In light of certain ministers signing The Manhattan Declaration, there are several questions that arise. Is discipline necessary in such a case? How does discipline play a vital part in the integrity of the local church? How do we maintain our roles as pastors in a world that accepts just about everything simply because the name evangelical has been slapped on as a label? How do we instruct our people in the matter of discipline while recognizing that such discipline is for the purpose of restoration? And finally, does discipline really matter when the majority of evangelical believers will either deliberately ignore the matter of discipline or they will fall for the lies of the evil one who was the first to question, “Has God REALLY said such and such?”
It is not my intention to rehash the first three parts of this series, but I want to reiterate one point. The bottom line is this in regards to judgment – NO JUDGMENT = NO HOLINESS. NO HOLINESS = NO PURITY. NO PURITY = NO CHURCH. NO CHURCH = NO LIFE. NO LIFE = NO CHRIST!
When it comes to discipline in the local church, we must remember that the Bible teaches that each local assembly is to be autonomous. They are to govern themselves. There is no Scriptural mandates for a denominational hierarchy that is to set the standards for the church and then ensure those are obeyed otherwise discipline against the pastor and church will be enacted. Simply put, I do not believe there is any Scriptural command that permits one local church to discipline a member of another local church. Therefore, for those who believe that ministers like Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan should be disciplined, I would urge caution because this would be a matter for his own local church to enact against their pastor if they believe that he has crossed the line of doctrinal integrity.
However, I am convinced that the Bible not only teaches independence and self-governance, I am as strongly convinced that the New Testament makes it clear that the early churches were inter-dependent. They made their own decisions, but did not have the liberty to enact decisions which would reflect on a sister church or the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. With that in mind, how does one local church respond to a sister church that is descending a slippery slope into heresy, false teaching, or even going down the road towards an all-embracing gospel? How do 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 play a part in the way we deal with others?
We who are true believers are required to follow the commands of Scripture such as found in 2 Cor. 6:14-17, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”
The admonition is clear. We are not, cannot, must not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. In the matter of TMD, regardless of what Mohler, Duncan and others say, this was drafted to be a theological document. Thus, in signing their names to this, they have broken the commands to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. We are called to be separate in every aspect of our lives. We are in the world, but not to be of it. Thus, the remaining problem is how do we respond when evangelicals we respect choose to break the commands of Scripture.
2 Thess. 3:14-15, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.“
This post is not intended to question whether Mohler or Duncan are true believers. The issue is how to respond in a biblical fashion to those who are brothers, yet failing to follow the “word in this epistle.” The Scriptures are clear that we cannot be yoked with those who are of the world, and it is just as clear that we have a responsibility not to keep company with those brethren who would act and teach contrary to the commands of God’s Word.
Therefore, in the matter of church discipline which is local church specific, the commands in 2 Thessalonians 3 show that we still have a responsibility to perform. It is with the purpose in mind of restoration at all times, not with ostracizing a brother or trying to throw him under the bus. My prayer is that Mohler, Duncan and others will repent of their desire to link up with the enemy and repent of such. My prayer is that they will seek forgiveness from those they are leading astray as men called to shepherd their flocks. If they do not and continue on their current path, then other evangelical leaders/pastors/believers have a responsibility to disassociate with them until they do.
The problem with evangelicalism is that we do not take biblical separation seriously. We will condemn those who cross certain lines, but it is only verbal. Rarely is further action involved. Evangelicals talk a good talk, but that is where it seems to stop. They will continue to endorse one another’s books, invite each other to conferences, share pulpits, and do everything that was done before the offending brother crossed the line. If we are going to be serious about our positions, we are going to have to show to the world that refusing to keep company with a brother is vital to the integrity of each local church. If we are going to seek purity in our churches, we cannot continue to endorse IN ANY WAY those who fail to heed the commands of Scripture. Pastors are called to a high office and to be servants of the Most High God. It is for the sake of the gospel that we stand firm, no matter what the cost to us or our ministry for in the end we will give account before God, NOT to each other.
I challenge my fellow pastors that if we are going to verbally call into question men like Driscoll for his vulgarity, like Piper for his saying that Wilson and Wright do not preach a false gospel, like Mohler and Duncan for signing The Manhattan Declaration, etc., then we must back up what we say publicly. We must refuse to endorse their materials, must admonish our people when they blindly follow these men, must stop inviting them to conferences and sharing pulpits with them, and MUST ABOVE ALL continue to seek full restoration with each other as part of the Body of Christ for whom Christ died. If we do not, then we are being hypocrites. If they are wrong, then they are wrong and pacifying the masses may be good for future book sales or endorsements, but it does not bode well for the future of true evangelical Christianity.
What we underhandedly endorse today will only become the new standards for tomorrow, and the false teachings and ecumenicalism of tomorrow will become the stepping stones towards a greater liberalism than we see today! May God give us strength to stand firm in the face of ALL opposition. May He grant us mercy and keep our feet strong so that we do not waver from the faith once delivered to the saints!
For the sake of the Gospel,
The Desert Pastor