Forgive him and comfort him
Written by Jay Yeager
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 21:36

Forgive him and comfort him

(The goal of church discipline)


The church of Christ is a family, but a family unlike any other on earth. All the children are adopted (Galatians 4:5) through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5). There is a birth involved, of course there is; “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, that liveth and abideth for ever” (I Peter 1:23).


But in this family there is one single Father (Ephesians 4:6), and there is no favoritism, every member is treated the same (II Corinthians 6:17-18). It is that family we are talking about in this lesson.

 A spiritual family motivated by:

  1. A mission
    1. To preach the gospel to every nation, to every creature (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
    2. To do good to all men as we have opportunity, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
    3. Every member is to supply to the edification of the body, regardless of the station each occupies. By that I mean this, whether you are a hand, foot, ear, or eye (I Corinthians 12:14-25), every joint is to supply to the strength of the body (Ephesians 4:15-16).
  2. A goal - A pilgrimage that will eventually end in heaven (Hebrews 11:9-16), and there are reminders given by God to help us stay focused on that goal (Hebrews 12:1-2; Colossians 3:1-3).
  3. A doctrine – The gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16), the one faith of Ephesians 4:5 that has been once and for all time delivered unto the saints (Jude 3). That doctrine will keep us in the right relationship with the Father and the Son (II John 9).
  4. A bond - The love each member is to have for the other. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

 When the health of the body is in jeopardy

There is a pressing need for us to recognize that the church is both perfect and flawed. Perfect inasmuch as it is Divine. Purposed by God (Ephesians 3:10-11), built and purchased by Christ (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28), who is the sole head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), having all authority (I Peter 3:22).


But those who make up the church are not perfect, we are flesh and blood with all the weakness that comes with it (Psalms 103:10-14; 78:38-39; Romans 7:22-25). In all candor, there are times when members of the church step outside the boundaries God has set for acceptable behavior (I Timothy 3:15).


And the church is still a place where you can hear the word “No”. Now, when the word “No” is repeatedly ignored, there are times when stronger measures are needed, and the church uses corrective discipline.


I realize that we are discussing a subject that is little known among religious groups, and far too often, little practiced among those who are members of the Lord’s church. Having said that, we must not allow either ignorance or emotion to rule the day, for the Bible is clear concerning discipline.

 Who is subject to church discipline?

  1. Personal sins committed against a brother or sister (Matthew 18:15-17). Each step is taken in hopes of changing the heart of the offender and settling the matter. If the sin goes beyond the offended party, it is because the guilty person refuses to listen.
  1. False teachers (Romans 16:17-18). Wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) must not be allowed freedom to harm the flock. Mark and avoid them, and here is the reason, “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple”
  1. Sexual immorality (I Corinthians 5:1-13). Members of the church are not exempt from temptation (I Corinthians 10:12), there are times when the unthinkable happens. Some may opt to wear blinders to avoid the situation, but sin left unchecked spreads to infect the entire body (I Corinthians 5:6), judgment is not an option, it is required (I Corinthians 5:12-13).
  1. Disorderly conduct (II Thessalonians 3:6). Christians are to walk circumspectly (carefully) and not as fools (Ephesians 5:15), to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called (Ephesians 4:2). Those members who, for one reason or another, are walking out of step with the teaching of Christ are disrupting the unity of the body, and are to be withdrawn from.
  1. Heretics (Titus 3:10). Those who are causing division or have a party spirit after the first and second admonish, reject. The attitude of Diotrephes lives in every generation (III John 9).

 Why does the church practice discipline?

  1. God commands it, and that ought to settle the matter for honest folks.
  1. The church does not belong to Christians, it belongs to Christ, and we have a responsibility to keep the church pure (I Corinthians 5:7).
  1. To bring the erring member back to the right relationship with their Lord (I Corinthians 5:5). Contrary to what some believe this is not a shunning, or throwing a member out of the church. Listen to II Thessalonians 3:14-15. “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother”.

 When church discipline works as God intends

The brother or sister finally realizes the seriousness of their actions, like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11ff, they pick themselves up from the mess they wandered into and return to where they belong. Repentance and confession (Acts 8:22; I John 1:8-10) brings the erring member back to the Father that loves them.


But the guilt and remorse of their actions are not erased from the memory. Beloved, the devil would like nothing better than to see a member of the church drown in regret over past sins that have already been forgiven. The penitent member needs their spiritual family. They need to know they have been forgiven; they need to know they are loved; they need the comfort of a family that rallies around them.

 The church needs that too!

The church needs to be forgiving. Forgiving others is inseparably connected to our own forgiveness. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).  “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).


Refusing to forgive can cause your own forgiveness to be rescinded. “Then his Lord, after that he has called him, and said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all thy debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:32-35).


The church needs to be Loving. The words of the apostle Paul ought to echo down through the corridors of time “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (I Thessalonians 4:9).


Without brotherly love there is darkness. “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (I John 2:8-11).


Without brotherly love there is death. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:14-16).


The church needs to be a place of comfort. The world can offer no solace for a Christian, and here is the reason.  The world does not know or understand the children of God, because they do not know the Father (I John 3:1).


Comfort comes from within the body of Christ. The church has warned the unruly, now it is time to comfort the feebleminded (the fainthearted, the easily discouraged), give support to the weak, be patient toward all men (I Thessalonians 5:14). The goal of church discipline is to restore the erring.  When that happens, then forgive and comfort them. Confirm your love, to the end that we might be obedient in all things, lest the devil get an advantage of us (II Corinthians 2:7-11).