Church Discipline That Heals by John White and Ken Blue discusses four concerns and goals of corrective church discipline: reconciliation, church purity, restoration of sinners, and freedom. Often only the first two goals are discussed. Discipline deals with sin and addresses the brokenness it causes, and aims to bring restoration back to God’s people.
Sin brings alienation, alienation from God and alienation among brothers and sisters. Christ died and rose that we might be reconciled to God and to one another. Church discipline must aim at reconciliation among brethren.
Discipline is not just about removing someone from fellowship or controlling their behavior. In fact if done correctly those should only occur in extreme cases where everything else has been tried without success. The heart of discipline needs to really be about reconciliation and bring the sinner and the church into a healthy and holy relationship with God. We live in brokenness. Each of us is walking in sin and needs to repent that our heart is not completely given to God nor are we walking in absolute obedience.
Restoration for us opens the door to reconciliation. The former rebel becomes a friend again. The fallen become comrades in arms with the fighters. The once wounded resume their roles as integral members of a healthy community. The goal with their reconciliation is achieved along with that of their restoration to holy living. Thus to be restored means more than to have repented and been forgiven. Sin damages. It weakens resistance, dulls conscience, debases appetites, brutalizes instincts. It is habit-forming and character changing. Sinners need to be healed and rehabilitated. We do not use the word restoration to refer to being restored to fellowship. Rather restoration means being brought back to the holiness one held before a fall. At best, in practice, it means something more than the narrow definition of the word would suggest-but rather becoming better, wiser, and stronger. It is to such a condition that repentance must be the doorway.