Care & Correction

God’s Love and Holiness

God is love (1 John 4:7-8). As an expression of His love, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1-2), with humanity ruling His creation and bearing His image (Genesis 1:26-28). Humanity was created to delight in the Creator and live out His purposes in His creation. God is Holy and those created in His image were also called to be holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:13-15).

However, sin invaded the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (Genesis 3:6). Consequently, this single act plunged humanity into sin and rebellion against God (Romans 5:12). Their disobedience defaced the image of God. As a result, humanity is separated from its Holy Creator (Genesis 3:22-24). Apart from God, humanity is lost in sin and without hope (Ephesians 2:1-9). Sin not only separates a fallen creation from its Holy Creator but also separates humanity from one another (Genesis 3:7). The root cause of sin is autonomy – the tendency to seek to live alone, on our own, and without God (Romans 3:10, 23). The consequences of sin are passed on to all future generations through the original sin in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12).

Thankfully, we are not without hope. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die on the cross in place of sinful humanity (John 3:16). Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, we are made righteous through personal faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 5:1-2). He took our sin upon Himself and paid the price entirely so we can have a restored relationship with our Creator (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Saved by His grace, believers are also called to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Also, we are reminded God is at work in every believer to will and work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). This process of restoring believers to the full image of God is an ongoing process being worked out over time (Philippians 1:6). Over time, a believer is invited to lay aside the old self and walk by the Spirit (Ephesians 4:20-24; Galatians 5:16). This ongoing process of being made more like Jesus is also known as the process of sanctification and is a normal experience of the Christian life (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 10:14).

God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s People

God provides three primary means of grace to aid a believer as they walk with the Lord. These means of grace are tools God uses to restore His image in His people. First and foremost, God uses His Word. The Scriptures shape the thoughts and actions of a follower of Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). God’s Word is divinely inspired and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, it is a profound tool in the sanctification process. A believer is called to submit to the Word of God and should therefore read it, memorize it, study it, proclaim it, and meditate on it (Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:13; Psalm 119:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Ezra 7:10; Joshua 1:8; Acts 17:11 ).

Second, the Holy Spirit plays an active role in shaping a believer into the image of Christ. He has started a process of the renovation of the human spirit. It is a lifelong process of transformation initiated and sustained by the Spirit of God (Philippians 1:6). He is always helping (John 14:16). He is leading us into truth, showing us how we ought to live before God, and giving us the capacity to obey the Word of God (John 15:5). He is the source of life for a believer (John 7:37-39). It is the Spirit who produces spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). He is stirring our affections, engaging our will, and retraining our character in keeping with His Word (Galatians 5:15, 25). He is constantly searching the depths of God and the depths of the believer (1 Corinthians 2:10). He is always interceding for us (Romans 8:26). He has explored the parts of our souls we have kept locked away. He longs to meet us there – in love.

The third means of grace is God’s people (Hebrews 10:23-25). We all have blind spots. There are issues of the flesh we have grown so accustomed to that we don’t see them anymore (Psalm 139:23-24; Psalm 19:13-14.) Thankfully, God has provided other believers to help us walk out this messy process of life with God – together (Luke 6:41-42). Life together with other believers creates a safe place for followers of Jesus to confess sin, walk vulnerably together, and encourage one another (James 5:16; 1 John 1:5-10).

The typical Christian experience is lived with gentle interactions from these three means of grace. It is not uncommon for a believer to have frequent course corrections. The obedient believer is called to submit to these means of grace for God’s glory and their good.

However, when believers reject these means of grace, a restorative process must be initiated – in love (James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1; Psalms 141:5).

The Process of Care & Correction

Matthew 18:15-20 provides a straightforward framework for pursuing care and correction.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17, ESV

Care & Correction – One on One (Matthew 18:15)

  • Believers are called to speak the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:15). The highest expression of love is not remaining silent while a brother or sister in Christ strays from the Word of God. Rather, the highest expression of love is to pursue one another toward greater intimacy with Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word (James 5:19-20; Galatians 6:1; Psalm 141:5).
  • If they listen, you have won your brother or sister back into obedience to Jesus Christ. This brings joy to the heart of the God who loves them and longs for them to walk intimately with Him through Christ (Luke 15:7, 10, 22-24)!
    • At this point, a restoration plan is created by both parties, and agreements are made as to how to move forward together.
  • If they do not listen, or if they reject the truth spoken in love, you progress to the next step.

Care & Correction – Small Group (Matthew 18:16)

  • Unfortunately, some have hardened their hearts and are unwilling to receive loving reproof from a fellow believer – even correction from someone who loves and encourages them toward repentance. If this is the case, a group of believers is to join in the process to ensure that the loving reproof is not personal but is a point of biblical violation. Together, the group presents the fault to the wayward believer.
  • Once again, if they listen, you have won your brother or sister back into obedience to Jesus Christ.
    • At this point, a restoration plan is created by those involved and agreed upon by the wayward individual.
  • If they do not listen, or if they reject the truth spoken in love, you progress to the next step.

Elder Correction – The Church Leadership (Matthew 18:17)

  • If an individual rejects the loving reproof of a group of believers, then church leadership must be involved. The role of church leadership is to provide support and affirmation to the initiating individual and the group who presented the fault. The goal of involving church leadership is to help the wayward individual see the reality of their sin, be moved to repent, and return to the Lord.
  • Once again, if they listen, you have won your brother or sister.
    • At this point, a restoration plan is created by the church leadership and agreed upon by the wayward individual. Should a person submit to this process, they would be restored to full fellowship within the body.
  • If they do not listen, or if they reject the truth spoken in love, you progress to the next step.

Active Discipline – Treat Him or Her as a Tax Collector (Matthew 18:17)

  • By this point, the wayward believer has rejected God’s Word, God’s Spirit, the loving reproof of an individual, the mutually affirmed reproof of a small group of believers, and the affirming reproof of church leadership. This cascading rejection questions the state of the individual’s heart before the Lord (Proverbs 28:14). A genuine believer hears the Word of God and does what it says (John 14:21; 1 John 5:3). A so-called believer who has rejected these previous opportunities for repentance may demonstrate an unregenerate heart (Matthew 7:22-23). At this point, the leadership of the church has no choice but to place this so-called believer under Active Discipline. This step considers the person a “Gentile” or “tax collector” – thus regarding them as one behaving as an unbeliever. This step would exclude this individual from being an Active Member, leading, serving, and participating in the life of The Well. Depending upon the nature and severity of the situation, this may also include exclusion from attending a gathering whatsoever (1 Corinthians 5:1–13; 2 Thessalonians 3:14–15).
  • Restoration would always be offered should the individual repent and return to the Lord (Luke 17:3; Ephesians 4:32).

Ongoing Loving Admonishment

  • Even after an individual is placed under Active Discipline, the ongoing admonishment toward repentance should remain. Regardless of the individual being removed from the body of Christ, the fellowship of the saints, and the community of faith in general, restoration is the goal. Believers familiar with the situation and the individual under Active Discipline should continue lovingly inviting this person back to faith in Christ, repentance, and restoration to the body of believers.

By What Authority Can a Church Carry Out Care & Correction?

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Matthew 18:18-20, ESV
  • Notice, the decisions made in plurality by the church leadership have already been made in heaven, which means God is not obligated to affirm the decisions made by church leadership. If the process was followed correctly, prayerfully, biblically, and in plurality, God has already confirmed this decision through the church leadership. The leadership God has instituted is simply executing on earth what is already decided in heaven.

    So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

    1 Peter 5:1-5, ESV
  • The ultimate authority of a local church is the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18; John 10:11,18). He is the foundation, cornerstone, and ultimate head of the church (Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:18, 2:10; Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). However, He has delegated the shepherding and leadership to appointed elders who serve as under-shepherds to Christ. They are tasked with prayerfully caring for and leading the local church (Acts 6:4). This sacred task is not to be carried out with pride or arrogance but rather with prayerful humility. The shepherding of a local church is a function of care and correction. Biblical shepherds both provide for and discipline the flock when needed.

    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.

    Acts 20:28, ESV
  • These biblical elders are responsible for the flock and are called to be on guard, diligent, and faithful in their shepherding and care for the local body of believers. They are overseers of the local church and are the earthly representatives of Christ.

    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.

    Hebrews 13:17, ESV
  • Believers are called to submit to church leadership, knowing the elders will answer to God for their leadership. However, this does not make elders infallible. Instead, they need the continued work of the gospel in their lives as well.

Common Questions and Responses

Is the process of care and correction loving?

It is the highest expression of love (Proverbs 27:6). This process is intended to lovingly pursue a brother or sister in Christ who is headed down a path of sin and destruction (James 5:19-20; Proverbs 24:11). Remember, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). To passively watch a fellow believer pursue a life of disobedience to God’s Word and the rejection of His Holy Spirit is not loving (Jude 23). Together, we are called to enter into a deep community by confessing our sins (James 5:16), encouraging one another toward greater intimacy with Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11), obeying His Word (1 John 2:3), and walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).

But I don’t feel qualified. I have my own issues.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Luke 6:41-42, ESV

Notice the qualification for speaking to a brother or sister about an issue in their life is not perfection. If the standard were indeed perfection, these conversations would never happen. Instead, believers are called to humbly examine their own lives (Galatians 6:1) and acknowledge their own issues (the log) while speaking to their brother or sister about theirs (the speck). This platform of humility creates common ground and invites both parties to deal with the wood in their eyes while they pursue Christ.

Doesn’t the Bible say, “do not judge”?

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2, ESV

Indeed, the Bible does speak against judging others. However, this type of judgment is implemented when a person holds someone else to a standard they are unwilling to uphold. This hypocritical judgment is seen as a double standard. Within this context, Jesus does not permit it. Consequently, we are called to lovingly judge (hold accountable) fellow believers as we pursue ongoing transformation in Christ (John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3). Today’s cultural concept of judgment is often viewed as a person in a higher position looking down on someone in a lesser position. However, the biblical concept of judgment is a person humbly and lovingly holding another believer to a shared biblical standard (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15).

What if having a care and correction conversation hurts a friendship?

If a friendship is so fragile that a loving, humble, and restorative reproof would somehow damage the friendship, how deep was that friendship to begin with? Galatians 2 shows a great example of a friendship put to the test. In this passage, the Apostle Peter is demonstrating racial discrimination toward Gentiles in the presence of fellow Jews. The Apostle Paul, recognizing the sin, puts the friendship to the test and confronts “him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11). The beauty of this interaction is seen years later when Peter refers to Paul as his “beloved brother” (2 Peter 3:15-16). No, the real expression of friendship is truth, lovingly spoken (1 Timothy 1:5).

What are the biblical values that drive the care and correction process?

  • Driven by Love (Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Corinthians 16:14)
  • Yielded Through Prayer (Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 6:18)
  • Pursued With Grace and Humility (Luke 6:42; Romans 12:10-13; 1 Peter 5:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Philippians 2:3)
  • Affirmed by the Community (Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Matthew 18:16)
  • Restorative in Nature (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20; Matthew 18:15)
  • With the Exaltation of Christ in Mind (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Ephesians 2:13)

What is the ultimate goal of a care and correction process?

  • Restoration of a Wayward Believer

    This process should have the wayward believer’s best interest in mind. Restoration to the Lord and to the community of faith is the goal.

  • Purity of Doctrine

    The local church is called to contend for the faith and stand for sound doctrine. Our preaching and teaching are to be aligned with the Scriptures and anchored in truth. As the winds of falsehood and cultural compromise blow in our world, the local church is to stand firm and be unmoved (1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:9; Jude 3; 2 John 9-11).

  • Purity of the Life of a Believer

    A believer is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and to embrace the continual process of transformation into the image of Christ. Our lives should reflect the glory and holiness of Jesus our Savior (Ephesians 4:14). If we are reflecting anything less than His glory, we need a restorative process of discipline (Colossians 1:9-12; Philippians 2:12-13; Romans 12:1-2).

  • Unity of Fellowship as a Local Church

    Though a local church will embrace diverse thoughts, backgrounds, passions, and perspectives, there ought to be an overwhelming sense of shared unity through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10; Colossians 3:12-14; Psalm 133:1; Ephesians 4:13). Though the body is made of various members, we are all one body (1 Corinthians 12:7-27; Romans 12:5). Disagreement can be embraced but factions cannot (Titus 3:10; Jude 17-18). Our unity reflects the ongoing work of the gospel as we delight in Him together (John 17:23).

  • The Ongoing and Ever-Increasing Witness of the Local Church (The Gospel on Display)

    The church consists of individual believers called together by Christ to reflect His glory and put the gospel on display in our community. Our striving for holiness and love for one another demonstrates the life-changing power of the gospel (Matthew 5:16). Together, we show the world the power of God to redeem and restore. Together, we model our shared commitment to Jesus Christ and obedience to His Word. As believers, we live out His great commission together, lovingly encouraging one another toward intimacy with Jesus Christ (John 17:21-23).

Back to Top