Word, Sacrament, and Discipline: Discipline, a Means & Sign of True Body Life

Church discipline can induce spiritual growth.

While I once caught up with another pastor over coffee, he lamented his church’s looming excommunication of an unrepentant member.  His strained face and words expressed great pain.  Yet he also shared how that final step of censure caused a regular attender stalling formal membership to request joining the church, saying, “I need this kind of care over my Christian life.”[[4]


Discussing the three marks of a true church during a seminary class (preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, and disciplining members), our professor emphasized the third by rhetorically asking, “How many true churches are there today?”  His implication was, where are authentic churches to be found existing if there are few disciplinary signs of life?

Church discipline preserves her spiritual vitality and prevents a walking dead witness.  Without disciplinary care to the wounds of Christ’s body, well-fed churches can still bleed to death.  David Engelsma warns, “Failure to discipline guts the preaching.”[[1]]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) explains how true discipleship involves discipline:

The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His Church, hath therein appointed government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate. (30:1)

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