The Power of the Church

Posted: February 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

Wayne Grudem writes, “The power of the church is its God-given authority to carry on spiritual warfare, proclaim the gospel, and exercise church discipline.” 

In regards to spiritual warfare, Grudem points to passages of Scripture such as 2 Cor. 10:3-4, which reads, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” The Waynester goes on to state that while one may legitimately question whether “the church today has the same degree of spiritual power that the apostles Peter and Paul did” that “there would seem to be at least some significant degree of spiritual power against evil opposition that God is willing to grant to the church in every age (including the present one).”  As both a pastor and pastor’s kid, I say, “Amen!” 

The power of the church to preach the Gospel has never been in dispute but what about the following from Matthew 16:19 “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.”

First of all, Grudem aptly points out that “keys” in the New Testament “always implies authority to open a door and give entrance to a place or realm.” Thus, “‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ therefore represent at least the authority to preach the Gospel of Christ (cf. Matt. 16:16)  and thus to open the door of the kingdom of heaven and allow people to enter.”  As previously stated, the church’s authority to do this really isn’t in dispute, but the Grudester goes on to argue that “the authority of the keys here also includes the authority to exercise discipline within the church.  (1) The plural ‘keys’ suggests authority over more than one door.  Thus, more than simply entrance into the kingdom is implied; some authority within the kingdom is also suggested. (2) Jesus completes the promise about the keys with a statement about ‘binding’ and ‘loosing,’ which closely parallels another saying of his in Matthew 18, in which ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ clearly refer to church discipline.” 

Grudem then rightly reminds the churches that the purpose of church discipline is restoration and reconciliation (read 1 Cor. 5:5 and 1 Tim. 1:20 carefully) not humiliation.  The purpose is also to keep sin from spreading to others (Heb. 12:15) and to protect the purity of the church in order to honor Christ (2 Peter 3:14).

What sins require church discipline and how should it be done?

Grudem rightly recognizes the diversity of sins that call for church discipline in the Bible but states that “all sins that were explicitly disciplined in the New Testament were publicly known or outwardly evident sins, and many had continued over a period of time.”

How should church discipline be carried out? Following Matthew 18:15-17, a church should follow a path of gradual progression from a small group to the whole church.  The final step of taking the sinner before the whole church is a final measure that let’s all of the members know that the unrepentant sinner is to be excommunicated until they turn from their sin. 

There is, however, a slightly different process for a church leader per 1 Tim. 5:19-21, which reads, “19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these  rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”  Thus, it is harder to admit a charge against a church leader but, they, like all those who persist in sin, are rebuked publicly. 

Grudem also touches on the relationship between the church and the state but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Until then, grace and peace to you all.

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