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Church Discipline and Excommunication – Frank Viola’s Blog Today

Frank Viola’s blog “Beyond Evangelical” is one of my weekly must-reads.  I know I am not the only one.  Viola’s blog is consistently ranked among the top 10 Christian related blogs on the planet (in terms of both the amount of traffic he generates and the number of subscribers he attracts – 80,000 monthly).

Viola has written some very significant material during his career as a professional blogger, writer, and book author.  His books are all over by shelves in home office.

His most recent blog post topic involved the issue of church discipline and excommunication.  As a person who focuses on God’s grace in my preaching, teaching, and writing – the issue of church discipline has always made me uncomfortable.  The idea of excommunication strikes an altogether different raw nerve in my mind.  Part of the origin of discomfort comes from the several instances where I have seen “church discipline and excommunication” abused by members of the clergy and church leaders as little more than a power play to keep parishioners in check – particularly in terms of making members adhere to a certainly doctrinal formula.  (By the way, I can find no biblical foundation for using church discipline and excommunication as a means of enforcing conformity to certain doctrinal standards.

Here are two New Testament texts dealing with this discomforting topic.

Matthew 18:15-17: If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:4-12: So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord . . . Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people . . . “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Viola offers a third example from Romans.  I disagree that this particular verse advocates any type of action that we might call “church discipline or excommunication.”  Rather I understand it to be a warning to be on the guard against those who sow dissention.  Nothing is said about dis-fellowshipping such people, or putting them out of the church.

Romans 16:17: I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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.

Still, however we might read Romans 16:17, there is no denying that the New Testament contains instructions about how to go about disciplining a wayward behaving member, even to the point of excommunication.

Viola’s first article addressing this topic was titled:  How (Not) to Correct Another Christian.  I encourage you to click the hyperlink, which will open another window, where you can read Viola’s excellent article.

In today’s blog, Viola mentions the topic again – and links to another article by one of my friends and favorite people, Bart Breen.  As a fellow Trinitarian who fully advocates God’s grace, this article by Bart was exceptionally meaningful.  If it had not been for my daily following of Frank’s blog, I might have miss it.  Click this hyperlink now to read:   The Lost Practice of Church Discipline by Bart Breen

If you are not a subscriber to Frank Viola’s blog, I encourage you to click over and join his growing list today.

Here’s my favorite book by Frank Viola:

God’s Favorite Place on Earth
by: Frank Viola
publisher: David C. Cook, published: 2013-05-01
ASIN: 0781405904
EAN: 9780781405904
sales rank: 93163
price: $7.27 (new), $6.05 (used)

When He came to earth, Jesus Christ was rejected in every quarter in which He stepped. The Creator was rejected by His own creation. “He came to His own and His own received Him not,” said John. For this reason, Jesus Christ had “no where to lay His head.” There was one exception, however. A little village just outside of Jerusalem named Bethany. Bethany was the only place on earth where Jesus was completely received.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth
is a retelling of Jesus’ many visits to Bethany and a relaying of the message it holds for us today. Frank Viola presents a beautifully crafted narrative from the viewpoint of Lazarus, one of the people who lived in Bethany with his two sisters. This incomparable story not only brings the Gospel narratives to life, but it addresses the struggle against doubt, discouragement, fear, guilt, rejection, and spiritual apathy that challenges countless Christians today. In profoundly moving prose, God’s Favorite Place on Earth will captivate your heart with its beauty, charm, and depth. In this book you will discover how to live as a “Bethany” in our world today, being set free to love and follow Jesus like never before.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Church Discipline and Excommunication – Frank Viola’s Blog Today”

  1. Bart Breen says:

    Thanks Bill for the Kind words. I hope people will read and participate in the discussion on the main article as well, as there has been good discussion and feedback there already.

  2. Terry Spencer says:

    Good and needful observations here. I’m struck how some will fall all over themselves to get some sinner ‘saved’, but will be so stingy with grace for one who has professed Christ but they consider errant. James 5:19, 20.

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