Loving Discipline -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner
SBJT 4:4 (Winter 2000) p. 2
Thomas R. Schreiner is a professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary. Recently, he completed a commentary on Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series. Currently, he is working on a theology of the apostle Paul and is co-authoring a work on perseverance and assurance (both due from InterVarsity Press). He is also serving as the preaching pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
We devote an issue of the journal to church discipline since it is often forgotten or overlooked in today’s church, even in churches that claim to live according to the scriptures. What must be said at the outset is that discipline is not contrary to love but, an expression of love, when properly applied. Our culture is quick to use labels, such as, “mean-spirited,” “harsh,” and “proud” against those who exercise discipline. We are prone to confuse love with sentimentality, thinking that love is always accepting, soft, and tolerant. Some parents commit this error in raising their children, and so are reluctant to correct and admonish them. They shower their children with gifts and give them everything they desire, and then wonder why their children are self-absorbed. Genuine love, of course, expresses itself through both encouragement and admonishment, both acceptance and correction. In the same way, when the church is functioning in a healthy manner, the members are both comforted and corrected.
Censorious judgment of others is itself censured by Paul (Rom 2:1), but it does not follow from this that all evaluation and judgment of others is banned.1 The judgment of unbelievers is to be left to God, for unbelievers are not part of the Christian community (1 Cor 5:12–13), but Paul specifically commands believers to judge one another in 1 Cor 5:12, “Should you not judge those inside the church?” The beauty of the church is preserved by mutual accountability and responsibility. Those who are tripped up by sin are to be restored by others in the community who are walking in the Spirit (Gal 6:1). Discernment must be exercised to detect those who have fallen astray into sin. Does such judgment fall under the strictures of Romans 2:1 where Paul condemns those who judge others? Not if it is exercised “in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal 6:...
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