Church discipline is not just “clearing the membership roll” as if the point were primarily accuracy in bookkeeping. Neither is church discipline designed to be a punishment, as if the church were saying,
“We don’t want your kind around here.”
Yes, the church speaks of this stage of discipline as the delivering of one to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:5), but the very next phrase in the same verse reveals that such is done precisely for the purpose that “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Thus, the goal in church discipline is that the one being put out of fellowship will hear the warning in the church’s action as Jesus’s own voice, saying to him,“I am handing you over to Satan,”and in response turn back in repentance and faith. If that happens, Scripture tells us, we will have “gained [a] brother” (Matthew 18:15).
The church disciplines in the hope that the one being disciplined will hear Jesus’s warning voice and return — as Jesus says of his flock, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Question for Reflection
- Do you realize church discipline is for the benefit of our brother and the church?