Beliefs

Beliefs

The local church is a community of believers unified around a common leadership, a common identity, a common belief, a common participation and a common mission. We believe that church membership is important (pdf). Read on for our body’s core beliefs.

Table of Contents

Basic Doctrine

Scriptures

We believe the Old and New Testaments are the completed and holy words of God, given by divine inspiration, and are the record of God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. The Bible is trustworthy, sufficient, without error—the supreme authority and guide for all doctrine and conduct.
John 16:12-13
I Thessalonians 2:13
II Timothy 3:16-17
II Peter 1:20-21

Godhead

We believe there is only one living and true God. He exists in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – which are co-eternal in being and nature, co-equal in power and glory, and which contain the same attributes.
Deuteronomy 6:4
Matthew 28:19
Romans 8
I Peter 1:2
Revelation1:5-6

Person and Work of Jesus Christ

We believe the Lord Jesus Christ is the second person in the Godhead. He was born of the virgin Mary and was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit. He did not cease to be God in His humanity in order to save sinful man.
Matthew 1:21-23
Luke 1:35
John 1:1, 14

We believe that our redemption was purchased by His sinless life, substitutionary death on the cross, and literal physical resurrection from the dead, thereby making our justification sure by His resurrection.
Romans 3:24-25
I Peter 2:24
Ephesians 1:7
I Peter 1:3-5

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and is exalted at the right hand of God. He is presently our High Priest and works on our behalf as a Representative, Intercessor, and Advocate.
Acts 1:9-10
Hebrews 9:24
Romans 8:34
I John 2:1-2

He will one day return again to receive his people unto Himself to live with Him forever.
I Thessalonians 4:16

Person and Work of The Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. He is responsible for convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
John 16:8-11

He is the supernatural agent in regeneration. He baptizes all believers into the body of Christ and will forever indwell and seal them.
I Corinthians 12:12-14

The Holy Spirit is present in every believer and He is at work progressively sanctifying the whole man to be able to live unto righteousness and die unto sin.
Romans 8:9
Ephesians 4:23-24

Total Depravity of Man

We believe that man was created in God’s image. That image however, was marred on account of Adam’s sin. From Adam, man inherited a corrupt nature and was alienated from God. Therefore, man does not have the capability of redeeming his lost condition.
Genesis 1:26-27
Romans 3:22-23; 5:12
Ephesians 1-3,12

Salvation

We believe salvation is an act of God’s grace. He brings it to man as a free gift and man receives it by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus was voluntarily spilt on the cross to pay for the penalty of man’s sin.
Ephesians 2:8-10
John 1:12
Ephesians 1:7
I Peter 1:18-19

Church

We believe that the Church is the one Bride of Christ. She is a spiritual organism, invisible, and universal, and is composed of all those called out of the world by God. Although not perfect, she is visible in the local church or gathering of believers. We believe the New Testament formulated and defined the continual practice of the local church.
Acts 14:27; 18:22; 20:17
I Timothy 3:1,3

She is responsible to carry out the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for they were appointed by Christ as visible testimonies, signs, and seals of the covenant.
Acts 2:41,42
I Corinthians 11:23-26

We believe the church, corporately and individually, is to be involved in evangelism and discipleship.
Matthew 28:19-20

Baptism

The outward sign of physical baptism is a celebration of what God has done in the life of a Christ follower, and it is often an act of initiation into the community of believers. Matthew 28:19-20 teaches us that followers of Christ are to be baptized and that it is one of the first steps in this life-long journey of discipleship.

There is also a scandalous beauty in the act of baptism in that it’s connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The believer symbolically dies to his or her old self and goes under the water, only to come up to newness of life in Christ. Again, the act of baptism symbolizes God linking the believer to Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3).

At Seed Church, we charitably recognize that people come from many different church backgrounds with a great diversity in whether baptism is to be applied solely to those who consciously exercise faith in Christ (believer’s baptism) or whether it is also to be extended to infants of Christian parents (infant baptism). While we want to attempt to honor our brothers and sisters in Christ whom believe in infant baptism, we also want to attempt to connect our view of baptism as closely as possible to the biblical tradition.

In the Bible, men and women were baptized following their belief in Jesus. Following the biblical example, soon after a person has received Christ into his or her life, they are encouraged to be baptized.

Therefore, if you were baptized as an infant and your conscience moves you toward experiencing baptism as a believer, we welcome you to be baptized. If you have not been baptized and believe in the person and work of Jesus, then we encourage you to be baptized.

Download this document for more about our baptism beliefs.

If you have questions on baptism or would like more information, please contact us.

The Lord’s Supper

INTRODUCTION

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament. The word sacrament literally means “a visible word.” It is a physical act which represents a spiritual reality. Sacraments are experiential symbols representing the covenant relationship we have with God. The two sacraments that Seed Church performs as an act of obedience to Christ are baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; 28:19).

What spiritual reality does the Lord’s Supper represent?

The visible act of the Lord’s Supper – eating bread and drinking wine – represents the spiritual presence of Jesus in a unique way among the Christian community partaking.

Why do you call it “Lord’s Supper”?

There are many different terms used to describe this sacrament, each which identifies certain aspects of it. The United Methodists call it Holy Communion, which emphasizes the relational fellowship the local church has with each other as we gather around Christ. Some use the term Eucharist from the Greek word which means “thanksgiving”. The Roman Catholics use the term Mass from the Latin word meaning, “sending forth” to describe the entire liturgical service surrounding the Lord’s Supper. This term emphasizes the closing of the worship service by sending forth the congregation with God’s blessing to live as God’s people in the world. Some churches call it an Ordinance; a command of God to be followed in obedience. Technically, there is truth in all of these definitions. There is an aspect of communion, of thanksgiving, and of sending forth, and it is something we were commanded to do. However, there are several reasons we feel it is best to call this sacrament the “Lord’s Supper”. First, it was a sacrament given during the last supper Jesus had with his disciples (Matt. 26:26-29). Second, the eating and drinking in the context of a meal is what identifies the sacrament. Third, the two elements of bread and wine are the primary symbols of the last supper of Jesus which carry over to us for our continued used (I Cor. 11:24-26).

What do the bread and wine represent?

Jesus says that the bread and wine represent his body and blood, sacrificed for us on the cross (Matt. 26:26). Jesus later calls himself heavenly bread and more graphically describes eating himself as heavenly food with a jarring and offensive statement.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him (John 6:53-56).

Not only does Jesus say the bread and wine represent his flesh and blood, but it is the eating and drinking of his physical flesh that is necessary for one to have eternal life and to remain in him.

 

Why is Jesus’ flesh and blood so important to our spiritual lives?

Christ’s deity is important in that it made him worthy of being the Savior of mankind. He was the one and only immortal Son of God making his death applicable to all mankind. Being God made him able to come back to life, and live forever as a living sacrifice for all who seek him (Rom. 5:1-21; Eph. 5:2). However, we often put such an emphasis on the deity of Christ that we lose the real value in his humanity.

  1. Christ’s flesh and blood brought forgiveness for our sin.We are not redeemed by the deity of Christ but by his humanity. Christ displayed active obedience by being willing to become flesh and blood, and passive obedience by being willing to have that flesh and blood destroyed on the cross. We then are saved through this flesh and blood. We receive redemption through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). We are healed by the beating of his flesh (Isa. 53:5). We are justified before God by his blood (Rom. 5:9). By his flesh, Christ condemned our sin (Rom. 8:3).
  2. Christ’s flesh and blood brought the spiritual benefits of being Christians. Christ’s deity gives him eternal life, but it is only through his humanity that any of the benefits of his deity can be transferred to us. The theologian John Calvin calls this the Great Exchange.1 In order for spiritual power and immortality to be given to us, Jesus had to become one of us, then give himself up for us. In a very real sense, Christ’s flesh and blood which was destroyed, purified and brought back to life now acts as the sustainer of all eternal life given to God’s children. Christ’s very human broken body and spilled blood enable us to have a covenant with God (I Cor. 11:24-26). Christ’s humanity, not his deity, gives us eternal life. His flesh, not his spirit, gives us the right to be sons and daughters of God. Christ’s flesh and blood, not our own efforts, sustain and seal us in the kingdom.
  3. Christ’s flesh and blood sustains our salvation and maintains our forgiveness.Christ in flesh and blood stands in heaven and daily offers sacrifices for our sins (Heb. 7:23-28). Even our present forgiveness and acceptance by God is made possible by Christ’s flesh and blood. If Christ had not risen again in flesh and blood and continued to stand as our mediator, we would still be condemned in our sin (I Cor. 15:17; I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 12:24). Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is acknowledging our need for Christ’s flesh and blood not only for our eternal salvation, but also for the sealing of our justification, and for our growth and sanctification.

How is Christ’s flesh and blood present in the Lord’s Supper?

We believe that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper carries with it a real presence of Christ’s Spirit when applied through personal faith. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, believing Jesus’ promise to give of Himself in a very real way, Christ is present with us.

“We don’t need elaborate metaphysical theories with long Latin names to get the point. Jesus – the real Jesus, the living Jesus, the Jesus who dwells in heaven and rules over earth as well, the Jesus who has brought God’s future into the present – wants not just to influence us, but to rescue us; not just to inform us, but to heal us; not just to give us something to think about, but to feed us, and to feed us with himself. That’s what the meal is all about.”2

This is sometimes referred to as the “Spiritual Presence” view. Christ’s resurrected flesh and blood are in heaven and have changed into a supernatural form; a form which is able to walk through walls and disappear as seen in his post-resurrection appearances. We receive the benefits of his flesh and blood, his real presence, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Christ does not become for us a separate flesh and blood at each place we meet, nor is his flesh and blood ubiquitous (existing everywhere at once), as Martin Luther believed.3 It is by the Holy Spirit who has no stasis, no special limitations, that Christ is present with us. John Calvin calls the Lord’s Supper a “spiritual banquet wherein Christ attests himself to be the life-giving bread, upon which our souls feed unto true and blessed immortality.”4 In the Old Testament we see a picture of this when God told the people to buy food and wine with the yearly tithe offering, and eat in his presence (Deut. 14:23-26). Today, not only do we taste physical food and drink, but it is a visible word – a time of nourishment to our spiritual souls. However, this connection to Christ through his Spirit cannot happen apart from our faith. There is nothing inherently supernatural or beneficial in the bread or wine.

What views of Christ’s flesh and blood does Seed Church believe to be incorrect?

This has been a major topic of disagreement among the various Christian denominations for years. First, we will look at the two extremes by which some have viewed the presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. One view is that the Lord’s flesh and blood is fully present during the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This view with its variations is often called Transubstantiation and is held by the Roman Catholic Church. Seed Church rejects this as a biblically supported view. Scripture is clear that when Jesus rose again after his death he went to heaven in physical form and is now present at the right hand of his Father (Matt. 26:64; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; I Pet. 3:22). Christ’s makeup is of one complete body which now dwells in heaven. Jesus was clear that the eating of his flesh and blood is a spiritual act, not a literal physical act (John 6:63). Another view is that the Lord’s flesh and blood is hardly present during the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This view, called the ordinance or commemoration view sets up the Lord’s Supper as more of a memorial to his death, but Christ himself is not present in any special way during the sacrament. Seed Church also rejects this view because it doesn’t deal with the claims of Christ that his body and blood are being eaten in some way (John 6:48-55), nor does it deal with the negative repercussion of sickness and death for those who abuse the sacrament (I Cor. 11:30). As Paul said, abusing the sacrament is literally “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (I Cor. 11:27). God tells us many things to think about, but none carry with them the penalty of death. This sacrament is more than just cognitive musings on the death of Christ, or simply thinking about Jesus who himself is not present in any real way. (See appendix for detailed breakdown)

Should the Lord’s Supper be open to anyone?

No. The Lord’s Supper should only be taken by those who are true followers of Jesus Christ – those who call themselves Christians and believe in the gospel. The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken by those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is not to be taken by those who in full understanding of the scriptural mandate refuse to be baptized into Jesus’ name as they are in willful rebellion. Nor should it be taken by those who are flippant or living in public sin because they become guilty of defiling the Lord’s flesh and blood (I Cor. 11:27).

How important is it that I regularly participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?

We believe it is very important. Those who are believers in good standing should regularly participate in the sacrament for several reasons.

  1. The Lord’s Supper is an act of thanksgiving. The early Christians “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:46-47a). In taking the Lord’s Supper, we express our gratitude for God’s amazing acts throughout history on our behalf from creation, to the New Covenant, to our redemption and sanctification.
  2. The Lord’s Supper is a way to experience unity with our spiritual brothers and sisters. As we take the elements together, we are reminded that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one church body (Eph. 4:4-6; I Cor. 10:17). We are reminded that Christ’s ultimate desire for his people is that they are united. What better way to express this unity but to eat the Lord’s Supper together in Jesus’ presence (John 17:17-22)?
  3. The Lord’s Supper is a means of spiritual growth. Jesus said to take of the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is often our forgetfulness which causes us so many sin problems, and turns us from God. The Lord’s Supper is a visual sermon of what Jesus did for us and what he continues to do for us. It is the gospel acted out each week, and if applied through faith brings us the spiritual benefit of a renewed devotion to Christ.
  4. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of hope. It is a call for us to look to the future when Christ will one day return for us. Christ, in speaking about himself during his final meal said, “I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom”(Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). Participating in the Lord’s Supper brings with it great anticipation. When we eat and drink, we are sharing in the eternal life given to us by Christ which will result in heaven after we die (John 6:47-58; Rev. 3:20). We are also anticipating the heavenly banquet celebrating God’s victory over sin, evil and death (Matt. 22:1-14; Rev. 19:9; 21:1-7).

“But it isn’t only the past that comes forward into the present. If the bread- breaking is one of the key moments when the thin partition between heaven and earth becomes transparent, it is also one of the key moments when God’s future comes rushing to the present. Like the children of Israel still in the wilderness, tasting food which the spies had brought back from their secret trip to the Promised Land, in the bread-breaking we are tasting God’s new creation – the new creation whose prototype and origin is Jesus himself.”5

The Lord’s Supper is the regular reminder of the hope that Jesus has promised us (Rom. 8:20-25).

Is the Lord’s Supper a means of salvation?

No. The Lord’s Supper does not have power for salvation that resides in the elements, nor is there some power conveyed by the person or persons giving the elements. The elements are signs of something that is to be already present in the believer, the salvation given to them by faith in Jesus.6

Why does Seed church take the Lord’s Supper every week?

We believe the Lord’s Supper should be taken every week for two reasons. First, it is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the local church. The church is a gathering of people around the “name of Jesus” (Matt. 18:20). It isn’t a gathering of people around anything else, because then church would be no different from a club, a concert or any other social venue. The early church regularly gathered around the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42-47). What clearer picture of Jesus in our midst than the bread and wine representing his true spiritual presence among us? Second, the Lord’s Supper is a great way to act out the gospel each week to non-Christian visitors and to non-Christian children who are learning about Christ. As people observe the fellowship of the church body unifying around Jesus’ spiritual presence, they are seeing the gospel in action. We have found that some people are brought to Christ partly through the observance and discussions of the Lord’s Supper.

Why do you have the elements on a table up front?

Some churches pass around the elements. Other churches have elders or leaders distribute the elements. We do not see a problem with any of these methods and are willing to change our method if necessary. We place the elements on a table because it is the most efficient way with space and resources to distribute them.

Appendix A – Two Extreme Views of the Lord’s Supper

Transubstantiation: “Completely Present”

Transubstantiation is the belief that Christ’s flesh and blood is so present in the sacramental elements that the elements actually turn into his literal flesh and blood. This view is held by the Roman Catholic Church. They teach that when a human mediator called a priest gives the words “take eat, this is my body” there is a mystical yet literal transformation of the substance of the bread making it the very body of Jesus. The conclusion of this belief is that since Christ’s flesh is literally being eaten, his flesh is a physical sacrifice – not a spiritual sacrifice such as a song or a prayer, but a re-crucifixion as it were.7 Instead of being justified in God’s eyes at conversion, one must use the sacraments to continually become right with God. This comes from a flawed defining of justification (being made right with God) as a process instead of an event at conversion.8

How did this view come about?

Believe it or not transubstantiation as irrational as it may sound was not theologically-driven, but science-driven. It was actually an attempt to make rational on the physical level what could only be rational on a spiritual level. During the first 700 years of the early church as theology was being developed, transubstantiation was not taught. None of the early church fathers articulated any form of transubstantiation, including St. Augustine who many Roman Catholics like to claim as their own. It wasn’t until the 10th century scientific awakening of the Middle Ages that the idea of this doctrine began to germinate. Speculative theology (speculating about everything no one but theological nerds care about) became the bleeding edge and drove this idea. Thomas Aquinas debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin and many other random and at times pointless debates.9 Transubstantiation was adopted into church doctrine in the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 which reads, “The very body of Christ was truly held in the priest’s hand, broken and chewed by the teeth of the faithful.”10

What are the problems with this view?

There are actually dozens, but let me just give you a few.

  1. It is based on a complete literal interpretation of Christ’s words “This is my body, this is my blood.” Christ often spoke metaphorically. He called himself the Vine, yet we don’t think he was literally a green leafy thing growing from the ground. He called himself the Door, yet we don’t see him as being made of wood with a handle. He called himself the Way, yet we don’t see him as an asphalt road with cars driving over it.
  2. Jesus himself said his words were spiritual. When Jesus said you must eat his flesh and blood to have eternal life, and the people were offended, he ended by saying, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Jesus was in essence saying, “Not only were the words I spoke spiritually based, but if my body literally turned to flesh it would only help you physically. You would get some needed nutrition, but not needed spiritual food.”
  3. Scripture is clear that Christ offered himself only once for sins. After Christ died, he went to heaven never again to sacrifice himself for us (Heb. 7:27; 9:28; 10:10-14). The sacrifice Christ made was adequate to atone for the sins of the world, and nothing more is necessary for us to receive forgiveness (I John 2:2; 4:10).
  4. The scientific logic which created this view in the first place is empirical, and defeats the very theory. A – Christ is in heaven. Christ’s body is singular and his flesh and blood literally connected as a living being. Scripture says that body literally ascended into heaven and dwells there. There is a spatial aspect of Christ, a singular location where he dwells. How can his physical body existing in another spatial realm intact and operating be at the same time chewed and swallowed by humans? And B – Christ is not in our stomachs. If Christ’s body becomes literal flesh then all we need to do is open up a Roman Catholic’s stomach and there find a piece or two of Christ. This view that we literally eat Christ’s flesh and blood is inadequate both on a theological and rational level.

Commemoration: “Hardly Present”

Commemoration is the belief that Christ’s flesh and blood is hardly present in the sacramental elements, and that the Lord’s Supper is simply a way for one to remember the work of Jesus. This view was developed out of revulsion for the Roman Catholic view by a Swiss Reformer named Zwingli. The point of the sacrament is more of a commemoration or a remembrance. To this view’s credit, Jesus does say in Luke 22 that when you eat, you “eat in remembrance of me”, and this is the view held by the majority of American Protestants today.

What are the problems with this view?

This view makes the Lord’s Supper more of a memorial service – remembering someone who died in the past. We put up a photograph of this person with flowers around it. We say some words about him, think of all he meant to us, then go home.

  1. This view destroys the potency of the language of Christ. Jesus says in John 6:55, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” There is a real spiritual food being given, a real participation with Christ. In Luke 22:20 he says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” The wine being drunk is more than just a remembrance but a real-time recommitment, a present participation in what one affirms.
  2. This view explains away the negative consequences for those who abuse the sacrament. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul talks about how people come to the Lord’s Supper in a flippant manner. Back then it was often a full meal, and people were jumping in line first and eating up all the food, so some went hungry. Some were getting drunk. Paul tells them in verse 27, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” We aren’t said to be guilty of offending God, but literally profaning, or polluting the body of Jesus Christ. It is another way of saying you did not hurt Jesus implicitly when you hurt someone else, but rather directly, as if you slapped Jesus in the face. Paul goes on to say,

    “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

    There is some debate as to what “unworthily” means, but in essence it is not taking the meal seriously. It doesn’t mean that if you have sinned this week you shouldn’t come. It is talking about those who walk up and throw the little crackers in their mouths while thinking about the busyness of their week. Or those who come to the Supper as two-faced hypocrites who pretend to follow Jesus, but are unrepentant of sin. It includes those who take the Supper while knowing they are not truly part of the body. Both sickness and death are the possible results. There are many things in life we are flippant about, many sins we commit which aren’t threatened by sickness and death. So a view that Christ is not present or barely present in the Lord’s Supper is not scripturally accurate.

Footnotes

1 – John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill, 20 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960) 1362.
2 – N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York: Harper Press, 2006) 154.
3 – Louis Berhkof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1932) 644-58.
4 – Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” 1360.
5 – Wright, Simply Christian 154.
6 – John Murray, Systematic Theology (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1977), vol. 2 of Collected Writings of John Murray 376.
7 – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994) 991.
8 – “The definition of the Council of Trent supposes as self-evident the proposition that, along with the ‘true and real Sacrifice of the Mass’, there can be and are in Christendom figurative and unreal sacrifices of various kinds, such as prayers of praise and thanksgiving, alms, mortification, obedience, and works of penance.” Catholic Encyclopedia, Sacrifice of the Mass.
9 – Much of his angel discussions came from his large work Summa Theologica. There was more depth to the question that it seems at face value as it dealt with a spirit’s connection to matter. However, it still shows the extremes to which rational arguments can go even bordering on the ridiculous in order to fully explain what cannot be fully understood.
10 – Berhkof, Systematic Theology 644-58.

Holy Spirit and Pentecost

Who is the Holy Spirit?

He is the third person of the Trinity. He is responsible for convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He is the supernatural agent in regeneration. He baptizes all believers into the body of Christ, sanctifies them for service and growth and will forever indwell and seal them until Christ comes again (John 16:8-11; II Cor 12:12-14; Rom 8:9; Eph 5:18; Gal 5:16-25; Rom 15:16). Since the Holy Spirit is God, he was not created but has always existed (Acts 5:3-4).

Was the Holy Spirit given to people in the Old Testament?

Yes. First, the universal nature of the church and the oneness of all believers past and present makes the Holy Spirit a necessary part of the Old Testament saints. All who believe are united in Christ through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4-6). Those who do not have the Spirit do not have Christ (1 John 4:13; Rom. 8:9).

Second, there are countless passages which speak of the Spirit of God coming on individuals in the Old Testament not simply for salvation, but to empower them for ministry (Ps. 51:11; Isa. 63:10-11; Jdg. 6:34; 11:29; I Sam. 10:6; 2 Sam. 23:2; Isa. 61:).

What is the difference between the Holy Spirit before Pentecost and after Pentecost?

First, before Pentecost people were sealed by the Holy Spirit but not necessarily empowered by Him. As mentioned in the previous section, all God-followers of all ages must have the Holy Spirit within them in order to be sealed for heaven and united to Christ. However, though many were God-fearers even among the Gentiles, few were “filled” or “controlled” by the Spirit. Other than kings, priests and prophets it was rare for anyone to display spiritual gifts given to them by the Spirit. After Pentecost, all who have the Holy Spirit by faith are also promised empowering by him (1 Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:8; Heb. 2:4).

Second, before Pentecost the power of the Holy Spirit was limited in the lives of believers. Although there were some amazing supernatural acts by chosen leaders, power over demons and effective evangelism of foreigners was almost non-existent. After Pentecost, there was an explosion of evangelism. Satan was bound by Jesus not to blind the nations any more, and demons were now cast out of people to free them to believe (Luke 10:18; 11:18-22; Rev. 20:2-7). Miraculous healing, mass prophecy and resurrection power over sin became available (Rom. 6:1-14; Phil. 3:10).

What is the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, also called the “gift” of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfillment of the prophecies of John the Baptist (Luke 3:16) and Jesus (Acts 1:4, 5). It is not so much an act of the Holy Spirit as it is the final acts of Jesus in empowering and equipping the church to accomplish the mission to which he commissioned them (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20). This makes the baptism of the Holy Spirit a once-for-all event in the history of redemption, along with the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, with which it is most closely associated (Acts 2:32, 33).

Did the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” happen instantly, or was it completed in stages?

It was completed in stages. Just as Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection went through specific stages to reach their fulfillment, so Christ’s baptism with the Holy Spirit went through four stages to reach its completion. The baptism of the Spirit was to bring a complete typological uniting of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the known Gentile world. First, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the entire body of Jewish believers (Acts 2:1-4). Second, in Samaria, when the Samaritan believers received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Third, in Caesarea, when the Holy Spirit fell upon all the Gentile listeners, the initial nucleus of the far-flung church among the Gentiles (Acts 10:44). And fourth, at Ephesus, when the Holy Spirit came on previously bypassed disciples of John the Baptist in close conjunction with their being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:1-7). Baptism with the Holy Spirit is thus associated with the once-for-all foundation and the ongoing witnessing nature of the church of Jesus Christ.

How does “baptism of the Holy Spirit” apply to believers today?

Every believer comes to share in the baptism with the Holy Spirit through his union with Christ at conversion (1 Cor. 12:13; Romans 6:3 ff.; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:12, 13; 3:1-3). Baptism with the Spirit, therefore, as an experience of individual believers, is not an event subsequent to conversion, or enjoyed only by some believers. To share in the baptism of the Holy Spirit means to have a place in the universal church where the Holy Spirit dwells and where he is at work (Eph. 2:21-22).

How does “baptism of the Holy Spirit” differ from “filling of the Holy Spirit?

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a historical event while the “filling of the Holy Spirit” is a normative Christian experience. Of the seven times “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is used, 6 of those times refer to the event of Pentecost (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:15). The only passage which refers to being “baptized” spiritually makes the act synonymous with salvation of every believer (I Cor. 12:13). Being filled with the Spirit is the continuing activity of the Spirit in the life of the believer, and occurs at different times in the life of the believer based on his/her willingness to submit to the will of God (Eph. 5:17-21; Gal. 5:16). Filling of the Spirit is connected to the baptism of the Spirit because it is based on the historical baptism at Pentecost and the practical baptism of each of us at Salvation. We are able to now be “filled” by the Holy Spirit to empower and lead us in our Christian life.

Should believers today expect supernatural experiences when they receive the Holy Spirit at conversion?

No. Jesus said the Holy Spirit cannot be seen or felt, though his effects may be experienced (John 3:8). The reason fire, wind sounds and prophetic utterances happened at Pentecost was to have external signs which confirmed the Spirit’s presence. The Holy Spirit doesn’t sound like wind or look like fire. Without these effects no one would experience anything different. However, this doesn’t mean other effects of Holy Spirit conversion don’t happen. They may be different for different people. Some experience nothing at conversion, but see a slow change in their desires. Others feel a deep sense of peace. Others experience a rush of emotion. Others experience an immediate freedom from certain addictions. Some don’t convert to Jesus through a one time event like a prayer, or a decision during a service. They gradually come to belief through a process.

What is the gift of “tongues” given at Pentecost?

The gift of tongues was the supernatural ability to prophesy in a foreign language. Some believe tongues referred to some form of supernatural babbling instead of a clear language. There are several reasons this isn’t the case.

1) Tongues in the Septuagint. The Greek word for “tongues” is glosson and is found 113 times in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (Gen. 10:5, 20, 31; 11:7; Daniel 3:4; 29; 4:1; Isa. 66:18). In all cases “tongues” refers to either the physical tongue in the mouth or a known language.

2) Tongues in Prophecy. The Old Testament prophets predicted that at the coming of the Messiah many supernatural events would happen, including the fact that people representing every nation on earth would hear of Christ (Zech. 8:23; Isa. 28:11; 66:18; Eze. 3:6). In I Corinthians 14:21, Paul uses Old Testament language of foreign tongues to explain the phenomenon (Isa. 28:11, 12; Deut. 28:49; Jer. 5:15).

3) Tongues and Pentecost Imagery. The two images of Pentecost confirm the necessity of tongues referring to a known language. a) Law given at Sinai. Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover just as the Law was given by God 50 days after the people were saved from Egypt. The Rabbis taught that when God spoke at Sinai giving the law, “every word which came form the mouth of the Almighty was divided into seventy tongues”, so that the Gentiles who were traveling with the Israelites might hear and understand the Torah clearly for themselves. Philo, the Jewish philosopher says that “from the fire of God’s glory came a voice which was understandable in the language familiar to the hearers.” b) Harvest of the Gospel. Pentecost was also called the Feast of Weeks and represented the first fruit of harvest to be celebrated. In Acts 2 Jews who represented “every nation under heaven” (vs. 5) came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles and they began to speak in tongues, the Jews were bewildered “because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language”. The purpose of tongues was to be a supernatural sign to unbelievers, while at the same time giving them the message of the gospel in their own language. It was on the day of Pentecost that the first great harvest of Jesus occurred and 3000 people were converted when the gospel was preached in everyone’s own language (Acts 2:41). c) Reversal of Babel. One of the biggest evils of mankind occurred in the Old Testament in the city of Babel where a tower was build to get to God (Gen. 1:1-9). It was an act of false worship that was so disgusting to God that He said, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (vs. 7). We get the word “babbling” from this event because of the confusing sound we hear when we don’t understand someone else’s language. Pentecost was a reversal of the tower of Babel in which God took the chaos of language diversity and brought order to it through the gift of tongues. If tongues continued to just be personal “babbling” then it makes little sense as a reversal.

What was the purpose of tongues?

1) Tongues were an instrument of revelation. Paul said in I Corinthians 14:2, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.” A mystery in scripture is something that was once hidden that is now revealed. Jesus said his followers would be revealers of the mysteries of the kingdom (Matt. 13:11). Paul’s preaching is according to the revelation of the mystery given to Him (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; I Cor. 2:1). This mystery relates to the gospel and particularly how the new church includes both Jew and Gentile (Eph. 3:6). In other words, tongues were an instrument of revelation. This is why Paul called prophecy in a known language better than tongues which aren’t interpreted because prophecy is revelation that all can understand (I Cor. 14:4-5).

2) Tongues were for public use. Every gift that was given including tongues was for the benefit of the “common good” (I Cor. 12:4-7). If people don’t understand what is being said it brings no benefit to the body, and therefore should not be done (I Cor. 14:18-19).

3) Tongues were a sign of judgment. In Acts 2:16-21, Peter declares that the tongues speaking which went on was a fulfillment of Joel 2. Yet, Joel said that sons and daughters would “prophesy”. Tongues are clearly a subset of prophecy. Three of the times that tongues is used in the Old Testament, it refers to a sign of coming judgment (Isa. 28:9-11; Deut. 28:49; Jer. 5:15). Tongues were a sign as much as they were a tool to spread the gospel (I Cor. 14:22). They were a sign that pointed to the baptism of the Holy Spirit which John the Baptist indicated was a sign of the judgment of God on the nation of Israel (Matt. 3:11-12). It involves the giving over of the kingdom to a “people bringing fruit” (Matt. 21:43).

Have the gifts of tongues and prophecy ceased today?

Yes and No. Tongues and prophecy as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit no longer exists, because the event has already been fulfilled. There is no need for continual fulfillment in the church age. Both tongues and prophecy were the identifying signs of the event of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the sign of the “last days” spoken by the prophets beginning with Moses (Deut. 4:30; Num. 12; Isa. 2:2-3; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1; Dan. 2:28; 10:14ff; Joel 2; Acts 2:17). The last days are the time when God’s people would be re-gathered, prophecy would by given to many, churches would be planted across the world and the Jewish nation that as a whole rejected the Messiah would be destroyed. Jesus told his disciples that the fulfillment and completion of the last days events would happen within their generation (Matt. 24:34). The events Jesus spoke of led up to and ended in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Romans. However, tongues as a gift given by the Holy Spirit for specific acts of evangelism is still a possibility today. The Holy Spirit can give whatever gifts necessary to accomplish his work. The gift of prophecy does not always mean “forthtelling”, but “speaking the truth of God’s word”, and as such can be used in today’s churches.

Is the gift of tongues given at Pentecost different from the tongues spoken of by Paul in I Corinthians 14?

Not necessarily. At first look the tongues of Corinthians seems to be different than in Acts. In Corinthians it is personal, incoherent and needing translation, and possibly brings private edification. Admittedly, the tongues mentioned in I Corinthians 14 seems to be less clear as to what it is. However, since the origination of the gift in Acts 2 is clear, then there are several reasons to believe tongues to be of the same type of gift in I Corinthians as it was given at Pentecost. First, the word “tongues” is the same Greek word in both passages. It has already been shown that tongues refers to a spoken language as opposed to angelic babbling. Second, Acts 10:44 records the Spirit falling on the Gentiles after Peter tells them the gospel, and immediately they spoke in tongues. When Peter later reflects on this to the other apostles he says, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Peter says when post-Pentecost converts received tongues, it was the same tongues as that which happened to the apostles. This would mean it was a spoken language. So it is reasonable to believe that the tongues of Corinth was the same as the tongues of Caesarea where the Gentiles received it, and the tongues of Ephesus where Paul laid his hands on new converts (Acts 19:6). Third, the point of Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians was not to distinguish between public and private tongues or between angelic language versus human language. The issue was the abuse of tongues. If tongues was a spoken language as it was in all other cases, then it could easily fit into the Paul discussion. Some people were given the supernatural ability outside of their intellect to speak an unknown language. However, at times, no one in the room spoke that particular language. Since people didn’t understand it, it brought no benefit to others (I Cor. 14:4-5; 18-19). Those who spoke in an unknown language to people who didn’t understand were talking to God because it brought no benefit to anyone else. Since the purpose of the tongues is for others, then this personal tongues use needed to stop (I Cor. 41:2-4).

Are the gifts of the Spirit today less useful than they were at Pentecost?

No. It is easy to come to this conclusion because during the “latter days” (events leading up to the destruction of the old economy) it seems that everyone had superhuman abilities. There was healing, speaking in unknown languages, prophesying of future events. Then today, we feel we may be experiencing less power of the Spirit by using our lesser gifts of mercy or encouragement. It must be remembered that even during the time of Pentecost it was rare for anyone but the apostles to receive any of the sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy and healing, which were primarily to confirm the ministry of the apostles. The purpose of the gifts is to build up the community and to expose the gospel (Rom. 12; I Cor. 12; Eph. 4). In fact, in the event recorded of the first 3000 people to be saved during Pentecost, there is not one mention of miraculous gifts, yet people unified and built each other up through standard gifts of hospitality, mercy, encouragement, teaching, etc. (Acts 2:41-47). These gifts, by promoting love are even more important than any miraculous gift because they truly accomplish what God wants for his church (I Cor. 13).

Church Discipline

Introduction

Church history has whittled down three bare essentials that a local church must do in order to function properly as a church. These three things are teaching God’s word, administering the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, and enacting church discipline when necessary.[1] It is easy to see the need for teaching and the sacraments, but why is church discipline so important? The purpose of this document is to answer questions related to the purpose and the proper administration of church discipline.

What is church discipline?

Church discipline is the act of removing a Christian from the local church membership and severing all relational ties to that individual until they are willing to return back to God. The concept of separating from a fallen spiritual brother or sister is found first in the Old Testament law. When someone intentionally disobeyed certain moral or ceremonial laws, they were to be “cut off” from the assembly. This meant either being shunned by the group or ejected from the assembly all together. Essentially though, it was treating the individual as a non-Jew, no longer part of the covenanted assembly. Someone could be “cut off” for reasons like profaning God’s Sabbath, eating sacrificed meat while being ceremonially unclean, sacrificing animals outside the camp, or desecrating the Passover (Ex. 31:14; Lev. 7:20; 17:4; Num. 9:13).

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ gives authority to the local church leadership to discipline those who stray. Although individuals are told not to act as judges in the world, the local church is given the authority and mandate to judge their own (I Cor. 6:1-7; Matt. 16:19; 18:18). However, church discipline involves more than simply removing people from membership. It is part of the entire scope of responsibility given to church leadership to instruct and guide its members, and to promote the purity and wellbeing of the local church.[2]  Discipline is essential in order for local church leadership to teach scripture, to correct sin and to protect the members from “wolves” (I Tim. 5:17; Matt. 7:15; Col. 3:15-16).

What sins warrant church discipline?

In the Old Testament there was a list of specific offenses someone could do to be “cut off”. However, it was less about the act than the heart intent, as well as the individual’s willingness to turn from their sin. This spirit of the law is explained in Numbers 15:29-31.  One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.  The issue is “intentional” sin which God says shows hatred for the Lord and public blasphemy. Defining intentional sin has been the subject of debate. The sins for which people were immediately cut off were 1) Intentionally rebelling against God’s covenant by refusing to be circumcised (Gen. 17:14);  2) Intentionally profaning God’s Temple, God’s Sabbath or worship practices (Ex. 12:15-19; 30:33; 31:44; Lev. 7:20-27; Lev. 17:14-19; Num. 9:13); 3) Intentionally doing acts of idolatry or witchcraft (Lev. 20:3-6); and 4) Intentionally performing immoral sexual acts (Lev. 18:29; 20:17-18). What all these acts had in common is that they were outward sins, they were usually big offenses against God or others, and they were based out of a heart of rebellion. Some may feel that discipline seemed harsh, but we must realize that being “cut off” was the lesser punishment to being killed which certain sins such as murder, adultery, child rebellion and homosexuality immediately demanded. Discipline then was actually an act of mercy, giving the possibility of restoration and assembly forgiveness which punitive death did not afford.

Under the New Covenant rule of Jesus Christ, there are differences in the mode and extent of discipline for the local church. For one thing, Christians are no longer under a national theocracy as was the nation of Israel. Many of Israel’s rules for discipline were punitive and protective laws necessary for civil and criminal prosecution. More plainly, Israel’s national judicial system was responsible for all aspects of community justice – spiritual, civil and criminal. In the New Testament, the church is different from the nation of Israel in that it is no longer a theocracy. The church is responsible for the spiritual protection and growth of the local community, but leaves the criminal and civil prosecution to the secular authorities (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-15). This means the local church is responsible for how it handles the sin and rebellion of those within its congregation. What is similar between the Old and New Testaments is that the sin isn’t primarily the focus of church discipline as much as the attitude or heart behind the sin. When someone sins out of an intentional rebellion and refuses to repent and change, that warrants discipline. However, there are some specific sins listed which demand the immediate process of discipline because of the grossness of the sin.

1) Immorality.  1 Corinthians 5:1-3 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.  At the end of this chapter Paul says simply to “remove the man from your midst” (5:13). Any sex outside of marriage, adultery or deviant sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality demand immediate discipline.

2) DivisivenessRomans 16:17-18  I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  A stronger passage by Paul is Titus 3:9-10.  But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.  If someone in the church is picking fights, hurting unity or rebelling against leadership through actions or words, they are to be disciplined and separated from.

3) False Teachers1 Timothy 1:19-20  holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Those who are teaching or promoting beliefs which are contrary to God and his church are to be disciplined.

4) Rebellion2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. Christians who decide they don’t want to obey Christ, but want to live their life how they want are to be disciplined. In all cases if those who commit these acts show genuine repentance, and are willing to submit to their local leadership for reconciliation they are to be forgiven and fully restored to the local church community.

What is the purpose of church discipline?

Church discipline has three primary purposes.

1) Protection of the local church. The primary purpose for church discipline is to show love to those in the body who are trying to obey Christ and live for Him. The most dangerous cancer pervading the local church is someone who claims to be a Christian and then through actions or teaching corrupts individuals and families. Church discipline is necessary to protect the other members of the church from falling into the same sin. Like the infiltration of a small amount of leaven in bread, so the sin of a few can corrupt the many (I Cor. 5:6).

2) Purity of the Gospel. Allowing unrepentant sin without discipline waters down the Gospel for unbelievers (Matt. 5:13-16). The Christian life is to give evidence of real heart change to the unbelieving world. If the local church treats sin as unimportant, non-Christians will have difficulty seeing how the Gospel impacts lives.

3) Love and restoration for the disciplined.  Church discipline is also a way to show love to the sinner. It is not writing someone off for sinning, but showing them the seriousness of their sin with the hope that they will return. Paul says that discipline is necessary so that possibly the person’s “spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (I Cor. 5:5). True believers will always return from their sin. Every Christian has had periods of rebellion, but the Holy Spirit always brings them back. If someone doesn’t repent they don’t lose their salvation, they just indicate that they may never have been a true believer (I John 1:6-7). So it is the hope that the disciplined members of the community will recognize their sin and repent, then be restored in complete forgiveness and love back into the local church community.

What is the process of church discipline?

Every individual in the local church is responsible to lovingly confront those who sin against us (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1). This confrontation is to be done in private with a spirit of meekness in hopes of restoring the relationship. However, if someone is confronted by their sin and refuses to listen, then another witness is to be brought along to the second confrontation to urge the person to repent (Matt. 18:16). These witnesses are not just for the purpose of dealing with the person’s sin, but also for the protection of the accused. Sometimes someone is wrongly accused, or the witnesses deem the incident to be petty and something that needs to be covered in love (I Pet. 4:8). If however the offense was real and loving admonition is rejected, then the accused is to be confronted by church leadership (Matt. 18:17-18; Gal. 6:1-5). If the accused persists in non-repentance, they are to be removed from the local church body. The church leadership must inform its members of the decision so they can respond properly to the disciplined individual.

How are church members to treat someone who has been disciplined?

Once a person has gone through a fair process of multiple confrontations but still refuses to repent, they are to be treated as one who has been judged. Christians are told to censure or separate from the disciplined member. Separation from the other person means to not “associate” with them (2 Thess. 3:14-15), to “turn away” from them (Rom. 16:17-18), and to “have nothing to do with them” (Titus 3:9-10). Although this may seem harsh to the postmodern mind, it is this very relational separation which makes church discipline effective in both protecting the community and bringing the disciplined person to repentance. While a person is under discipline, it is proper and even beneficial for members to contact the disciplined person and attempt to persuade them to come back. Members should regularly pray for the fallen brother or sister, so that the Holy Spirit will change their prodigal heart.  Members may get together with the disciplined person in order to pray with them or talk with them concerning repentance. What must be avoided, though, is carrying on a relationship with that person as if the sin had never occurred. All contact with the disciplined person must be for the purpose of lovingly urging them to repent. Then, if that person does repent and return to the local community, the church should welcome them back in full forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:7). It is this mercy shown in restoration which truly embodies the gospel to the disciplined and to the local church community.

Are there any times when discipline is wrong?

Yes. The local church is to be an environment of mercy and compassion. Church discipline, though necessary, should be a rare occurrence in the church. When it does occur, it is to stay within the principles mandated in Scripture. This means there are times when discipline should not be done, or is being done incorrectly.

First, discipline is never to be used as a tool to shame people or to manipulate them. Obviously, if someone is disciplined they will experience some level of shame because of the public exposure of their rebellion, but the local church must be very sensitive in deciding when and how the person’s sin should be exposed. Mercy and grace are to lace every aspect of the discipline process. People must be treated with dignity, and those doing the disciplining must approach the process with humility and genuine sorrow over the fallen brother or sister.

Second, discipline is never to be administered to someone over personal liberty or cultural differences. Some church leaders wrongly shun people or ask them to leave the assembly for personal differences which are not clear biblical sin, rebellion or false doctrine. Someone who differs in opinion from the teaching or practices of the leadership should never be handled with divisiveness, which itself is sinful. Punishing someone for their differences is a serious act equivalent to teaching another gospel (Gal. 2:14).

Third, discipline is never to be administered without due process. One abuse which can happen in the local church is for the leadership to decide someone has sinned, and then immediately shun them. Another abuse that can occur is for church members to take it upon themselves to shun individuals without taking them through the process of confrontations. Christians are to seek regular peace and unity with each other (I Pet. 3:11; John 17:23). To separate from someone is to act as their personal judge and this is wrong (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). The most common form of judgment is verbal judgment. Labeling someone in the local body “worldly” or  “ungodly” to others in the body is slander and/or gossip and should be avoided at all costs (Eph. 4:29-31). If a church member participates in this or other types of verbal judgment, they should repent and seek forgiveness from the offended party.

Fourth, discipline is not something that can or should be carried out on an admitted non-Christian. Everyone has the liberty to choose Christian or non-Christian friends. There may be appropriate times for individuals to protect themselves from the bad influence of a non-Christian friend or relative by avoiding them. However, official discipline and local church separation should not be administered to non-Christians. Otherwise they would never be reached with the gospel (I Cor. 5:9-13).

Fifth, Christians are not to separate from covenantal relationships if the other party is willing to stay in the relationship. If someone’s spouse goes under church discipline this does not mean they should be divorced because of their sin (I Cor. 7:13-14). As long as the disciplined husband or wife is willing to stay in the relationship, they should be allowed and loved. Admittedly, the discipline process is more difficult to carry out in situations involving a spouse or a child, and much wisdom must be applied to each situation.

Church discipline is one of the most difficult acts that any church can perform. It is not something that any sane leadership would enjoy going through. However, if it is done correctly it can result in restored relationships, as sinners are reconciled. It can result in salvation as a prodigal is restored and sometimes realizes they have never really known a true love for Christ. It can result in the protection of the church community, as the sinner is removed and therefore not able to influence others to follow down the same path. It can result in a healthy church that balances a love for sinners with seriousness towards sin.


[1]  These three things were called the marks of the church and were listed  in The Confession of the English Congregation at Geneva (1556), the French Confession of Faith (1559), 26-28; the Scottish Confession of Faith (1560), chapters 16 and 18, the Belgic Confession of Faith (1561), articles 27-29; and the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), chapter 17.

[2] Definition is a form of one taken from “The Book of Church Order”, 27-1.

Comments are closed.