HEAVEN AND EARTH

[Excerpt is from “Handbook on Church Discipline” by Dr. Jay Adams]

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony 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, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven--Jesus (Mat. 18:15-18)

Reread Christ's words in verse 18: "Let me assure you that whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." This translation differs from the King James Version and exhibits a more literal rendering of the future perfect passive verb found in the original Greek text: "… shall have been ..." It is not that heaven will abide by whatever earth does; certainly not. Rather, Christ is assuring His church that they ("the few") are only confirming outwardly what has already been determined in the heavens whenever they carry out church discipline prayerfully, in His presence, as He Himself brings about the outcome.

Even if the King James were correct, verses 19 and 20 make it perfectly plain that when carried on properly, church discipline is a process in which Christ promises to work directly to bring about the right result. So in that sense, it could even be said that heaven confirms earth's action since it is an act of the church in which Christ Himself participates. To "bind and loose" means to have authority to permit or prohibit; here it pertains to the whole process of discipline that His church exercises in His name.  Christ is saying, "I give you authority to exercise discipline, permitting and prohibiting those things that I have either authorized or forbidden in My Word. You exercise My authority and heaven itself backs you up."

In all three verses, then, there is strong assurance that the church will not have to "go it alone" when properly exercising church discipline.

What stronger encouragement could a church wish? Yet churches everywhere are fearful to follow God's Word. Let me urge you to consider again, if you or your congregation hesitates to obey Christ in using church discipline: Can you really do without it? The message of verses 18-20 is that you cannot, because you cannot afford to do without Christ in the midst of your troubles! According to Revelation 3:19, Christ's loving care over the churches is evidenced in His discipline of them.