Article 69 — Aim of discipline
IV. CHURCH DISCIPLINE
Church discipline shall be exercised in accordance with the Word of God and to His honour. Its aim is to reconcile the sinner with God and the neighbour, and to remove the offence from the church of Christ.
One of the marks of the true church is (Article 29 Belgic Confession of Faith) that it exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.
As Reformed churches
We accept only what is proper to preserve and promote harmony and unity and to keep all in obedience to God. To that end, discipline and excommunication ought to be exercised in agreement with the Word of God. (Article 32 Belgic Confession of Faith).
This is why our Church Order contains a special section on ‘Discipline’, wherein the various aspects and stages of church discipline are set out.
The first article informs us about the aim of discipline.
It begins by saying that church discipline must be exercised in accordance with the Word of God and to His honour.
In this matter the church must act in harmony with what the Scriptures in the Old and the New Testament teach us about the administration of discipline.
As for the Old Testament we may refer to the many places in the ‘books of the Covenant’, Exodus 21-23 and Deuteronomy, and also in the book of Numbers (e.g. Exodus 22: 18-20; Deuteronomy 13: 6; 17: 7; 19: 19; 22: 24; 24: 7).
Regarding the New Testament we may mention the instructions the Lord
Jesus gave to His apostles-to-be in Matthew chapters 16 and 18 (respectively verses 19 and 15-20), and to the writings of the apostle (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5: 2); also to the gospel according to John (20: 23).
Scripture as a whole teaches us the necessity of church discipline.
This may be clear to us when we read how the Lord Jesus in His ‘disciplinary sayings’ referred to the Old Testament (compare Matthew 18: 15 with Numbers 19: 17; Matthew 18: 16 with Deuteronomy 19: 15), and how the apostle Paul did the same (1 Corinthians 5: 2, 13 compared with Deuteronomy 17: 7).
From the very beginning the LORD God wanted to preserve the purity and holiness of His covenant people. His honour is at stake when sin gets a foothold within the church.
A church without the administration of discipline, or a church that makes misuse of its authority to discipline (Article 29 Belgic Confession) must be an abomination in the eyes of God.
The aim, then, of church discipline has been described in the above.
Our Church Order formulates it accordingly: the sinner – a person who lets his/her life be dominated by sin – has to be reconciled with God - for sin disrupts the relation with Him – and with his/her neighbour – if he/she had sinned against one of the commandments of the ‘second table’ of God’s Law. And the offence must be removed from the community of the church of Christ, either by the above-mentioned reconciliation, or by excommunication (Deuteronomy 17: 7; 19: 19). For the holiness of the church of Christ is God’s own holiness (Isaiah 17: 6; 1 Peter 1: 16).