Recovering the Third Mark of the Church -- By: Art Azurdia
RAR 3:4 (Fall 1994) p. 61
Recovering the Third Mark of the Church
It is safe to assume that the majority of people who read this journal are in sympathy with its aspirations: to promote the work of reformation and revival in the church of Jesus Christ. But how will this work be accomplished? Many of these readers would readily affirm that a return to the faithful exposition of the Scriptures is essential to the accomplishment of this task. Repentance and prayer, both on an individual and cooperate level, would also be recognized as a prerequisite to a fresh visitation of the Spirit of God.
However, as foundational as is preaching to these holy objectives, the people of God are in dire need of recovering yet another gospel ordinance 1 , an ordinance that is both inextricable to the ministry of proclamation and intercession and at the same time indispensable to the experience of reformation and revival. It has been referred to by one as “Christ’s great law of corrective discipline.” 2 More commonly, it has been known by the simple phrase “church discipline.”
Though many contemporary Christians may indeed recognize this terminology, very few could define its meaning and set forth its purposes. Most have never witnessed its proper implementation. For all of their efforts in the area of pastoral care most seminaries fail to instruct their students in the procedures of ministry ordained by Christ Himself. Its neglect has contributed greatly to the present condition of the church.
Today the church faces a moral crisis within her own ranks. Her failure to take a strong stand against evil (even in her own midst), and her tendency to be more concerned about what is expedient than what is right, has robbed the church of biblical integrity and power. It is true that, historically, the church has sometimes erred in this matter of discipline, but today the problem is one of outright neglect. It would be difficult to show another area of Christian life which is more commonly ignored by the modern evangelical church than church discipline. 3
Ironically, the great Protestant Reformers resoundingly
RAR 3:4 (Fall 1994) p. 62
advocated the practice of church discipline, with Calvin making the most significant contribution. The confessions of the Reformation and Puritan eras clearly articulated the necessity of disciplining unrepentant sin in the church. The Belgic Confession (1561), deeply rooted in Reformational soil, identified three characteristics “by which the true church is known.” These marks are: (a) The ...
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