Letter to the Saints

Church Member, What's Your Job?

I've had a variety of jobs with different responsibilities; I've been a kitchen porter (cutting veggies, mopping floors, washing dishes). I've also been a coffee shop barista (brewing coffee, serving sandwiches, and again washing dishes). Now I'm a pastor and my responsibilities could be summarized as; preach and pray (Acts 6:4). Have you ever wondered what your job is as a church member?

The Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted his church with a sacred duty. Every member of the church is vitally important to this task. He's given us together as a church an authority that can't be delegated to the pastors, the Pope, or even the Apostles. 

What authority has Jesus given to every church?

He's given us the authority of the keys of the kingdom of heaven! The what of the what? You heard right, the authority of keys of the kingdom of heaven! 

The very first instance of the word "church" in the Bible comes in Matthew 16. Jesus asks his disciples perhaps the most important question ever asked. 

Matthew 16

"Who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."" (Mt. 16:15-20)

Much ink has been spilt over these verses and much could be said but what I want you to see is that Jesus responds to Peter's wonderful confession of his identity with the promise to build his church and a promise of the keys of the kingdom. 

So Peter, the apostle, was given the keys of heaven, to bind and loose. But what does that have to do with us?

Matthew 18

Just two chapters later, in Matthew 18, Jesus teaches his disciples about what it means to exercise these keys. What does it mean to use the keys to bind and loose? Who uses these keys? Peter?

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Mt. 18:15-20)

In this context Jesus is teaching how to deal with sin between two brothers in the church. First, seek forgiveness and reconciliation one to one, don't immediately go to anyone else. If he listens, Praise the Lord! However, if he doesn't, Jesus encourages involving others to help in the reconciliation process. But if they refuse to listen, where is the final court of appeal? Jesus says, "Tell it to the church." The church is the final court of appeal on earth in matters of unrepentant sin. Not the pastors, not even the apostles, but the church! Jesus has given churches a special job to perform and he says that it is on behalf of heaven! He describes that job of judging unrepentant sin in the church as binding and loosing in heaven... that is, using the keys of the kingdom. So it's not only Peter who has the keys... Jesus entrusts the keys to the church.

So what does it all mean? 

Jesus has given churches a special job that they must perform together. 

That job can be summarized simply as to judge the who and what of the gospel–

1. What of the gospel– recognize a right confession of who Jesus is; the Christ, Son of the living God. God's anointed savior. (like Peter in Matthew 16)
2. Who of the gospel– recognize a right confessor of Jesus; evaluate that an individual is living consistently with their confession of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. (like the church in Matthew 18)

While each of us have various important responsibilities; whether you're a mother, working at home caring for your household, or a CEO, managing a massive corporation, Jesus has given us an even more important job to do as a church.

Covenant Hope, Jesus has entrusted us with the most important assignment ever; Guard the gospel by holding fast to the right confession, and affirming (and sometimes challenging if in unrepentant sin) one another's confession of Jesus as our Saviour.

Grace be with you all,
Mark Donald
Posted by Mark Donald with

Church Discipline: Like Going to the Gym

Crossfit Trainers and Discipline

Have you ever had a trainer at the gym? One aspect of church discipline is like
working with a trainer. When I was in seminary, my friends and I signed up for
Crossfit (a high-intensity exercise class) at 5am. We’d crawl in before the sun rose
and our coach would show us the workouts. He wouldn’t just describe the workouts
to us, he would model them for us. He showed us how to squat, how to bench press,
how to row. He presented a positive example for us to emulate.

Formative Church Discipline

Sometimes theologians separate church discipline into two categories, formative and
corrective. Each Christian is called to both. Formative discipline looks like a pastor
preaching a sermon on Sunday. He’s instructing the church on how to live the
Christian life. It looks like church members watching their elders and imitating their
faith (Heb. 13:7). It’s one Christian helping another Christian follow Jesus by reading
the Bible, praying, and sharing the gospel together. Do you realize that God’s placed
you in the lives of those around you for you to model and teach them to obey him
(Matt. 28:18–20)?

Corrective Church Discipline

Now sometimes at my Crossfit class, our coach would correct us. I thought I knew
how to squat, until my form was critiqued and confronted. If you want to get stronger
and faster and fitter, you need both formative and corrective discipline. Form matters.
If your coach doesn’t correct bad form, he’s setting you up for injuries and setbacks.

Some of us only want to present a positive example and be an encouragement in the
Christian faith (formative church discipline) but Jesus commands us to also practice
corrective church discipline. Titus 1:13 is an example of this, “...rebuke them
sharply…” All of us need Christians to confront our sin. All of us need Christians to
rebuke us. And all of us need to be those Christians to one another. But notice in
Titus 1:13, Paul tells us the purpose of rebuke is “that they may be sound in the
faith.” Discipline is God’s plan for our good. Do you realize that God’s place other
Christians in your life to warn you of the deceitfulness of your own sin?

The End of Church Discipline

One day there will be no need for Crossfit or gyming. We’ll have resurrected bodies.
And one day, too, there will be no need for church discipline. We’ll have no more sin.
Can you even imagine the bliss of walking with our Savior–without sin? So that we
can get to that day, God’s given us church discipline to help us. None of us can make
it to the celestial city on our own strength, we need one another. So let’s commit
today, to helping one another follow Jesus by practicing church discipline.

With love,
Michael Abraham

Posted by Michael Abraham with