The communion supper is God’s appointed time and place for church discipline. Discipline in the local New Testament church has largely gone out of fashion these days, but in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul discusses discipline, and says that the leaven must be purged out of the church. He says that fornicators, coveters, extortioners, drunkards, idolaters, slanderers and argumentative people should be purged out, literally expelled from the membership, temporarily or permanently. Titus 3:10: “A man that is an heretick, after the first and second admonition, reject.”

The definition of a heretic is someone who chooses a different belief to that commonly held by the body of which he is a member, and does not keep it to himself, but teaches his different belief to other members, either actively, or by example, and can therefore potentially instigate a division in the body, that is, in the local church.

2 Timothy 2:25 says “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”

This teaches us that the ideal is for the disciplined member who has been expelled, to repent and come back in to fellowship, and be unreservedly forgiven, as Christ said, seventy times seven times, if necessary.

Every parent knows the sobering effect that being excluded from family activities can have on a disobedient child. After spending time alone in its room, the child misses the rest of the family, and is willing to repent and return to resume normal family life.

According to the same principle, the church member under discipline should not be kept company with, nor eaten with, nor even spoken to, except with a view to encouraging his repentance, and that with the consent of the church leadership. 1 Corinthians 5:11 unequivocally instructs this. Paul is not referring to fellowship with unbelievers in this verse, (he dealt with them in the previous verse) for he says “brother”, so the object of this verse is fellow Christians (members or would-be members) within the church. Paul then reinforces this ruling in verse 12: “judge them that are within (the church)” and in verse 13 “put away (‘expel’) from among yourselves (“yourselves” meaning ‘the church membership’) that wicked person”. Thus, the church member under discipline should not be allowed to attend any church meetings and services, and that naturally and especially includes the communion supper.

The member under discipline should be fully reminded of what it used to be like to be a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope, without God in the world, in darkness, before the glorious light of Christ first shone into his heart. He needs to remember that he is but dust, but a vapour, wretched and miserable, poor, blind and naked. He needs to be brought to a state where he remembers his first love, remembers Christ, and repents and does the first works, and returns to his brethren, repentant and recommitted.

The communion supper, being a moment of focus on the church’s performance as the locally assembled body of Christ, is the natural and obvious time and place for open declaration and explanation of a member’s absence, the official announcement and conducting of discipline, and also for the introduction and induction of new converts and members.

An open communion table is thus a weak link in the discipline of the local church, for it disrespects and therefore destroys the boundaries of jurisdiction which give meaning, structure, and disciplinary leverage to the local assembly as being the body of Christ. It is therefore modern fallacy to suggest that church members are interchangeable between different local churches, for such a practice allows no meaningful or effective method for the enforcement of admonition and rejection which Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 5:7-11, 2 Timothy 2:25 and Titus 3:10. An open communion table also allows visitors from other churches to wrongly forget that they have a disciplined responsibility to their own church, and it allows Christians to wrongly forget that they are the nose, or the ear or the hand of the body of Christ, and that their home church has a nose missing, and that if they circumvent the system by seeking refuge in another church, that other church does not need two noses.

Churches who extend fellowship and admit to their communion table a visiting Christian who is under discipline from another church (his own) for heresy or ungodly living, commit the same crime as that wayward member himself, just as whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery, (Luke 16:18), and it shall be charged against that second church, and the church officers concerned shall give account to God for their part in the erosion of the sanctity and effectiveness of the Lord’s church by giving a church home to the incontinent and the heretic. Rev 1:11, 2:12-16. Amnesty can only be granted by the original church of which the member was in communion. But for a member under discipline to run away instead to another church where his heresies or sins are either unknown, condoned, or forgiven, is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass, for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was (James 1:23-24).


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