Reformed churches, following
the norms laid out in the Bible, place a great deal of emphasis
on church discipline. The term can be misleading, since it is
not the elders of the church who first of all look after church
discipline. We follow the rule laid out by Christ in Matthew
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell
him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have
gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one
or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every
word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it
to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him
be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."
It should be noted that
the goal of church discipline is not negative--it is employed
so that there will be repentance and a desire to serve God. Our
confession concerning church discipline is found in the Heidelberg
Catechism , Question
and Answer 85:
How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by church discipline?
According to the command
of Christ, people who call themselves Christians but show themselves
to be un-christian in doctrine or life are first repeatedly admonished
in a brotherly manner. If they do not give up their errors or
wickedness, they are reported to the church, that is to the elders.
If they do not heed also their admonitions, they are forbidden
the use of the sacraments, and they are excluded by the elders
from the Christian congregation and by God Himself from the kingdom
of Christ. They are again received as members of Christ and of
the church when they promise and show real amendment.