Another Argument for the Total Lordship of Christ
A couple of weeks ago, I addressed an understandable challenge to preaching the Lordship of Christ in a person’s life. This challenge said that if a person cannot know everything that Christ will call him to in the future, such as sin to forsake or life decisions to make, then demanding Christ’s Lordship is too demanding. You can read why that challenge won’t work here. As a follow-on to that discussion, I wanted to highlight another argument that shows the Bible’s consistent affirmation that Christ’s Lordship is total at all times and in every way. This argument comes from the nature of church discipline.
Church discipline is a practice that is necessarily binding upon churches because it is clearly taught in multiple passages of Scripture: Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:19-20; and Titus 3:10-11. To summarize, church discipline is the process for confronting and restoring or confronting and removing a sinning member of a church. The heartbreaking process of removal occurs when the sinning member is confronted with sin that is outward, serious, and continually unrepentant.
So what does church discipline have to do with the Lordship of Christ? These two features are intertwined. They both must necessarily stand together or they both must necessarily fall together.
If Christ is Lord and this is preached faithfully in a church, that means sin can never be ignored. Every sin is an affront to the master, and additionally, it would be unloving and deceptive to let one of our fellow members live in sin and say nothing. And this is exactly what Scripture says. We are to care for one another, confront one another, and exhort one another regarding any issue that we think may be sin at work in their life. Matthew says “if your brother sins, go and show him is fault in private…” What is the threshold at which we must confront a brother or sister in Christ? You must engage with a brother or sister if you think sin is at work in their life and is not currently being dealt with.
The immediate thought is that this is too extreme. But it is not too extreme, because it is what we would expect if the Lordship of Christ is total. So then, in practice what does this look like? Often these discussions will be mild and casual, or at least they should be. People ask about sin, and others admit there is a problem, and there is a discussion about making progress in repentance and faith. This should be happening all the time in the life of a church. We want growth in holiness because Christ is Lord and we want to treasure him and follow him. We do that together and we do it daily.
But sometimes it gets more intense. Sometimes there is push back and a refusal to repent. One way this might play out is in what are considered “little sins.” They get talked about, but they are not really dealt with in true repentance. Christ’s lordship is ignored on the internal level with what is regarded as the small stuff, and eventually such sin will grow to become a serious matter. This is the cancerous nature of sin; it will grow when left alone. Lack of patience becomes chronic anger. Worry about money turns into greed. Momentary lusts bloom into pornographic habits or affairs. What is little and internal becomes serious and outward. Then the question becomes whether repentance will be embraced or rejected. Will Christ be lord now? Will there be repentance where earlier there was none? Church discipline moves along the painful, but needful, process of seeking repentance and restoration at every step. But ultimately the process culminates in removing the person from the church membership if repentance is not embraced when sin had become serious and outward.
So again, why does all this have to happen? Because Jesus is lord. And because Jesus is Lord, sin is not an option in the life of a Christian at any time or in any way. It can only be a target to destroy. The Scripture tells us how to go about this patiently, gently, wisely, lovingly, accountably, committedly, and truly. But go about it we must. His holiness demands it, his love compels it, and his lordship is the authority to call us to it.
But if Jesus is not Lord, or if his lordship is only partial, then none of this would have to happen. Or it would only happen selectively. But selective lordship is a laughable contradiction that cannot work. If there is any selectivity to it, this will soon become a minefield of confusion, hypocrisy, and worldly values. And then more often than not, the result is a supposed “grace” that will run lordship off to get lost in the back 40. This then leads to all manner of sin becoming tolerated and even celebrated. Why? Because there will always be something considered as Lord and determinative. If it is not the holy Son of God, then it will be some manifestation of sinful man.
Therefore, the biblical requirement of church discipline, from the first step until the final step, is in place because Jesus is Lord in totality.