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Church discipline - Pastoral Discipline



1.      Review the Scriptures referring to Church Discipline below:  (1 Timothy 5:17-19)


·        (vs 17) – Let the elders who  rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.

·        (vs 18) – For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

·        (vs 19) – Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.

·        (vs 20) – Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

·        (vs 21) – I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.

·        (vs 22) – Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.


Contextual Comments:

·        Over the course of time, some “elders” rose up above the rest.  These were those who were noted as being gifted by the Holy Spirit in the study of the “Word” and the teaching of “Doctrine.”

·        These elders were to be recognized for their diligence in the Word and teaching and supported for it (i.e. double honor).

·        Accusations were not to be accepted against an elder except:

o       When there were two or three witnesses to the event.

o       This procedure was in accordance with Jewish law (Deut. 19:15-20; 17:6-7).

o       This legal code transferred over into the Church (Mt. 18:16-18; Heb. 10:28).

·        Regarding verse 20, Timothy was to rebuke the elders (or witnesses?) who habitually sinned before all (congregation or elders?).

·        He was to rebuke the elder before the other elders because:

o       The context of the discussion is that of the elder’s behavior.

o       To insert “witnesses” in the rebuke portion of this sentence is to violate the flow and logic of the verse.  “Elder” has been the topic and most likely remains the topic.

o       The congregation is never mentioned in this text, to believe that it is inserted by the adjective (pantos) without previous reference is questionable.

·        Timothy was to guard these things without prejudice and never to show partiality.  To rush this process, or to supersede it because of personal prejudice or partiality, would open him up to guilt in the case of an elder’s failure.

·        Verses 24 and 25 refers to the truth that fruit will always reveal the character of a person.  Therefore, Timothy was to be patient and not rush to ordain a person.


1.      Do you agree or disagree with this assessment of the text?  If you do not agree, can you agree that there are other possible interpretations of this text?  Therefore, it would be hard to build a rule of order on one interpretation when others are just as easily possible.

Answer: Unanimously, Agree.



·        Agree that there are other possible interpretations of this text.

·        We agreed that this passage can be used to rebuke an elder but that it can also include witnesses.

·        Discipline of an elder should not just hinge on this one text.

·        Agreed that there were differences of interpretation.  Conclusion could be incorporated in a number of different interpretations.

·        Agree (vs 20) – 2 interpretations of this verse.  Looked at it in light of Matt.18.  Older person – go alone; 2 or 3 witnesses to establish facts; rebuke before all refers to all involved.

·        Agreed with assessment of the text; did acknowledge other interpretations of the text.  Try to separate double honor and discipline.  Discipline should be impartial and consistent which brings accountability.



2.      Doctrine:  Read the handouts referring to pastoral discipline.  Describe the process or steps outlined in the handouts and Scriptures above for pastoral discipline.  At what point, if any, in this process or steps of pastoral discipline should “marking” be employed?


Answer comments: 

·        Steps are well outlined in Matt. 18:15-17; (B) – at no point should marking be employed.

·        1 Tim. 1:20; Acts 5; 3 Jn 9; 1 Cor. 5:5;  3 steps – go alone; take 2 or 3 witnesses; rebuke them publicly;  4th step -  mark them to follow up rebuking if they do not get right.  Rom. 16:17 – marking = scopeo = to watch, observe.  Titus 3:10 – a brother who is a heretic, shun and reject.  2 Thess. 3:14-15.  2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Cor. 5:9.  Heresy to WOG; disorderly continual lifestyle that allow a person to be shunned or rejected.  “Watch diligently” – episkopeo. 

·        People in authority are very careful what they say and do in personal preference towards one another.  Do not just jump into it.  Steps in Matt. 18:15-19 must be followed.  Deut. 17, 19.  Points to employ:  if there is outright heresy in primary levels of cardinal doctrine; public immorality; misuse of funds, then “marking” should be noted.  Definition of “heresy” involves primary level/cardinal doctrines.

·        Without apostles today, Paul wrote to Timothy describing what he should do.  Timothy operated in oversight of other local assemblies.  Mt. 18 process – we suggest some governing board of elders for the ministry at large.

·        2 Thess. 3:6, 11(b) – attatos – a man who walks out of line – withdraw ourselves from that.

·        Agree that the process is the same but with the Pastor’s extreme discretion.  Brought before elders with 2 or 3 witnesses; confront Pastor; a decision is implemented by elders.

·        Based on Mt. 18;15-20; 1 Tim. 5:17-22, Gal. 6:1-2 – Go alone to Pastor;  more witnesses go to Pastor with possibility of involving 1 or 2 elders; next step – take elders with them; next step – elders should have a responsibility to contact those who ordained the Pastor for counsel; next step – local elders should have last say.  If non-repentance, take to the body.

·        Mt. 18 principle goes before 1 Tim. 5 – at that step issue is private; next step – bring to ruling elders; repentance brings restoration; if it exceeds public office – then the person is open to public rebuke; marking is different:  if a person does not receive this discipline and does not repent, marking would be appropriate.

·        Mt. 18 is to be followed for leadership and congregation members.  Marking done only after all other avenues have been exhausted and only when the congregation is in danger of infection or abuse.  Marking must be done with agreement of Board of Elders.

·        Differentiate between discipline and marking.  Marking should be replaced with discipline based on James 2:1, 9.

·        Process – marking at no point should be used.  We are not satisfied with the present process.  What if the Pastor refuses to listen?  Is there some other body they can go to outside the local church?  It has been unofficially working up to now.  Does it need to be codified or written?

·        1 Tim. 5 – not just instruction to Timothy but to whole church.  Where someone makes an accusation against an elder.  From context, it presupposes a disposition of mind that you have to be careful and protective of the leader who is open to false accusations.  This is beyond Mt. 18:15-17 step.  Do not receive it from one person, but if 2 or 3 then you need examination of the credibility of the witnesses.  Do you have to be an eye witness?  Direct or circumstantial evidence?  Must be an eye witness.  If viable case, elder has a right to due process and to answer.  If guilty of offense, then different stages of discipline are implemented.  It must be “sinning”.  If present-active, then rebuke them.  If repented of, it is gone.  On the other hand, be careful if rebuking is necessary.  Discipline should be according to the circumstances and not the office.  Some may need probationary period in order to repent, but some may not – depends on situation.  Under no circumstances should there be marking.  Whole purpose is to restore them to his original position and peaceful fruits of righteousness.



3.      When should pastoral discipline be private; when public?


Answer Comments:

·        If sin has public effect and Body has a right to know, it should be made public.

·        Constitution of Seneca Falls – “. .. to the degree it has public damage, will be the degree of public exposure given to the problem as the elders deem necessary.”

·        Private in its initial stages when following Mt. 18;15.  Public when it hinders, obstructs, or distorts ministry of the Word and it is continuing on.

·        After Mt. 18, what is public?  Publish it in Gath or a group of leaders.  Spiritual men should be able to discern the involvement of the whole process.

·        Should become public inasmuch as the sin is known publicly.  If no repentance, then it should become public.

·        Private – keep private; public – keep public.  If it affects the public, the cause of Christ should not be damaged.

·        God affords us the privilege of privacy.

·        It should always at first be a private matter; if damaging the Body or cause of Christ, be made public.

·        Endeavor to cover and restore; public sin must be made public – Gal. 2.  Every situation is different.  Heart is restoration but also protection, so we need wisdom in every case.

·        Remain consistent with Biblical process of Mt. 18.  When it is public should be determined by the elders and guilty party should submit.  (James 3:1 – we shall receive the greater condemnation).  Should the scope of repentance equal the scope of offense?  Scope = measure of how many I have affected (i.e., large group of people, repent to a large group of people).



·        Private – Go alone.  If no repentance or resolution then with 2 or more witness go to the Elders of the local church.   Elders 1st have a responsibility to investigate the credibility of the witnesses and/or claims.  That entails a sub-process of investigation.  If the witnesses and information are deemed to be credible, then the witnesses with one or more Elders should go to the Pastor in private.  The Pastor should be give due process to explain himself.  If he repents, or resolution is achieved than the issue should be closed and covered (assuming no legal or governmental issues also need to be addressed).  Duty of elders is NOT to judge, but to find facts.  Discipline next.  Watching period by elders. Did the discipline work?  If the behavior continues or if it is injuring the church or work of God, then go public:

·        PUBLIC – Elders have responsibility to either rebuke and/or deal with problem.  Maybe another period of watching.  If injurious or heresy, then separation.  Removal from office should be strongly considered.



4.      Does the Bible teach that there are any levels of the pastoral office (i.e., chief elder, spiritual father, etc.) where one is exempt from pastoral discipline?

Answer: Unanimously, No.



5.      If the ultimate goal of church discipline is restoration, should there be a probationary period, higher degree of accountability, etc.?  If not, explain how the church can be protected from a tarnished testimony and future failures.  Are there types of sin even after restoration that pastoral duties are restricted?


Answer Comments:

  • Could be probationary period to restore trust but not to earn forgiveness.
  • Yes, but there are various levels of offense and responses to that.  (i.e., mismanagement of funds, moral issues).  Situation should warrant how long and what type of process.
  • Yes.  Maybe a solution - Removal from office because the office is conditional.
  • Lev. 14:35 - serious types – priestly action – if a man approaches a priest, then house is emptied so everything in the house would not be made unclean.  Needs to be time to examine a case.  If plague has spread, then one or more stones are removed (vs 40) then the house is scraped (cleaning process- may refer to thorough teaching); new stones set in place and plastering which may refer to new spirit-filled actions in our Body for that to take place.  Bring in fresh teaching  and love and prayer into the situation.  If after all this the plague comes back, then the whole house is unclean.  Point:  we do need to take responsibility; otherwise whole house can be unclean.
  • Agreed with restoring trust; some form of confidential restoration and restraint which may be watching; restore spiritual capacity to function.  Certain sins forgiveness is instant, but restoration to function in an overseeing position may take some time.
  • Sometimes issues with elders and chief elders forget that it is God’s church, not the individual.  Paul made himself accountable.  (2 Cor. 9).  Yes, a probationary period for a first offense but not when it becomes a lifestyle.  Degree depends on number of people affected.  We do not have a good policy for this – need guidelines established to have a uniform form across the ministry.
  • Ultimate goal of discipline is (1) reconciliation (1 Jn 1:9); (2) corrective, sometimes punitive (1 Cor 5); restore (Gal.6:1); (4) performance – Rev. 3:19.  The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us but grace teaches us to deny ungodliness.  Basic problem led up to the sin, so restoring him to same point is not good.  Period of restoration that goes beyond restoration but getting them back to their original walk with God.  Certain weaknesses may pre-empt a person from office unless problem is solved.  May have to remove a Pastor from a location because people are affected by their sin.
  • Should be a policy of discipline and restoration that is proactive to bring restoration and rehabilitation so people know this is the process.  Probationary period is determined on a case-by-case basis with elders.
  • If repented, he is not on probation, but he is in a process of restoration with accountability.
  • If repented, then no fear to place him back in position after a period of probation for protection of Body, depending on the issue.
  • Ultimate goal is restoration.  (1) Genuine true repentance is discerned; (2) perhaps on a case-by-case basis, some form of probation might be in order.  Justice system – on probation before making a judgment about that person – deal with them in love and mercy.  If not repentant, then inappropriate to restore them recognizing sometimes a long probationary period will beget repentance by the work of the Spirit, never closing the door to restoration.
  • Accountability is essential and fundamental.
  • Offender is accountable.  If a period of watching, then he needs time to earn trust, to restore their capacity to function.  You must be confident that they will be accountable again.  Elders are now accountable as well.