” (Matt 18:17). This final step is excommunication.
- Church discipline strengthens and preserves the church.
It strengthens the church in holiness because it communicates the church’s obligation to “[strive] for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). It illuminates the importance of holiness: “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:15; see Lev 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:26; Eph 1:4; 5:27). In addition to strengthening the church in holiness, church discipline preserves the church in the fear of the Lord. Paul exhorts Timothy to “not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:19–20). This passage addresses church discipline. And, notice how public rebuke, which is a step of church discipline, affects the congregation: “so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:20). Church discipline strengthens the church in the fear of the Lord. As a result, it preserves the church from further sin contaminating the fellowship (see 1 Cor 5:6–7; 2 Tim 2:17).
- Church discipline reflects God’s glory.
It reflects God’s glory in two ways. First, church discipline reflects God’s glory through the church’s holiness. As noted earlier, church discipline incentivizes the church’s pursuit of holiness. God is glorified when His people pursue holiness. Their holiness magnifies “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Church discipline also reflects God’s glory by preserving the church’s witness to unbelievers. In John 13, Jesus declares to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). When the church overlooks unrepentant sin, love for one another disintegrates. And, when the church’s love for one another disintegrates, its evangelism to the watching world wanes. So, God is glorified in the church before the watching world when the church upholds His blueprint for discipline.
 This point is from Mark Dever, What is a Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 101.
 Jonathan Vallandingham helpfully reminds us that calling a brother or sister to repentance must be done “out of love for [him or her] and the well-being of [his or her] soul.” See Jonathan Vallandingham, “Church Discipline in the Local Church,” a paper presented at The Master’s Community Church Leaders’ Fellowship Meeting, Kansas City, KS, February 20, 2022.
 It is important to make two observations about this passage’s context: (1) it comes directly after Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep in Matt 18:10–14 (2) it precedes Jesus’ command to forgive a fellow believer in Matt 18:21–23.
 One can find a clear example of excommunication as restorative in 2 Cor 2:6–8. In this passage, Paul exhorts the church at Corinth to “reaffirm [their] love for him.” “Him” refers to the excommunicated member who then repented of his sin. Essentially, Paul calls the Corinthians to restore this individual back into their fellowship. This individual is likely the same man described in 1 Cor 5:1–5.
 There are instances in Scripture where the early church is commanded to immediately exercise excommunication on an unrepentant person who claims to be a brother or sister. For example, Paul commands the church at Corinth to immediately remove the man in their fellowship who “has his father’s wife” (1 Cor 5:2). So, there are times where a church will have to forego the first three steps to the final step of church discipline.
 DJ Nuhn compellingly points out how these first two steps of church discipline are and should be regularly practiced in the church during one another’s corrective conversations in MCGs, Sunday mornings, sermons, and elsewhere. See DJ Nuhn, “Church Discipline,” a paper presented at The Master’s Community Church Leaders’ Fellowship Meeting, Kansas City, KS, February 20, 2022.
 For a helpful theological primer and how-to-guide on church discipline, see Jonathan Leeman, Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).
 Todd R. Chipman, “How Can You Cultivate the Family Atmosphere of the Local Church (Part 2)?” Sermon, The Master’s Community Church, Kansas City, KS, January 23, 2022.
 Ryan Nix essentially encapsulates all the content addressed in this section of the paper with this one statement: “Church discipline purifies the church, unifies the church in doctrine and truth, and ensures corrupting or divisive individuals are removed from the fellowship.” See Ryan Nix, “Church Discipline,” a paper presented at The Master’s Community Church Leaders’ Fellowship Meeting, Kansas City, KS, February 20, 2022.
 This point is from Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 167–169. The content under this section bears similarities to the previous section.