If a member is involved in sin and does not want to face discipline from the congregation, can that member withdraw his fellowship from them so that they have no responsibility toward that member?
If a member of the church finds himself/herself involved in a sin and does not want to face discipline from the congregation, can that member withdraw his/her fellowship from the congregation so that the congregation has no responsibility toward that member?
When a Christian finds himself persisting in a sin and refuses to repent of that sin, then his congregation is required to show genuine love and concern for their erring brother by withdrawing fellowship from him. The withdrawal of fellowship does not cause that wayward member to be lost. They are already lost because of their persistent rebellion against their heavenly Father. It does not make him more lost. The member is lost because they have chosen to separate themselves from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2). The church must do everything it can to bring their brother to true repentance. The church is not to pretend that everything is alright with that member.
1 Corinthians 5, mentions reasons why the procedure of church discipline must be carried out.
1. God wants that wayward child to be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5). Church discipline that is carried out correctly is hoping to shock the wayward member into reality. Hopefully, the member will start to think: "I am really lost! If I die in this condition, I will not be saved." They will bring themselves to understand that they are breaking the heart of God and start show ing godly sorrow which will eventually lead them to true repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
2. The church is to be kept pure from the contaminating evil influence (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Paul gives the second reason for church discipline. The Bible states: "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." In the Old Testament, Israel around Passover time, was to get all of the leaven out of the house. Leaven has properties within it that is designed to contaminate whatever it gets in to.
If it is the case that a wayward member can withdraw their fellowship from the church, then what is the purpose of church discipline? This would make void the instructions of the New Testament concerning church discipline. Church discipline is one of the most loving actions that a church could ever do. Paul stated about love: "love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6). The true reality is that a sheep has gone away from the flock and needs to be brought back to the flock. Church discipline must be carried out faithfully by the church even though the brother or sister has already withdrawn their own fellowship from the church so that the church community as well as the general community may know that this brother is no longer associated with the church, thus preventing the church from further reproach. It is a hard, emotional, and heart-breaking to go through church discipline . But, even if it does not bring the brother or sister back, at least the church is protecting the body of Christ and demonstrating that Jesus is Head of their church.
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