Thursday, January 29, 2009
PCA pastor Jason Stellman makes the point I've been wanting to make for some time in a post entitled On Pleasantville and the Visible Church:
"Once we have sufficiently convinced ourselves that the visible church is small enough only to contain those who are under the authority of our particular denomination or body, then we can allow passages like Matthew 16:19 to play a significant role in our ecclesiastical practice. When someone becomes unrepentantly delinquent in doctrine or morals, we exercise our proper jurisdiction and remove such a one from our assembly.
But while all of this painful, sober, and faithful discipline happens we have this nagging thought in the back of our minds that the excommunicated person can just run out and join one of many other churches in the area, and that the chances that those churches will take seriously our disciplinary sentence are slim to nil. So he’s not really “delivered over to Satan,” but delivered over to Lakeside Community Church.
My point is two-fold. First, Protestantism doesn’t really believe in a visible church but in visible churches, and secondly, it is only in the context of any one of these distinct churches that spiritual authority and discipline make any sense."
He has a spot-on analysis coming from the place where I stood just 4 months ago.
If Jesus wanted Christians to gather together into multiple bodies willy-nilly, there would be the confusing situation we are in today. The ability to deliver the disobedient to Satan, to shun those who cause divisions, etc. etc. is made to be something where one group of Christians say "Yes, Brother X is a brother in good standing" while the others say "No, Brother X is in trouble."
So just as the Gospels call for celibacy among at least some brethren, and I tried to argue "Hey, but that's not in there!," I would also argue that church discipline has no real teeth outside of a Church that is ultimately visible and one. The ideal set forth by Christ is doomed to fail, if we are supposed to be split based on baptism, communion, church government, soteriology, music, and the color of the drapes.
Lord, heal us of our division as a group so that we can be healed of our many weaknesses as individuals.
Posted by contrarian 78 at 11:25 PM