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Monday, March 31, 2008

1 Corinthians 5: Church Discipline, Part 1

I normally preach around 40-50 minutes each Sunday. And I am one who types out much of my notes. Basically for each message I have 7-8 pages of notes. For my 1 Corinthians 5 message I had thirteen. So I obviously decided to have two messages. So wanting to stir the church up this past Sunday, I told them about how my notes are usually 7 pages and this morning's sermon was 13. You should have seen their heads almost fly off. I said every body take a deep breath. I made the one sermon into two shorter sermons.

So here is the first message from 1 Corinthians 5 on church discipline. The focus of the first message is primary aimed at the man in the sin and why it is important for the church to discipline such a man. Next week's sermon will focus on the importance of discipline from the church's perspective and I will give some practical suggestions for what LRBC should do to be a more faithful Church.

Church Discipline: What is it? And why is it needed?


Two weeks ago we left off 1 Corinthians with Paul asking the church at Corinth:

Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Cor. 4:18-21)

After spending four chapters addressing issues of leadership and division in the Corinthian Church, Paul basically gives them an ultimatum. The church could humble itself and make the necessary corrections and repent of their sins. Or they could remain arrogant and face his discipline when he was able to visit them again.

But what we find out beginning in chapter 5 is that not only did the Corinthians have issues regarding its leadership, but the problems only began there. And this should not surprise us. When there is a failure at the top among the leadership in a church, it surely filters down and infests the rest of the body.

Not only was there a failure to be humble among many in Corinth, but there was also a serious deficiency in knowledge of Christian holiness and sanctification. Ironically, while the Corinthians prided themselves in knowledge, they were terribly ignorant.

Notice all the questions Paul asks the Corinthians. And based on the Corinthians’ conduct, they did not know the correct answer.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 5:6 Do you not know that a Little leaven leavens the whole lump?

1 Corinthians 5:12 Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God?

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The Corinthians demonstrated in their many immoralities that they had little knowledge of holiness and sanctification and it was tearing the church apart and ruining its reputation as God’s people.


The first among many issues Paul addresses is sexual immorality. And this sexual immorality Paul says in verse 1 is “of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.” A man, who was a member of the church at Corinth, was involved in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother. The scandal of such an incident is noted by Paul when he says this kind of thing is not even practiced among the pagans who are guilty of practicing all kinds of sexual immoralities.

But notice that Paul’s rebuke is not aimed first at the man in the sin, his rebuke is aimed first at the church. The question is: Why is Paul so disheartened by the church over this man’s sin? The reason is that the Corinthian Church had done absolutely nothing about the situation. While this sin is particularly odious, Paul is more angered by the lack of a disciplinary response from the church.

As I have said a few times before, Christians often are surprised to hear that the Bible instructs churches to practice church discipline. The fact that it comes as a surprise to so many Christians reveals at least two things. First, it reveals our present lack of what the Scripture teaches. So we have a failure in discipleship, in the passing along to others the whole counsel of God from generation to generation. Second, it reveals just how long the words church and discipline have been separated in church life. Up until about the 1930’s, church discipline was routine in the life of most Baptist Churches, but today it is the talk of Baptist churches when we even hear of one Baptist church practicing corrective discipline.

There are two types of discipline: Formative and Corrective. Formative discipline takes place in preaching, teaching, and modeling of God’s word to others. Corrective discipline happens when a serious and unsually public sin has taken place and the member is unrepentant when confronted about the sin. And in 1 Corinthians 5, we have an example where corrective discipline is needed so Paul argues for the need of this kind of discipline concerning the man who is in an incestuous relationship.

So we ask the question: What should the church do when such a sin has taken place, a public sin which stains and damages the reputation of God’s church and God’s name?

Paul first responds in verse 2 by saying the Corinthians ought to be mourning such a sin from among their own. Too often this is lacking in our churches today. We do not mourn over our personal sins. We do not grieve when others are in sin. We tolerate sin. We look the other way.

We can only speculate why the Corinthians are not mourning over this particular sin. Three possible reasons given for their lack of an appropriate response are:

1. Perhaps many of them were holding to some kind of antinomian theology which reasoned since we are forgiven in Christ of all our sins, we could sin all the more.

2. Possibly the man in the sin held a high standing position of honor in the city of Corinth. Although God is impartial, many times his people are not. Preference is often given to those of wealth and honor.

3. Or perhaps, since the Corinthians knew that they too were sinners, they believed it inappropriate to judge someone else’s sin.

Regardless of the reason, their lack of a response was unacceptable.

Second, Paul says the second course of action for this member is: he must be removed from the church. He must be excommunicated from membership.

So in the absence of any positive leadership from Corinth on this issue, Paul gives them the proper instruction and reasoning on how to handle this matter in vv 3-5.

First, Paul encourages the Corinthians in verse 3 by telling them that he is with them in spirit as they discipline this individual. But notice this is something the Corinthians must do themselves. Discipline is not something that can be exercised by one person. It must be done as a church. Encouragement to do the right thing is always helpful when the action needed is difficult.

Notice as well that the woman is not disciplined in this case. The only reason this must be is because she is not a member of the church. Paul will address this in vv 12 and 13.

Second, the discipline must be processed when the church assembles. In verse 4, Paul says, “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, you are to deliver this man to Satan.” One of the pictures presented here is the unity of the church. The church needs to be unified in discipline. Corrective discipline is never an easy thing and can be abused and done incorrectly. So the church needs to be unified and assemble together to complete the task.

Third, in verse 5, Paul says this man is to be handed over to Satan. This seems very harsh at first glance. What does Paul mean when he says to hand him over to Satan? Well the Bible teaches us that when we repent and believe in Jesus Christ we are transferred in the Kingdom of Christ. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For he rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

So when Paul says that the church should deliver him over to Satan, he is saying that the church is making the judgment that this one really is not a member of the Kingdom of the Son, but of the God of this world, the Devil.

Now many of us might be asking, how can someone make a judgment of someone else’s heart to know whether they are indeed saved or not? Is not God the only one who can do this? The answer is: God is the only one who can accurately and omnisciently peer into a man’s soul. But Scripture teaches us in verse 12 that we are to judge those inside the church. God wants us to make evaluations of those who would enter into the fellowship of the church.

These evaluations occur primary on three occasions. The first one comes when someone presents themselves for baptism. The leadership should evaluate through questions whether the candidate truly understands the gospel before he or she is baptized. The second is similar to the first, the only difference is this candidate is for membership and has already been baptized. We ask the same questions. The third evaluation does not happen with every member, but should an event like the one in 1 Corinthians 5 arise in our church then an additional evaluation needs to be made of the individual’s soul.

And one of the clear evidences that one guilty of such a sin is truly of Christ is his willingness to repent of sin, bear remorse for his actions, and clean his life up from that point. It appears that the man in Corinth had not repented of his sin. And an unwillingness to repent of sins when they are confronted is a sign that one is not truly converted.

But we should not conclude because discipline takes place that we do not love the one who is disciplined. Instead the exact opposite is true. A church disciplines precisely because it loves the individual. Parents, why do discipline your children? Answer: Because you love your children. This is indedd what Scripture teaches.

Prov 13:24 (NASU) He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

The Lord disciplines those whom he loves too.

Hebr 12:6 (NASU) For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives."

The church also loves those whom it disciplines.

When discipline is absent, people get hurt. One of my daughters shoved her sister yesterday and she fell and hit her head. If as parents we fail to discipline, then my children will continue to behave badly and will surely get hurt again.

Furthermore, when discipline is lacking there is no respect for authority. If children are not disciplined they will begin to disrespect their own parents. They will disrespect their teachers, their employers, and ultimately they will not see God as a legitimate authority in their life.

Why does Scripture command us to hand over the one being disciplined to Satan? Verse 5 says, “so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.”

There a couple of viable interpretations of this verse but I only have time this morning to give you the interpretation I hold. When a local church dismisses one from their membership you are sending the strongest possible statement to the individual that this church does not believe you are saved, and the hope of the church is twofold. Either the one disciplined is finally awakened to his sin through this drastic action and repents, or because we no longer reckon him to be converted we start sharing the gospel with him and in our evangelism he finally is genuinely saved at some later date. He is no longer to be admonished as a believer but evangelized as an unbeliever.

If the church permits him to stay on the membership rolls, then we are in even greater sin because we allow such a one to have continued confidence that he is saved when his life screams the very opposite.

We could make an analogy here to the human body. We all know that we should exercise certain measures of self-control when it comes to taking care of our bodies in order to be healthy. This is formative discipline But on occasion, an emergency might arise and surgery is needed to save our lives. What shall we do? Emergency surgery will certainly be painful. But on the other hand, if we do not have it then we shall die. The prudent one will choose surgery and live even though it will be painful and will often take much time to recuperate. So it is with church discipline. We must do the surgery when necessary to save souls, otherwise we let souls drift ever closer to condemnation and hell.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Qualifications of a Pastor...according to many Pastors

From what I often hear other popular Christian Pastors say, here is how 1 Timothy 3:1-7 should have been written:

1 Timothy 3:1-7
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (pastor), he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be relevant. In order to get a sizable audience, the pastor must prostitute the gospel. He must also have an exceptional portion of humor. Furthermore, if he can base his Sunday Preaching on a modern stand-up Comedic routine he deserves a double wage. He must be the attractional type. Why else would anyone come to hear him preach the word of God? The overseer must be self-controlled except when it comes to his tongue. The more flamboyant, the better. Oh, did I mention he must be relevant? The most polished Pastors are the ones who have learned how to preach as little Bible as possible while mixing in as many stories and jokes as possible. The pastor should not worry about how outsiders or other Christians for that matter think about him because he is God's Annointed and they are only jealous of his church size. The pastor must be cool and hip. So depending on your place of service that might mean wearing Brooks Brother suits or designer jeans and shirts. And did I mention, the pastor must be relevant?

Thank God for the real 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and passages like 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5; 1 Corinthians 4, 1 Timothy 5:17, 2 Timothy 4, and Titus 1. They are truly why so many pastors endure when hardship comes from every side.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

There is no doubt that if speeches alone decide who is elected President of the United States, Barack Obama would win easily over his competition. I have listened to many of his speeches and when he discusses his vision of unity in America, he truly inspires. Much of what I have heard that comes from Obama on unity is truly commendable.

His speech today was another example of the high quality in which he speaks to issues in America. But I confess that what truly puzzles me is this: In a speech that centers around his Christian faith, his Christian preacher, and how his Christian faith impacts his life and guides him philosophically, you might think the object and person of his faith might be mentioned. I have read through the speech and I cannot find even one mention of Jesus Christ.

I suppose that the mere mention of Jesus Christ must be too divisive for politics. Chalk this up as another unfortunate example of one who talks about their Christian faith without even mentioning the very center of that faith.

I could not help but think of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2.1-5:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BF&M 2000 Article XV. The Christian and the Social Order

Here are my notes from a series on the Baptist Faith Message 2000.

Article XV. The Christian and the Social Order

All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

Exodus 20:3-17; Leviticus 6:2-5; Deuteronomy 10:12; 27:17; Psalm 101:5; Micah 6:8; Zechariah 8:16; Matthew 5:13-16,43-48; 22:36-40; 25:35; Mark 1:29-34; 2:3ff.; 10:21; Luke 4:18-21; 10:27-37; 20:25; John 15:12; 17:15; Romans 12-14; 1 Corinthians 5:9-10; 6:1-7; 7:20-24; 10:23-11:1; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Philemon; James 1:27; 2:8.


Should Christians retreat from the public square in order that the church not succumb to worldly temptations?

Should Christians seek to change the laws of one’s government in order to bring about a new theocracy where only Christians can participate and rule?

Should Christians negotiate an agreement with the Government where each party will refrain from activity with one another?

Should Christians fully participate and embrace every liberty given to them by their ruling government?

Should Christians try to transform culture working towards the goals of peace, harmony, and justice? Or should we abandon the culture and create our separate ghettos?

What does the relationship between the disciple of Jesus Christ and his or her society look like?

These are some of the questions article 15 of the BF&M 2000 seeks to address.

A Christological Focus

Jesus came to build a Kingdom. Jesus serves as the King of that Kingdom. Therefore it follows that the objectives of his rule and reign in the Kingdom he is building should also be the objectives we too are working to consummate. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), our marching orders come from the King. Thus the first statement in the article says, “All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society.”

However the Scripture eliminates coercion and obedience from the tip of a sword or gun as means by which the will of Christ is made supreme among the nations. To our surprise, Jesus uses sacrifice and service as two primary means of building his kingdom. Jesus is a King who serves all people free from partiality. He loves his creation so much that he gives up his own life as a ransom and substitute. And in this sacrifice he offers a comprehensive forgiveness to sinners when they repent and believe and confess with their mouths Jesus is Lord.

The Holy Spirit is sent from Jesus who sits at the right hand of God the Father and is working to bring about a renewal both in mankind and the earth. The BF&M is correct when its states, “Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ,” for Christ is truly the focus of God’s work to redeem his creation. So to the degree that we turn away from Jesus, we will fail in our pursuit to fulfill God’s will, and on the other hand to the degree we magnify and spread the good news of Jesus Christ, we will be faithful.

Clear Instructions

Our King, Jesus Christ, provides clear instruction for his disciples and also provides an excellent model of how to interact with one’s culture and society.

First, Christians need to reject the idea that we can faithfully follow Jesus by separating from our surrounding culture and communities. Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-14 that we “are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” Someone did say that you do not light a lamp to hide it under a basket. The only way to see the will of Jesus accomplished is to take his message into the darkness and reject the consistent temptations which the darkness sends lays before us.

The type of Fundamentalism which encouraged Christians to retreat into ghettos clearly was and still is a gross perversion of the way of Jesus. A simple examination into the life of Jesus’ own life contradicts this philosophy of life. Additionally, a simple examination of God’s apostle to the Gentiles also repudiates this philosophy.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prays to the Father, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).” How then is the Father’s will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven? Surely we would affirm that it is accomplished through both the work of the Christ and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, does not the Holy Spirit work through the children of God to bring about the presence of the Kingdom of God in Christ? This is in fact what the book of Acts reveals, namely the Spirit working through the disciples of Christ to bring about God’s will.

Specific Cultural and Societal Issues

Southern Baptists do name several issues which should be of concern given the clear teaching of Scripture. The article says:

In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.

A. Racism

Racism has been and still is a problem in our society. Although regrettably Southern Baptists have been on the wrong side of this issue in the past, we have as a convention apologized and have now moved to eradicate this sin.

The Bible in numerous ways repudiates racism. First, because we all have common ancestors (Adam and Eve), we are all brothers and sisters in one sense. Second, the Bible tells us that Jesus came to redeem men and women from every tribe, nation, and tongue thus demonstrating his love for all peoples. Therefore we need to express our love for all peoples. Third, Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

B. Greed and Selfishness

Greed and selfishness are the roots of many of our societal problems. Americans have an insatiable desire to accumulate more money and more power. And then we turn around and spend if not all, most of our money and power on ourselves. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Jesus Christ’s life is the par excellence example of what it means to model a life of selflessness. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” As his disciples we also are called to live a life of service not selfishness. Jesus reminded his disciples, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant (Matt. 23:11).”

C. Sexual Immorality: Adultery, Homosexuality, & Pornography

Sexual sins run rampant today, not only in our own society, but in societies around the world. Sexual ethics seem to be broken with the greatest frequency in our day. C.S. Lewis rightly puts his finger on the difficulty of this domain. He writes, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence (Mere Christianity, 89).”

However we break God’s rule here by engaging in sex before marriage, by engaging in sex with someone other then our spouse, by engaging in sex with the wrong gender. And the issue of the pornography is only increasingly enslaving more and more people.

Lewis argues that above all our sexual instinct has exponentially been perverted in the fall. He compares our indulgence to overeat to man’s indulgence to sexual immorality. If we do not have self control in our eating, we may end up eating enough for two men, but if we do not exercise self control in sex, we will have numerous sexual relationships with different women.

He goes on to say that when an attractive woman gets up on a stage and begins to undress, men will gather in large numbers to see and even pay to see, but we would think it odd if people flocked to see someone eat some steak from a stage even though we love to eat.

Genesis 2:18-24, 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:16, and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 address this subject well.

D. The Least of These: Orphans, Sick, Elderly, Abused, Alien, & Widow

These are just some of the groups of people named in the article or named in Scripture that often need special support and protection in order that none of them are taken advantaged by predators.

In Deuteronomy 10:17-19, God addresses his love and concern for the disadvantaged:

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Presently, the church has neglected its responsibility to fight for and look after the needy. We have relied too heavily on the government to do what God calls us to do. And we need to retake this priority in the church today.

One of the most talked about issues among Christians today is immigrantion, legal and illegal. And we seem to have such disdain for those especially of Hispanic dissent. Yet God clearly in the OT shows special concern for the alien, the one who lives in a foreign land. Could it be that our concerns for America are higher than our concern to please God himself?

Southern Baptists stand to learn more about what it means to care for the least of these without being overly judgmental.

E. The Unborn

Southern Baptists have done well in this regard trying to bring protections to the unborn. The Born Alive Protection Act is one example. We also need to not grow weary in the great work of overturning laws which permit individuals to continue to murder the unborn in our land.

However, regardless of whether Roe vs. Wade is still the law in the land we need to live in such a way, to love people in such a way that our influence might help prevent women from choosing abortion when it is legal. We need to stand in the gap and adopt unwanted children, support single women who make mistakes and get pregnant and have no means to raise a child.

And we need not forget those who are born. We need to equally support those who are already born and those still in the womb.

Transforming Culture

The article states, “Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.”

Our influence should reach into all domains of our society. We should exert a holy and Christlike influence on our government and the industries in the land.

While we should not try to make the OT laws the laws of the land, we should strive to see that the laws of our land do not encourage evil. The public square should not be naked. That is, we do want to influence the laws of the land. We want the basis of our laws to be influenced by the law of Christ.

We should expect businesses to bear certain responsibilities just as we as individuals must bear a degree of responsibility. One expectation we should hold companies accountable on is the stewardship of the creation. We cannot continue to pollute our environment and not expect great and awful consequences to follow.


The last stanza says, “In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”

In the effort to transform culture and society toward the goal of Christlikeness, to see the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, we need to be convictional. We need to stand firm on the teaching and work of Jesus Christ. We should not compromise clear truths taught in Scripture.

But we should be willing to work with others when the cause is good, when the cause helps to make rights of wrongs, to bring justice where injustice prevails. We need to work with Roman Catholics on issues of abortion and the sanctity of life of the unborn. We need to work with people of all walks of life to comfort, rebuild, and repair when a tornado, hurricane, or flood has devastated a city.

Let us pray with Jesus, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” but let us also work in the power of the Holy Spirit to see it come.