2. To maintain the purity of the church - All members must clearly perceive that such sins cannot be tolerated in God's church. If the sinful infection continues in a member, he must be removed to protect the health of the church body as a whole. Public sin committed by one of its members requires public pronouncement of church disapproval to clearly maintain the church's stand and purity.
3. To seek the member's personal welfare - This is an attempt to use the prayers and pressure of the entire church body as a loving means to bring the person to repentance, when resistance to personal and consistory prayers and warnings persists. When confession of guilt is made, this publicly clears away the offense calling all members to forgive, and not recall, the person's sin.
All who become confessing members of the church take an oath before God and the church when answering "yes" to the following question:
"Do you promise that you will submit to admonition, correction, and church discipline in the event (which God forbid) that you may become delinquent either in doctrine or life?"
To resist church discipline, if properly exercised according to God's Word, is a most serious matter. It breaks one's oath, disrupts God's church, and resists God Himself. May God graciously prevent us from ever being placed under church censure.
When carried out biblically, excommunication from God's church on earth means excommunication from God's church in heaven, if the person continues in his unrepentant state. A more serious and terrible pronouncement upon earth is not possible.
However, if the excommunicant later repents, confesses his guilt, and turns from sin, the church may and must receive him back in love as the father rejoiced over his returning prodigal son. No repenting sinner is ever turned away by the church's King, the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore no repenting sinner may ever be turned away by His body, the church.
Why do Christ's words in Matthew 16:19 make church excommunication a most serious and frightening matter?
Read Church Order Article 75. Who is to determine the form and manner of public confession of guilt?
The reconciliation of all such sins as are of their nature of a public character, or have become public because the admonition of the church was despised. shall take place, when definite signs of repentance are evident, publicly, by the judgment of the consistory; and in rural districts or smaller towns having only one minister, with the advice of two neighboring churches, in such a form and manner as shall be judged to be conducive to the edification of each church.
- Church Order of Dordt Article 75
Rev. Smytegelt once wrote, "It is better to die on the gallows, than to be excommunicated from the church."
What did he mean by this statement?
Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.