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Monday, April 07, 2008

1 Corinthians 5: Church Discipline, Part 2

Here is the second sermon on Church Discipline from my series on 1 Corinthians.

Introduction: Review of Part 1

1. Paul angered by the lack of Corinthian Church to discipline the man in sin.
2. Paul instructs the church to remove the man.
3. The reason for removing him was for his salvation (v5)

Paul now gives the church reasons why the man must be removed.

Now remember at the beginning, I said Paul’s concern was primarily for the church. He asks in verse 6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

In our modern culture we want to make sin out to be only a personal matter. So if we sin in their money, we tend to say our money is not the church’s business. So if we sin in their sex life, we tend to say our sex life is none of the church’s business. So if we sin in how we raise our children, well how we raise our children is none of the church’s business.

This is just evidence of how rampant worldliness has infected the church. It is evidence of how popular worldly sentiments trump the Word of God in many Christian’s lives.

Scriptures teaches here and on many other occasions that the sin of one member or one family can have terrible consequences on the entire body. When we allow the odious sin of one to go unchallenged then it will not be long until the majority says we have no business challenging anyone’s sin because we are not consistent.

One of the reasons today that we do not practice discipline is that we no longer recognize church leaders to have authority in our lives. When the preacher or the preacher and deacon confront a sinful person they are often blown off, and the church, because it lacks a tradition of discipline, has no recourse for the blatant disrespect shown for the proper authorities God has placed in our lives.

Or the one confronted gets upset, and they start going to another church and the pastor there is so delighted in adding to their numbers invites them to join without investigating why they left their past church. We just perpetuate the problems so rampant in our churches.

Association With Sinners

In verse 9 Paul has to clear up a misunderstanding about associating with sinners. We do not disassociate ourselves with unconverted sinners for as he says we would have to leave this world to do this, but that we should not associate with one who “bears the name brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”


Four reasons

1. If we continue in our daily association with him then it appears to him that the situation is not dire and urgent. But the offender needs to feel the weight of the consequences of his unrepentant sins. We want him to come to church and listen to God’s word preached and sung and prayed, but they are no longer recognized as one in the community but as one outside.

2. Our continued association with one irreparably damages the reputation of the church in the community. Brothers and sisters, we so often lament the question of why the church seems so irrelevant today. Could it be partially because so much of what we offer the world is hypocrisy?

Are we not a people who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Our message says Jesus will forgive you of your sins if you repent and believe in him. You will also be given the Holy Spirit who will begin to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. He will transform your lives. “The old things have passed away, behold new things have come.”

Yet when the world examines our claims they see few people interested in learning to observe all things Jesus has commanded. They see just as much sin in the church as they do in the world. They look at our marriage and divorce rate and laugh because it is no different than the society. Our children are committing sexual fornication at the same rates happening in the schools.

Some of the biggest gossips in the community are in the church.

Brothers and sisters, it is hard for the world to take serious what we ourselves don’t first take serious. O that we, like God would have passion and zeal for holiness and purity in this church.

3. The sin of one can bring judgment upon the congregation.

a. Look at the sin of Adam, it brought his entire posterity under sin.

b. The sin of Achan in Joshua caused his entire family to perish and Israel to be defeated in war.

c. The sin of David in murdering Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba brought God’s judgment upon his family in two ways. God said on account of his sin, the sword would not depart from his family, and the son born to him by Bathsheba died.

d. So Paul argues that this man guilty and arrogant of sexual immorality will bring judgment upon the church.

4. Tolerated sin will cause the church to become more sinful and more tolerant of sin. Paul says to Timothy in his first letter, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful [of sinning].”

One of the reasons why sin is so prevalent in the church is because we have forsaken the Scriptures teaching on the practice of the rebuke. For so long we never confront anyone on blatant and public sin I guess telling ourselves it is not our business and so it continues and multiplies. If the church tolerates one divorce on unscriptural grounds, then it will tolerate many more. If the church tolerates one case of adultery, then many will be tolerated. We tolerate one act of sexual fornication, and many more will be tolerated. We will begin to give a pass on most every sin. Yet Scripture says, “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Scripture says that we should judge those in the church and God judges those outside the church. So if the church rolls are our domain, then how should we go about this practice?

First, we must submit ourselves to the teaching of God’s word. There will some who object to church discipline at the outset. But in reality what these are saying is: “I am not going to do what the Bible commands me to do.”

Brothers and sisters, I do not want to be part in a church filled with people who have no reverence for the word of God. If the word of God clearly teaches a practice, then we must work to see that it is correctly initiated and correctly sustained in order to be faithful and obedient to God.

We need to recognize that obeying God’s word is not always easy. We do not have the option to pick those practices that are easy and neglect those which are difficult. We do not have the option to only adhere to those which have been passed on to us, but also those through neglect which we must recover.

When the Bible reveals that we should not associate with Christians who practice immoralities and are unwilling to repent then we must be obedient to Scripture and not associate with such a one just like Scripture teaches for those who claim Christ and are idle (2 Thes. 3:6). We need, as Paul exhorts is 2 Thes. 3 “to not grow weary in doing good.”

In order to be the competent man of God equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17) we cannot take out the part about God's word being profitable for correction.

Second, we must create a culture in the church of accountability. This does not mean that I tell all my problems and concerns with every member of the church, but there needs to be for a man a few men and for a woman, a few women that you trust and will lean upon for Christian growth and accountability.

We have to know that the people in the church love us first before we will ever be able to receive rebuke and discipline. The reason why our children receive and accept discipline from us as parents is because they know we love them and we show it. On some occasions the reason why children will not tolerate parental discipline is because they do not sense a strong presence of love in the home.

When love and accountability are absent, church discipline is like having someone you only see once a month spank your kid for some disobedience. It just isn’t right is it? The only way church discipline works is if we are indeed a strong loving family in the first place committed to the well being of the church.

Third, in order to establish church wide accountability I believe we must raise the standard here at Little River of what it means to be a member. We need standards of conduct, and we have these located in the church covenant. My suggestion would be that we take a look at the covenant and upon agreement affix our names to it understanding that we are accountable to these words. We also need to write a policy for how church discipline will take place and again affix our names to it understanding that we will be accountable to the policy.

Fourth, one of the first acts of discipline that Little River needs to exercise is the excommunication of many of its members due to their habitual absence. In excommunicating them from our membership we would not be saying that they are not Christians because of their lack of attendance, but we as a community are no longer capable of discerning whether they are or are not because they have forsaken the fellowship of the saints so we will no longer be accountable for them because of the decisions they have made. Furthermore, we do not want the leadership of the church to be accountable for them before God when there is no way they can be because of their lack of concern for the people of Little River.

Fifth, we need to understand that corrective church discipline when done well will usually be settled privately and not before the church. Church discipline is not some practice where every person’s sins must be named before the church. We all truly understand that we are all sinners.
The Bible gives clear steps in Scripture for handling sin. For example when one brother sins against another brother Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 we go to the offender by ourselves. Usually this is where discipline ends because as God teaches us, we are to forgive others of their sins and when we are confronted with undeniable sin we must confess it and repent of it.

The only occasions where discipline comes before the church is when the offending party will not repent of clear sin and when the sin, as in 1 Corinthians 5 is so egregious and public that it must be dealt with publicly for the sake of the reputation of the church and God’s name.


By practicing church discipline we will:

1. Save lives
2. Be faithful to God’s word
3. Maintain the reputation of the church
4. Maintain our Christian witness
5. Increase holiness
6. Give the boot to much sin
7. Have integrity in church membership
8. Help our leaders be accountable to God concerning the flock
9. We will model godliness to the next generation
10. We will hand off the church in greater health to the next generation.

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