Monday, April 11, 2016

Lane chapters 26-28

Wild Card

Dan Scherer



            On wild card week let’s discuss a wild subject for our church in today’s world “Church Discipline”.  

Calvin states the power of the church for such work coming directly from Christ and splits in two directions. One applies to the ministry of the word or preaching (Matt. 16:19) and one to discipline of excommunication (Matt.18:17-18) or as I interpret, discipline of the people. We know about the abuses of the Roman church in it’s over zealous expansion of indulgences, my interest lie in what do we have today in the church for discipline. Is there any? Is it good, bad? Not enough, too much?

            There is more to Calvinism then just the doctrine of Grace and salvation. Calvin himself was very much a life style kind of guy and had plenty of his own struggles with right living not just right preaching. Calvin’s first term as Pastor in Geneva ended quickly when he implemented discipline at the communion table and refused to administer communion to certain leading people who were living in open sin; He was forced to leave the city. After three and a half years when he was asked to return Calvin issued an ultimatum to the Genevan church. “If you desire to have me for your Pastor, correct the disorder of your lives. If you have with sincerity recalled me from exile, banish the crimes and debaucheries which prevail among you… I consider the principle enemies of the Gospel to be, not the pontiff of Rome, nor heretics, nor seducers, nor tyrants but bad Christians. . . Of what use is dead faith without good works? Of what importance is even Truth itself, where a wicked life belies it and actions make words blush?” (Pillar of Grace P.508)

            After such an important comment on the enemies of the Gospel I find it a little disingenuous that Calvin would say in the (Institutes P. 1229) the discussion “must be treated briefly, that we may thereafter pass to the remaining topics”. What could be more important than the principle enemy of the Gospel? After his experience in the Genevan church perhaps Calvin is a little less comfortable with discipline but forcibly states the importance of it. I do agree with his first of the three ends, in view for the purpose of discipline that they who lead a filthy and infamous life may not be called Christians. We are the body of Christ and cannot let such corruption be falling on our Head. Just think if some of Hollywood’s famous folks like Kim Kardashian were a member of your church. Although I have never met her and do not know what is in her heart the reputation that follows her is hardly Christian. This is where I want to split from Calvin. His strong words towards the Pastor who administers the Lord’s Supper indiscriminately. Although Calvin uses the term “rightfully turn away” (Calvin 4.12.5) I just feel the rightfully is no easy determination. We just discussed the “Adiaphora” where it was boiled down to “Matters indifferent and Matters that Matter”. It would seem to me that the Matters that matter do tend to change in a society, or do they? Look at (Matt: 7:2 on).” Judge not, that you be not judged”. The scariest passage for me is (Calvin 4.12.2). “Every man should endeavor to admonish his brother”.

            I agree with Calvin all the way with his doctrine of Grace. Grace in his doctrine of salvation I believe is logically and biblically correct. I am not as convinced that his view on common discipline are as biblically accurate. I think that a more, let God and the individual be the judge, in administering the Lord’s Supper. That is not to say that pastors do not have a responsibility of teaching the Lord’s Supper and it’s significates for they surly do. God’s forgiveness will cover our mistakes and His grace will be sufficient. “I’d rather attend church with a bunch of messed up people seeking after God, than religious people who think they’re His enforcers.” (Unknown source)

 Question: you find out that a couple who have been faithful to your church for several years are living together and have never been married. They have been taking communion on a regular bases in your church. How would you approach them?


  1. This is a tricky question, for I know many who have lived together before they got married. It is so predominate and accepted in our society that it is not seen as a clear cut of a right or wrong choice as it once was. As a pastor you would have to know the couple's situation and their heart before making that approach, and also you would want the support and backing of the session because it could back fire on you. For me, Grace, Love and Support will always triumph over Truth. Let God work on their heart, until you're asked your opinion stay out.

    1. Jeff I agree a 100% think it is right to stay out of it and let it be between them and the Lord.

  2. Nice write up Dan. I think Jeff's response does a great job answering your difficult question. To be properly pastoral in this circumstance would be difficult. I would say that "living in sin" (using now archaic terminology) should be no bar to taking communion, after all, we are all sinners. Even so, I think the couple should be encouraged to consider the ramifications of the status their relationship.

    Yet, I think it should be remembered that for several centuries marriage was not something the church was typically involved in. It was primarily a legal matter. If a couple were to get a certificate from the state, then, would this be sufficient? In some states, I believe, common law marriages are considered to be in effect after 3 years of living together. At least that used to be the rule of thumb. Would this be recognized by the church? How about divorce? I guess my point here is that the issue is quite complicated. As far as I know the only references to marriage in the new testament regarding the requirement of marriage (not the relationship between husband and wife spelled out in Ephesians) is the one in Mark 10:9 (and the associated passage in Matthew about not rendering asunder what God has joined.

    Nevertheless, I see marriage as a good institution for both the church and society at large. Not sure how the couple would or should be approached. But if it were to be done, it would have to be, as Jeff indicates above, with infinite care.

  3. Wil, you used a good term I agree with "infinite care" for sure. thanks for your reply and "make my day."

  4. Thank you for the Wild Card Post!
    For me, the most important precursor to communion is examination of one's heart. And so, I would speak of this to the congregation before the serving of communion, maybe give an instruction of silent prayer before calling those who assist in the serving of communion, and go ahead and serve this couple. It is for me, again the purity of one's heart, the marriage certificate makes it a civil union, who am I to deny someone access to community with Christ and all Believers? ... I suppose I do not see Communion as cleansing by as much as communion with God. And because God knows our hearts, and the closer we are to God, the more clearly we hear the leadership/direction through the Holy Spirit...
    And Calvin might (MIGHT) agree with me, when I say none of us are free from the burden of sin ... none of us are spic and span, let us come ... let us commune ... let us seek to be in communion with each other under God.

  5. Thanks Claire, I agree if we teach the examination of the heart the responsibility is now in the hands of God. To deny a couple regardless of their marital status to me would not be doing his will. We want to bring people closer to God not push them away then let God work on their heart and achieve His goal. I myself could not turn them away.

  6. Hi Dan and all,
    I agree with each of you saying that it is truly a matter between the couple and God. Proper instruction before the Lord's Supper is important but we invite all baptized believers to come to the table (in the pcusa)
    Dan to another point you raised. "admonish your brother." These are truly challenging words. I think that this admonishment must be done with the love of Christ at the center, not ranting and raving at them. We must also remember that the mirror can be flipped.

  7. I think a hundred years ago church members were called in before the session to explain misbehavior, but I don't see that happening today. Any way, why pick on one sin when we are all guilty of so much more! I would hope that by practicing grace, we would encourage this couple and help to strengthen their faith.

  8. HI Everyone! I agree with you all. I wonder if this presents an opportunity for a sermon.. maybe a sermon on marriage not as a specific admonition to this couple of course, but in celebrating marriage. I keep thinking in this case about all of the committed gay and lesbian couples who were not allowed to marry. How many of these folks stayed away from church for fear of being judged? How many could grow in Christ if we welcomed them with open arms? Might not the same be true for heterosexual couples?