We have repeatedly stated that the child of God is a controlled being. He, after all, once lived to his own will and pleasure, fulfilling all the desires of the flesh and mind (Eph. 2:3), but in coming obediently to the Christ he has denied self (Luke 9:23) and willingly subscribed to the Master’s will. He has then said that he will live a controlled and regimented life. As a child of God he is called a “disciple,” and thus a “student, learner, a follower.” The word indicates that, as a disciple, there is before him a Master, a Teacher, a Guide, and that is, of course, the Christ.
We see, then, in “disciple” the fact that this one is a disciplined one. He has undertaken to follow, to abide by, a discipline – the Word of God. One of the modern-day creed books is known as the “Discipline” of that denomination. They were correct in thinking that the organization needed some stated form or rule, but were in error in creating a human creed to guide men in religious matters. The point is that we have subscribed to a Discipline, and in living faithful to the Scriptures, we are disciplined ones. We see the term used of some people, without religion even entering into the picture, when they are condemned as being “undisciplined.” We have heard the term used, properly, of unruly children. They are without “discipline.”
We have erred in thinking that the sum of discipline is withdrawal of fellowship. Mention discipline, and that’s where the minds of many will go. That withdrawal of fellowship is of course the ultimate in applied discipline, and action that must be taken at times. We are sorry that we see so little of it, and hear so little of it, in our time. But one thing that robs that ultimate action of its proper working is the fact that often there has existed no discipline of any consequence before the action is taken. Such ultimate discipline now applied by people who themselves are undisciplined is a waste of time, and a mockery.
In reality, where the people and congregation are what they should be, there is discipline in effect and ongoing constantly. The design of the Scriptures, with its role to play in providing reproof and correction (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) is to discipline us. The word of elders, in admonishing, rebuking and reproving is the work of discipline. Spiritual ones (Gal. 6:1) who visit those with problems in their application of Christianity are doing a work of discipline. And even the most faithful ones, in diligently studying and applying the Word of God in their lives, are being “disciplined.”
In our “do it yourself” society, evil philosophies have, through liberalism, entered the church. Against all sense of discipline we hear men say, “We in Christ do not abide by a set of rules!” But Paul urged that we all “walk by THE SAME RULE” (Phil. 3:16). Others of the same liberal bent have said that the grace found in Christ has ruled out law, and that “we are not under law!” Again, Paul said that we “serve the law of God” (Rom. 7:25), and James refers to our being under “the perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). It is clear that some men have turned to obtain their “discipline” (such as it is) at sectarian theological sources, and they thus show that they are not within the Lord’s blessings in not being “under his discipline.”
We dare not end this without a word on fellowship. A lack of understanding of fellowship, and the meaning of it, the preciousness of it, and the restrictions of it, has worked to render withdrawal of fellowship ineffective in many instances. If fellowship was not valued, then the loss of it renders no hurt to the offender. We need to work on both of these areas, and we need to do it NOW! We’ll not be able to do any of it until we are true disciplined ones! That is within the meaning of being a “disciple.” There is a Rule to be followed, and Law we have subscribed to, and a Course laid out by which we are to live. In so doing, we are following a Discipline!