A Covenanted and Disciplined People
What does it mean for a church to covenant together? What purpose would a covenant relationship serve?
Baptist Faith and Message (2000) [Section VI] “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel”
Covenant – Strongs 1285, 1242 (NT)
From Strongs: 1285 – bereth – a covenant, in the sense of cutting.
From Theopedia: “in the Old Testament the word covenant is translated from the Hebrew berîyth [Strong's #1285]. This Hebrew word derives from a root which means "to cut" and hence a covenant is a "cutting" with reference to the ancient custom of cutting or dividing animals into two parts with the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant, see for example Jeremiah 34:18-19”
From Strongs: 1242 – diatheke – a contract or covenant
Read Matthew 18: 12-20
What is the purpose of Church Discipline?
Restoration and Reconciliation
To Keep the Sin from spreading to others
I Cor 6: 6-8
What authority does the Church have to discipline its members?
Edersheim (p. 531) “…no other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic Canon-Law than those of binding and loosing….’binding and loosing’ referred simply to things or acts prohibiting or else permitting them, declaring them lawful or unlawful. This was one of the powers claimed by the Rabbis. … These two powers – the legislative and the judicial, which belonged to the rabbinic office, Christ now transferred…to the Church”
What is the process of Church Discipline? What principles are behind this process?
Matthew 18: 15-17
What types of sin warrant Church Discipline?
I Cor 5: 1-5,
2 Thess 3:6-15,
Rom 16:17-18, Titus 3:9-10
I Tim 1:20, 2 Tim 2:17-18
Appendix – Church Covenants in Baptist History
From the mid 1600’s on, Baptists used Church Covenants to bind together their members and provide guidance for Church discipline. For instance, a covenant written by Benjamin and Elias Keach in 1697 had members pledge “to warn, rebuke, and admonish one another with meekness, according to the rules left to us of Christ in that behalf.”. Isaac Backus wrote an influential covenant in 1756. This covenant gained wide used among other Baptist churches in New England and beyond. In 1805 the Philadelphia Baptist Association published A Treatise of Church Discipline, which contained a model covenant for developing congregations.
J. Newton Brown developed the most commonly adopted Church Covenant in 1853, which was published in the Baptist Church Manual. Brown was also instrumental in drawing up the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which formed the basis of most Baptist Confessions in the U.S. from then on, including the Baptist Faith and Message. Brown’s original 1853 covenant follows:
“Having been led, as we believe by the Spirit of God, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do now, in the presence of God, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality and to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale of, and use of, intoxicating drinks as a beverage; to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.
We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and Christian courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.
We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God's Word.”
Broadman and Holman have been publishing this covenant in wall chart form for many years and have revised it several times, notably in the 1970’s to include drugs other than “intoxicating drinks” and in the most recently to include abstaining from pornography (in accordance with revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message).