Oct 25, 2007

Book Review: A Journey in Purity

Why I Still Believe in Church Discipline

The second book in the "Journey" series by Richard P. Belcher continued the same fiction story of Rev. Ira Pointer as he pastors a large downtown church, First Baptist. Finding that only about 50 members are active out of a membership roll of 1500 or so, Rev. Pointer is soon forced into dealing with the issue of purity in the church and what the Bible says about church discipline. As a theological novel, this book focuses on teaching theology through the medium of story telling again.

In this sequel, we learned how to outline Scripture, how to deal with false accusations and bullying, when to be quiet and when to speak up for oneself, and how a church should study unfamiliar doctrines. We studied what the Bible says about determining when someone is truly saved and how many in the church are not really regenerate. We discovered that it is much more difficult to try to purify an impure church full of unbelievers than it would be to start a church from a correct, biblically pure foundation to begin with.

But the main thing I learned in this book is that there are five main types of discipline in the church and that not only are these rarely taught, but they are rarely carried out correctly, even in churches that do practice church discipline. I don't usually like to tell the bottom line of a book, but I will break with tradition for this review. This should be only enough to whet your appetite for studying the subject further.

Five Categories of Sin Requiring Discipline

1. Serious sin committed by someone who is still unrepentant -- I Cor. 5:1-5
Most severe. The church is to turn him over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The sin of one brother against another -- Matt. 18:15-18
Excommunication (treat as a heathen or publican) if the sinning brother refuses to listen to the church.

3. Sin which has overtaken a brother and has left him sorrowful and crushed -- Gal. 6:1
Restoration to Christ and the church by the spiritual members of the church in a spirit of meekness and humility.

4. One teaching false doctrine -- I Tim. 6:3-5
Excommunication (withdrawal from him) by the church.

5. One not walking as a Christian should walk in his daily life -- II Thess. 3:6, 14-15
Excommunication (withdrawal of fellowship), but he is not to be treated as a lost man but to be admonished as a brother.

The Discipline Responsibility of the Church

1. The church is the final authority in the matter of discipline.

2. The most spiritual of the membership of the church are to carry out the discipline. That should be the leaders.

3. The Bible is the authority concerning which sins in practice or doctrine one is to be disciplined for.

4. Repentance and restoration are to be hoped for in every case.

Clear Dangers to be Avoided in Discipline

1. Pride -- discipline should be conducted with humility.

2. Legalism -- the work of discipline is not just a set of rules to be followed coldly.

3. Extremism -- the church does not play Holy Spirit in church members' lives and make decisions for them.

4. Undisciplined discipline -- it must be structured and clearly principled, and must be fair and consistent in each case, and from one case to another.

5. Arbitrariness -- the discipline methods must be based on Scripture and the matters for discipline must be based on Scripture. They cannot be based on one's personal arbitrary choice.

6. Supremacy -- discipline is not the supreme work of the church, but rather is a necessary part of the work of the church.

7. Asceticism -- the work of discipline is not an end unto itself, nor is it a means to produce spirituality and growth by itself. (formative vs. reformative discipline)

I'm really enjoying this series!

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