Lane chapters 26-28
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?