Church Discipline

Living a Gospel Centred Life

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When starting to read a new book, it is always helpful to contextualise what is being said. The second book of Timothy is written by Paul in a very challenging time. Paul is writing this book out of captivity, in a time where many other believers have distanced themselves from him because they are ashamed of being associated with a prisoner.

Paul thus starts of by affirming his own identity: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. Paul makes a statement saying: I am not what others think of me, neither am I what I think of myself, but I am who Jesus says I am. This might sound arrogant, but it is not, it is beautiful. 

Paul then proceeds to give us a beautiful picture of his relationship with Timothy and the relationship spiritual parents should have with their spiritual children:

  • Timothy is deeply loved by Paul (even as much as a “beloved child”) (verse 2)
  • Paul prays for Timothy (verse 3)
  • Paul is thankful for Timothy in his life 
  • Paul sees his relationship as joyous, not a burden or something that steals his time (4)
  • He affirms Timothy and the faith within him (verse 5)

What a beautiful picture of spiritual mentorship!

Now, back to what Paul actually wants to say to Timothy. I think verse 8 encapsulates what Paul is trying to say to Timothy here:

‘…do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord (the Gospel), nor of me his prisoner (associating with Christians), but share in the suffering for the gospel…”

Paul starts of the book of 2 Timothy focussing on the gospel of Christ, the core of the christian faith. Verse 8-10 is a beautiful rendition of the gospel and Paul uses this to remind Timothy what this is all about, what all the suffering is for. 

He encourages Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’ given to him and to not be afraid to spread the gospel ‘for God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. 

This challenges me, you see Paul was a well esteemed man, he was known throughout Israel, he was educated and revered, yet He was willing to lay his life down for the gospel of Christ.He is not writing in a time where everything is going his way. No, he is writing out of a prison in the middle of a trail. He has been stripped of everything he had and he chooses to preach the gospel in and out of season. (You see suffering is not void of Christ and the things of Christ)

2 Timothy 1: 11 & 12

“ I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed , for I KNOW whom I have believed

Paul knew God, he had His desires and that is why he went. Just like Paul we have been appointed, let us flame into fire our gifts and not be afraid or ashamed of being associated with the Christ.

Questions:

1. Do you believe what Christ says about you: that you are chosen and called, that your sins are forgiven and that you will be raised from the dead as Christ was raised from the dead to spread the good news?

2. Are you ashamed of God and His people?

3. Are you willing to sacrifice all you have so others might know God?

Christ gave it all for us and sacrificed Himself on a cross. 

Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the compassions of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy to God, well-pleasing, which is your reasonable service.

Accountability leads to holiness (1 Timothy 5:17-25)

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(By Donrich Van Schalkwyk

Paul now shifts his attention from widows towards church elders and church leadership.

He starts off by saying that we should keep church leaders in high regard (1 Thessalonians 5:12) and that we should make sure that they are cared for. Paul proceeds to quote scripture from Deuteronomy 25:4 where he compares the elders (especially those in teaching and preaching) to an ox treading out grain.

The idea here is that an ox that treads out the grain will be allowed to eat from it as he does the work. So too should preachers and teachers be cared for whilst doing the work of God. There are many examples of this in scriptures:

Galatians 6:6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He also points out how church leadership should be corrected, once more visiting the recurrent theme of holiness in the church. He makes sure to give clear direction on how to keep leadership accountable, because he knows a healthy church is accountable to one another. Paul ultimately stops at nothing and nobody to make sure the church beams of holiness.

He is so serious about holding people accountable that he urges us to publicly rebuke those who persists in sin. Imagine walking into church one morning and an Elder rebukes you in front of everyone for persisting in sin.

Paul understands that we now only see in partial and that one day we will all see in full. There is no time for our self-righteous pretence. We are all sinners and it is our responsibility to keep one another accountable. Even if you hide it as best you can, one day it will all be revealed for all to see. Paul knows that publicly rebuking someone might just be the thing that sets them free.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

We have been called to walk in the light and to grow in godliness. We need to be willing to die to ourselves in every regard, not letting our image get in the way of knowing God.

Mark 2:17: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Some Questions To Consider:

  1. Do you hold leadership in high regard, or are there maybe some resentment/disappointment/anger that you need to work through?
  2. How can you better care for the eldership of our church?
  3. Do you allow your image to get in the way of knowing God?
  4. Is there sin in your life that you feel God is calling you to confess to those around you?

Leadership Note:

Throughout 1 Timothy we discover the kind of leaders God is calling us to be. It should be remarkably encouraging to meditate on the delight of God towards leaders who faithfully serve him. However it should also evoke the fear of God inside us when we consider the call to leadership. It is not an easy task, and we must remember the hope we have as we serve (1 Tim 4:10). I love Hudson Taylors phrase and think it apt to end with here; “lets go forward on our knee’s.”

How to handle persistent sin (2 Thessalonians 3:6-18)

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How should a community of believers (a church) treat someone in their community who is persistently disregarding the clear instructions on how to live a God honouring life?

These people Paul is referring to have been persistently disregarding the apostles teaching on what a right response to the gospel looks like in life.  This person or group of people had already been urged to change through his first letter (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and are disregarding the life modelled by the apostles (vs7-8) & the apostles teaching (vs10).

So how should we handle such a person, where there is disregard for the clear will of God in terms of some serious misbehaviour?  2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 gives us five practical guidelines on when, why and how discipline should be exercised:

(These 5 points are inspired by John Stott’s commentary on Thessalonians)

  1. The need for discipline arises when there is consistent deliberant disobedience to the plain teaching of Scripture.  The issue is not ignorance regarding God’s will, but a disregard for God’s will and a disregard of the appeals of the community of faith.
  1. The nature of the discipline which was required by the apostle was a measure of social exclusion because softer approaches had been disregarded already by the person(s).  Discipline should start soft and private, but becomes more more insistent and public in nature if people persist in their disobedience to God’s revealed will. Persistent unreported of disobedience should result in some degree of exclusion (‘not to be associated with’ see vs6 & 14), the congregation was to ‘take note of that person’ and together to not ‘mingle or associate with’ them (vs14).  The phrase used can have differing degrees of exclusion, ranging from total separation (as in 2 Corinthians 5:9-13) to more moderate avoidance of free and familiar fellowship (as at Thessalonica) according to John Stott.
  1. The responsibility for administering discipline to a persistent offender belongs to the congregation as a whole. Paul does not address his instructions merely to the elders of the Thessalonian church.  Leaders may need to take the initiative, but then a corporate response is needed by the whole church membership.
  1. The spirit in which discipline is to be administered must be friendly, not hostile. It is to be done ‘gently’ (see Galatians 6:1-2).  In 2 Thessalonians we find the apostle saying; ‘Do not regard him as an enemy’ (15a) rather the spirit here is to, ‘warn him as a brother’ (15b).
  1. The purpose of this discipline is positive and constructive. Although being excluded will result in shame (vs14b), the intention however is not destructive but meant to cause the person(s) to come to their senses, see the seriousness of their sin and repent.  John Stott says; “Paul’s intention is not that he be excluded from the community, but reinstated in it.”  We remember that Jesus’ instructions on this matter was that our desire should be that we could win our brother/sister back, be reconciled (Matthew 18:15-17)!