Can social discipline be lifted for a person who has been put away from the assembly?

Can social discipline be lifted for a person who has been put away from the assembly?

Social discipline is intended to preserve other believers from doing what the offender has done. When the excommunicated person changes his behavior., social contact with the other assembly believers no longer poses any threat to their behavior. For example, when a couple put away for fornication marries, they no longer endanger the behavior of others. On occasion the excommunicated individual chooses to remove himself from contact with believers, perhaps going back into the world. In that case, 1 Corinthians 5:9, 10 applies. He is no longer in the class of those from whom believers must withdraw.

In Matthew 18:18, the Lord teaches that, because the Lord is in the midst (verse 20), the assembly must carry out Gods mind on earth. Through Gods Word, the decision of God in heaven and the assembly on earth are the to the same. The assembly imposes discipline ("whatsoever ye shall bind") and exempts from or lift discipline ("/whatsoever ye shall loose") in concert with heaven. The social discipline in 2 Thessalonians 3 was temporary until the behavior changed. Therefore, the Lord intends the social discipline in both 2 Thessalonians 3 and 1 Corinthians 5 to be lifted at the appropriate time.

The assembly applied the Word of God, binding the discipline. The assembly is now to apply the Word of God in lifting or loosing the discipline, thus carrying out the Lords mind on earth. Just as the discipline is not an act of the overseers, but of the assembly, and has been handled in the presence of all the assembly, so lifting the discipline should be handled in the same way.

How will the assembly know when social discipline should be lifted?

This involves a subjective judgment by the overseers in guiding the assembly. As shepherds they know the spiritual state of the disciplined person and have an ongoing interest in bringing that individual back to the Lord and eventually to the assembly. Even if there is no spiritual recovery, shepherds, who see the wanderers, will know that the time comes that he wondering offender no longer endangers other believers with this behavior.

Social discipline is not intended to heap shame on a person for all the years of his life, but to cause him to be ashamed that his sin has had such serious results and has endangered others. When his behavior no longer endangers others, it is time to end the shame and lift the social discipline.

D. Oliver