The most serious step that a church can take is to remove one of its members and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, turn such a one “over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is a sobering experience for both the church and for the individual, if he or she has a genuine grasp on the authority of Jesus Christ through His Word and as Lord of His church (Matthew 18:15-20).
Whenever a church takes this final step of removing one of her members, inevitably the question arises among sensitive and thoughtful believers, “How are we to treat those who have been removed?” Sometimes, sentimentalism trumps Scripture in the minds of some church members and the result that injury is done to the souls of those who are being subjected to the God-ordained means of discipline. Church discipline is one of the main ways that Christ pursues His wayward sheep. But if they are not regarded as wayward, or if Christ’s own words are disobeyed by believers who have sentimental, unbiblical ideas of love, then spiritual damage inevitably results as the redemptive process of church discipline is undermined.
At the 2006 Ligonier’s Conference in Orlando, Florida, Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, Ken Jones and John MacArthur were asked about this during a panel discussion. Their responses are filled with wisdom, humility and grace. I encourage you to take 9 minutes and listen to their insights in the audio clip below.
A special thanks to Chris Larsen and the good folks at Ligonier for permission to post this.