Below are Bible verses on church discipline. While “church discipline” usually only refers to “casting the immoral brother out,” this article takes a wider lens. Church discipline in its most broad sense includes all the acts in which church leaders employ to “discipline” their church.
By “discipline,” this does not only mean correct; in its most general meaning, “discipline” translates to “disciple.” This type of discipline includes instruction, encouragement, correction, and many other actions done for the benefit of those being led.
While these Bible verses primarily relate to church discipline, these leadership qualities can be used by any leader in any sphere of influence.
Not all leadership comes in the same package. Not all situations require the same actions. Therefore, leaders should show their love through different levels of discipline. So here are 9 levels of discipline supported in the Bible through which Christian leaders can love those they lead.
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 1: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through service, kindness, instruction, encouragement, and a commitment to the truth no matter how poorly it may be received.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (Paul doesn’t tell Timothy not to confront people in the errors, but he does tell him not to argue “for the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome)
Titus 2:15 “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
2 Corinthians 10:8 “So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it.”
Titus 1:7-9 “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Romans 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (Before Paul says all the difficult things mentioned in Romans, he first makes sure his audience knows he loves them.)
(Other Bible verses supporting level 1: Titus 3:1-10, Galatians 6:6-8, John 13:1-20)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 2: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through kind correction.
Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”
2 Corinthians 13: 10 “For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.” (Being severe is an option, but it should not be the first option . . . the goal in all levels of discipline is to use authority to build up. Sometime leaders must be severe, but not right away.)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 3: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through long suffering, giving time to process, and respecting people’s freedom to make their own decisions.
Psalm 103:8 – “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Notice God is “slow” to anger, but eventually he reaches anger.)
2 Corinthians 9:7 – “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
1 Peter 5:2- (NIV) – “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (Just as leader must be free to lead, they are “being examples” to how people must be free to follow under their own will.)
2 Corinthians 2:3-4, 9 – “And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.” (Paul writes a letter giving them time to process what he wrote before he arrives. Also see 2 Corinthians 9:3-5.)
(Other Bible verses supporting Level 3: Matthew 5:46-47, 1 Peter 5:3, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 12:17-18, Romans 15:1, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 13:2-4, Philemon 1:8-9, Philemon 1:13-14)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 4: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through passionate, righteous anger towards sin, not the sinner.
Ephesians 4:26-27 – “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Leaders should be angry about sin, but not sin in their anger. Once they have expressed healthy anger over sin, they need to move on and not remain angry.)
Galatians 5:10-12 – “I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Paul is not afraid to warn about the penalty to sin, showing just how angry he is over this false teaching by expressing his very clear disgust.)
Titus 1:7-14 – “. . .Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith . . .” (Paul doesn’t skirt the issue. He calls sin for what it is. A leader must not be “quick tempered,” which does not mean he never lets his temper rise.)
(Other Bible verses supporting level 4: John 2:17, Jude 1:23, 1 John 2:15-17)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 5: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through mournful removal of the unrepentant rebellious person, while feeling the freedom of bloodless hands, turning them over to the Lord and to Satan, under no compulsion to continuing to pursue the rebellious person except through prayer, while moving on to those who will listen and desire to obey the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 5:2-13 – “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. . . . 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”
Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Loving leaders do not slander the rebellious person, letting no “unwholesome talk come out of [their] mouth,” getting “rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger” willing to “forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” But loving leaders also release those who do not listen, seeking to “benefit those who [do] listen.”)
Matthew 10:13-14 “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (When people don’t listen, leaders are in disobedience to the Lord if they do not eventually move on to those who do listen.)
Acts 20:26-28 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (When leaders do their job in telling the truth, they must not feel any guilt for people’s rebellion or else this will hinder their service. They should feel sadness for them, but not feeling stuck in trying to rescue the one rebel who doesn’t want to listen rather than pursuing the ones who do want to listen but need someone to pursue them.)
(Other Bible verses supporting level 5: Ezekiel 3:18-19, Acts 20:1-2, Acts 19:9, Matthew 10:23, 1 Timothy 3:5, Titus 3:10-11)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 6: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through open arms and an open heart if there is a return with repentance.
Luke 15:20 “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
2 Corinthians 13:11-14 “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 7: Loving discipline and leadership protects one’s own heart from those who seek to harm him or her, thus keeping in good heart health to love well. (The difference between level 5 and level 7 is that level 5’s motivation is rooted in not wasting energy that should be spent on those who do want the help. Level 7’s motivation is rooted in protecting the leader’s heart. While it is a waste of the Lord’s resources to endlessly try and help those who have clearly expressed they don’t want help (Matthew 7:6), it is also damaging to the leader to stay around combative people. When the leader is hurt, the whole flock is hurt.)
2 Timothy 4:14-15 “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.” (Paul doesn’t continue to try and help Alexander. Rather, he protects his own heart and he tells others to be aware as well.)
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Hebrews 13:7 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (When leaders are hurt, it damages the whole flock. Therefore leaders must protect their own hearts not only for themselves but for those they lead.)
Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (For a leader to walk with rebellious people will cause damage to his own soul.)
John 2:24 – “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.”
Matthew 10:16-17 – “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues . . . .” (We are not called to run to martyrdom. If it happens, it will honor the Lord. But leaders are to “beware” of evil men.)
(Other Bible verses supporting level 7: James 4:4, Romans 16:17-18)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 8: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through not retaliating, leaving room for God’s judgment.
Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Matthew 10:14-15 “Judgment and punishment are the Lords, 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (We are to turn the other cheek, while also taking comfort that all persecutors will receive the wrath of God. The sin of persecution will either be placed on Christ’s cross or on the persecutor for all eternity in hell. While we must never rejoice in the death of anyone, healing requires the payment of sin against to be paid. Leaders must allow God to extract the payment for sin knowing that the sins against the leader are not swept under the rug but fully paid for one way or another.)
Bible Verses on Church Discipline, Level 9: Loving discipline and leadership expressed through a constant hope of unity, love and joy with all believers, while expecting and not being unprepared for rebellion, apostates, and division.
Acts 20:29-31 “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”
Matthew 10:24-36 “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. . . .”
1 Corinthians 11:18-19 “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
2 Corinthians 10:10 “For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” (“Some say” is gossip. Paul was being talked about behind his back. People where disapproving of his speaking, judging his talents, looking at the man so they could ignore his message.)
(Other Bible verses supporting level 9: Romans 3:8, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Timothy 3:12-17, 2 Timothy 4:3-5)