Discipling the Brother
Marlin Jeschke. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1972. 200 pages.
The question of Church discipline and Christian brotherhood, two significant Anabaptist themes, receive new and refreshing treatment by Marlin Jeschke.
The groundwork for his study is provided by a review of the Old and New Testament material and its interpretation in the history of the Church, especially the use of the doctrine of “Penance” in the post-apostolic Church.
The mandate for Church discipline is found in Matt. 18:15-18. He says “the authority to bind and loose is first and foremost the commission to proclaim the Gospel, which like the Old Testament prophetic word liberates those who hear it though it also consigns to bondage those who reject it” (p.48). The mandate is therefore an evangelistic one—to free people from bondage.
More than this, “the authority to bind and loose, are not only a definition of the conditions for entrance into the kingdom; they also by their very nature define the ethical norms of life in the community” (p. 49). The good news is the same in the missionary proclamation as it is in the discipline of a brother. Both call men to the new life in Christ.
In this way Jeschke can use the Great Commission “to make disciples”—as the basic approach to the establishing of a true Christian community. By exhorting each other to know what it means to follow Christ, and by practicing a discipline that is redemptive, the community grows in its knowledge of Christ.
Jeschke realizes there have been many bad practices of excommunication and he would not justify any of them. He says that, biblically, “excommunication does not represent a breakdown of grace or a departure from the gospel. Excommunication is a renewed presentation of the gospel message to our impenitent brother” (p. 105). But it is always only the very last appeal made to a brother. It is never a punitive act.
What is appealing in this volume is the way the central emphasis on discipleship is used to enlighten, correct, and strengthen the emphasis on Christian community. A reading of this book pays rich dividends.