Is discipline in the church carried out by all members or just the elders?

As passages such as Deutonomy 13:12 Deutonomy 17:4 -7; Deutonomy 19:17-18 teach that it must be the whole assembly that shall exercise discipline, does not the same apply in 1 Corinthians 5:4 and Matthew 18:15-20?

Is it not the cause of much division inside assemblies, that this is not carried out? (1 Corinthians 1:10-12). If there are divided opinions as to discipline, is it not more godly to wait on God till all are of the one mind and heart, even though the evidence may seem very plain?

The Lord is with His people at all times, with the two’s or three’s or the many, as well as with individuals, but the special presence of Matthew 18:20 is conditioned on their being gathered together to His Name—”eis to onoma”—that is, not promiscuously or for some social end, a meal or conversation, etc., but around His Person for prayer, or worship, or the remembrance of Himself. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 5:4, though the name is not actually mentioned there as the gathering centre (eis to onoma) but as their authority for gathering (en to onomati). They were not coming together as an assembly to investigate the case, that had already been done by the Apostle and those responsible, with the help of any immediately concerned, but to carry out the discipline enjoined.

There is nothing to lead us to suppose there had been any canvass of the brethren or sisters before this, much less that such was contemplated at their meeting. Nor do I know of any Scripture for a parallel proceeding. Such an idea would imply that all in the assembly are qualified to judge the “pros and cons” of the matter,
which is quite contrary to the fact. If all were qualified to be overseers, then there need be none. In the case before us, how could the sad and sordid details be laid bare to all? In the same way in the case of Reception; all who are present hear the name announced for fellowship, and if they know any “just cause or impediment”, they should inform the elders, but otherwise they naturally trust in those who have the case in hand.

In cases of discipline, there are at times two or three who side with the evil-doer. I know of no Scripture which enjoins that everything must be held up, until these come round to the united judgment of elder brethren. The Apostle puts it in 2 Corinthians 2:6: “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many” (or as R.V. has: “by the many”—margin; Greek “the more”). As Alford suggests, it was very unlikely that the anti-Pauline party were unanimous in the action of 1 Corinthians 5. When once disciplinary action has been taken, it is very important that all should respect it.

It is indeed grievous when the reverse is the case. It is a curious phenomenon, but there are those who seem automatically to take sides with any who have been dealt with. It is a misplaced charity and a misnamed impartiality, and such only succeed in bolstering up evil-doers, and in undermining the confidence
of brethren in themselves.

W.H.