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Doctrine of Church Censures: Introduction

July 2, 2023 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Topic: Doctrine of Church Censures Scripture: Isaiah 9:6–7


Scripture & Reference

Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 30, Art. 1, 2

Notice the first scripture reference provided in the confession: Isa. 9.6-7

Quote – Robert Shaw

To suppose, as some have done, that the government of the Church is ambulatory, or that no particular form has been appointed by Christ, but that he has left it to be moulded according to the wisdom or caprice of men, and varied according to the external circumstances of the Church, is to impeach the love of Christ to his Church, and his fidelity to Him who hath appointed him to "reign over the house of Jacob."

No human society can subsist without government; how absurd, then, to suppose that the Church of Christ, the most perfect of all societies, has been left by her king destitute of what is essential to the very being of society!


Just as the confession started by identifying church government, if we are going to arrive at an understanding of the proper use and implementation of church censures

  • we must first understand the proper government of the church.

With that in mind:

  • what do we understand with respect to the government?
  • who sets the rules/ arrangement of the church?

We understand and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is the king and head of the church

We might hear the same thing from Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Independents

We might hear that from every form of church government:

  • that Jesus Christ is king and head of the church

But do these forms of government behave in a way to supports what they claim to profess?

Do we have a form of church government that accurately reflects what we believe?

How would we know?

Where would we go to prove this out?

How Should Church Government Be Arranged?

As we study the ministry of Jesus Christ in the NT:

  • we must come to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church

The Apostle Paul tells us plainly, that Christ is the head of the church

  • Ephesians 5.23
  • Colossians 1.18

Christ Himself tells us this in Matthew 16.13-19

Isn't that interesting? What a fascinating passage.

  • Jesus makes a claim of Himself
  • Jesus makes a claim that we often overlook
  • Jesus claims that He, Himself, is the builder.

Jesus is the builder of the Church

It is His church.

  • He is building up the church
  • He is the sovereign

The church is to be built according to His instructions

  • He has ownership of the keys of that kingdom to manage as He determines
  • These keys are given to Peter
    •  Representing all of the apostles/ ministers

Over the years, we, as Presbyterians, have begun to understand what that means.

  • There are two keys
    • the key of doctrine
    • the key of discipline
  • There are particular sets of keys
    • that they are given like keys to a house
    • and the house is what?
      • It is the kingdom of God
    • o and what is that kingdom of God?
      • It is the church
    • What do those keys open and shut?
      • o the very gates of heaven
      • o the very doors to the larder/ the cupboards of the house

Jesus talks about that stewardship over the House

  • the steward goes to the house to the larder,
  • sticks in the key, opens it up
  • he sets out for those inhabitants of the house, those things that are needful for them.

But there is one other thing that that steward does

  • he can shut up those doors
  • he can lock up that cabinet.

The key of discipline and the key of doctrine

  • the key of the opening up the kingdom of God
  • the key of the shutting up of that kingdom
  • the key of loosing and the key of binding

The key of opening those gates

  • opening wide those doors

The setting a furnished table for the people of God

  • to come and to dine upon the dainties of God
  • to come to the Word of God

The picking it up and the putting it away

  • saying to some that there is something missing
  • there is something that must happen first
    • there is there is need of repentance
    • there is a need of confession
    • there is a need of entering into covenant
    • there is a need to come into the house

To understand how the keys are to be administered

  • we first need to understand the government
  • we must understand the structure of the church

How would we treat a construction builder today?

When we say Jesus Christ is the head of the church

  • We understand that Jesus identifies himself as the head and builder of his church.
    • He is the builder of his kingdom.

But what license, what respect, what liberty do we give to any master builder or architect today?

  • As the architect, as the designer
    • He is the author and the finisher, (if you will)

We would say that whatever is being built:

  • must be built according to his designs.
  • must be built according to his will.

Now, what about Christ and the Church?

How should we treat Christ?

  • We have seen Christ is the master builder
  • We have seen Christ has the keys
  • We have seen Christ is the head of the church
  • We have seen Christ is the builder of the church

We must ask ourselves: How will the Church be built?

What instructions has the Lord set forth in His Word?

  • for an understanding of the type of government
  • for the kind of worship
  • for the kind of ministry

What has Christ described that ought to go on in His kingdom, in his house, in His church?

Remember what the writer to the Hebrews said about Moses in Hebrews?

Do you remember Hebrews 1, 2 and 3?

  • It shows the superiority of Christ
    • over the prophets
    • over the angels
    • over the priesthood
    • over the high priest of the Old Testament
    • over Moses
  • Christ is superior to Moses as son over the house
    • whereas Moses was a servant in the house

Notice:  Moses was a steward

  • like the ministers and elders are today
  • Moses had keys as well

It is the Lord Jesus, as the son, who is over the house

  • that is why he is greater than Moses.

This house is what we call:

  • the kingdom
  • the Family of God
  • the church itself

Jesus is Lord Over the Church

It belongs to Jesus Christ, as the Son

  • who is over the house
  • who is the proprietor of the house
  • who is the builder of the house
  • who is the designer of the house
  • who is the director of the house
  • who is the architect of the house

Let us be exceedingly clear and say that we do not have those rights.

Then, who has those rights?

  • Christ does
  • Christ alone

Christ has rights:

  • over the government of the house
  • over the ministry of the house
  • over the worship of the house

It does not belong to us to order it as we would like

  • it belongs to the builder

When we use methods contrary to the builder:

  • we enter into competition with Jesus Christ
  • that is a competition that we are bound to lose
    • He will be victorious
    • He will have his way.

When we when we begin to move outside of Christ:

  • in our doctrine
  • in our government
  • in our worship
  • in our ministry

What do we are doing?

  • Are we building something?
    • Yes, we are building something

What are we building?

  • We are building a house, a church
  • But it may bear no resemblance to His house

When we begin to talk about Church government

  • the first thing that we must understand is
    • it is not our church
    • we do not set the rules
    • we do not set the guidelines
    • we do not set the patterns
    • we do not set the policies

The church belongs to Christ.

  • and so does the doctrine of it
  • and so do the ordinances of it
  • and so does the worship of it
  • and so does the government of it
  • and so does the Ministry of it

Everything about church belongs to Him.

Sufficiency of Scripture and the Regulative Principle

I am one of those guys that confesses the sufficiency of Scripture for all things.

In that, we have a regulative principle of worship.

  • we have a regulative principle of government
  • we have a regulative principle of doctrine
  • we have a regulative principle of ministry

The Bible tells us, our Lord Jesus tells us:

  • how to do ministry
  • what that ministry ought to look like

Let us take a quick look at Acts 1:

Normally, what do we see when we look at the book of Acts?

  • Usually, we see the history of how the gospel spread.
  • That is one of the facets of the book of Acts.

But let me show you something else in Acts 1.1

What is Dr. Luke telling us here?

He is telling us Jesus was upon the earth for 40 days between h His crucifixion and before His ascension.

What was He doing during those 40 days?

I submit that He was teaching his apostles how to order his kingdom.

  • He was teaching his apostles how to behave themselves in the Church of God.
  • He was telling his apostles, how they should order the expanse of the church

The church is not just a willy-nilly sort of thing

  • springing up here and springing up there

Not at all.

We will take a look through the book of Acts.

  • And we will find out is that there is a very sedate and organized progress of the Church of Jesus Christ
    • under the hands of the apostles
    • because Jesus told them how to do it before he left.

Not only is the book of Acts a history of the spread of the gospel

  • it is also a record of what Jesus taught his disciples
    • as how the church would grow
    • as how churches would be founded
    • as how they would be built up
    • as how they would be governed.

If we look at the book of Acts like that

  • all kinds of things will start jumping up at us off the page

But before we walkthrough the book of Acts

  • we will first explore what Christ was doing during those 40 days before His ascension


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