Monday, October 26, 2009

Church discipline: purpose and process

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 12 - Church Discipline in censures and excommunication
1-7 - Power of the keys: end and process of discipline
1. Any group needs discipline, especially the church
2. Stages of discipline: first, private admonition to which all should submit willingly, and which pastors ought to be diligent in, especially - Acts 20:20, 26, 31. Second, admonition with witnesses. If that doesn't work, going before the church - Matt 18:15-17.
3. Keep admonishment of private sins private - Matt 18:15. Admonish public sins publicly - 1 Tim 5:20; Gal 2:14.
4. Some sins are faults while others are high-handed and shameful, to be disciplined severely and immediately - 1 Cor 5:3. The church doesn't last long without discipline.
5. Why discipline? 1. So infamous men won't be called Christians. So the Lord's Supper won't be profaned. ("If [the pastor] knowingly and willingly admits an unworthy person whom he could rightfully turn away, is as guilty of sacrilege as if he had cast the Lord's body to dogs."). 2. So bad company doesn't corrupt good character - 1 Cor 5:6, 11. 3. 3. To shame the sensitive to repentance - 2 Thess 3:14; 1 Cor 5:5.
6. There are public and scandalous sins, public sins, and private (unknown) sins. The church deals only with the first two. Public and scandalous sins are not treated according to Matt 18:15-17. See 1 Cor 5:1-7. Somewhat private sins are admonished, the person suspended from the Table if needed.
7. Princes are not exempt from church discipline. The elders shouldn't excommunicate without informing the congregation, getting their witness to the action. This avoids injustice.

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