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the three types of unrighteous discipline

1. Abusive Any church discipline which stems from selfish motives or purposes is unrighteous. Such discipline would involve an abuse of authority. An example might be a leader who does not tolerate opinions which differ from his own, or who wants to be the “head of the show” (III John 3). Any kind of vengefulness or struggle for personal power would be an abuse of authority. Churches that follow the biblical principle of having a plurality of leadership have an added safeguard against such abusive authority. The leaders can guard each other from such sinful motives and practices.

2. Toothless This kind is a superficial discipline. It is similar to a mother who gives her rebellious child a swat when what he may really need is a good spanking. Similarly, some churches execute church discipline according to their own inadequate and unbiblical traditions. An example of this toothless discipline would be forbidding an unrighteous person from participating in certain church ordinances but at the same time allowing him to attend church meetings and to continue associating with the believers. But 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 does not say, “forbid him from participating in certain church ordinances.” Neither does it say, “make him sit in the back of the church.” Rather it says, “you must not associate with” him. What does “do not associate” mean? Paul clarifies the meaning of this phrase in verse 10. He says that if the Corinthians were to stop associating with the unrighteous people “of this world,” they would have to “leave this world.” Clearly, to “not associate” means to have nothing whatsoever to do with the so-called brother. Though toothless discipline may have some effect with certain sins referred to in 1 Corinthians 5, it would obviously be ludicrous with others, such as slander.

3. Negligent To our humanistic society, an avoidance of all discipline is the best. It is based upon the idea that discipline is unloving. It assumes that there are no moral boundaries, no consequences, and no accountability. This worldly philosophy is taken from the religion of humanism. Many churches have been “spotted by the world” (James 1:27). Churches where this philosophy is prevalent disregard much scripture and the Lord’s standard for holiness.

—By Sam Lopez

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