Church discipline (3)

Bible Reading 1 Corinthians 5

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgement in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

In our last lesson we had started to consider the various areas of delinquency on the part of Christians which required discipline. we continue this survey by dealing with a most flagrant case of


This body of teaching on church discipline was occasioned by a flagrant and well known case of immorality in the Corinthian church.

1 Cor. 5:1 (Amp.) - "It is actually reported that there is SEXUAL IMMORALITY among you, impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has (his own) father's wife."

Wey. - There is INCEST among you - it is absolutely notorious - incest so unnatural that it does not exist even amongst the Gentiles, the horror of a man's living in intercourse with his own father's wife." There was no question as to the actual existence of this wicked relationship. There was no danger here of false accusation. It was not only well known but condoned. It is important that "wickedness" be proven before discipline is undertaken. In this case the wickedness is publicly flaunted.

Paul was deeply distressed upon hearing of the sin in the Corinthian assembly, but he was also deeply disturbed with the attitude of the church toward such wickedness.

1 Cor. 5:2 (Amp.) - "And YOU ARE PROUD AND ARROGANT! And you ought rather to mourn - bow in sorrow and in shame - until the person who has done this (shameful) thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst."

Moff. - "And yet YOU ARE PUFFED UP! You ought much rather to be mourning the loss of a member! Expel the perpetrator of such a crime."

NEB - "And YOU CAN STILL BE PROUD OF YOURSELVES! ( You ought to have gone into mourning; a man who has done such a deed should have been rooted out of your company."

The Corinthian church was richly blessed of God, coming behind in no gift (1:3-7). However, they were not obeying the apostolic word in matters of conduct, and Paul had to take them to task for being "carnal." They seem to have thought that the possession and enjoyment of God's gifts of grace indicated they were right no matter what they did. The proof that we are right is not the presence of God's gracious gifts, but our obedience to His Word. The operation of spiritual gifts is no final evidence of our spirituality. To think so is a common error, whatever their reason for being "puffed up" may have been, the apostle's letter undoubtedly sobered them quickly and made them face the authoritative demands of the divinely inspired apostolic corrective.

Without further ado the apostle deals with the matter of discipline. For the sake of all involved, including the wicked man, action must be taken immediately. It was not a matter of wishing it to go away, it must be "purged out."

1 Cor. 5:4-5 (NEB) — "You all being assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus over us, THIS MAN IS TO BE CONSIGNED TO SATAN for the destruction of the body, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord."

There is little profit in trying to figure out all that is meant by this severe procedure. Suffice to say, it is sobering and frightening. That God deals with sinning believers through their physical bodies is evident later in the epistle, when Paul speaks of the unworthy partaker of the Lord's Supper. Such as do not rightly discern the body are afflicted physically. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30), The main point is, that the assembly was to take positive action and "expel the perpetrator of such a crime."

1 Cor. 5:13 — "PUT AWAY from among yourselves that wicked person"

Amp. — "DRIVE OUT that wicked one from among you — expel him from your church."

NEB - "ROOT OUT the evil-doer from your community."

JBP - "It is plain duty to EXPEL from your church this wicked man."

"The word for wicked is "poneros", and it signifies the active exercise of the various dispositions and desires, not merely a single act, but a positive injurious activity. A LIVING IN SIN." This man knew what he was doing, and the church knew what he was doing. He failed to repent and walk uprightly, and the church failed to exercise discipline!

Wickedness must have no place in the church of God. Paul warns them of the danger to the whole body when sin is not dealt with.

1 Cor. 5:6 — "Know ye not that A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE lump?"

Way - "Do you not know that it takes but A LITTLE LEAVEN TO LEAVEN a whole batch?"

JBP - "Don't you know how A LITTLE YEAST CAN PERMEATE the whole lump?"

Paul is now going to point out that sin in the church is inconsistent with the redemptive work of Christ. He says it by way of the Old Testament Passover. When Israel kept Passover they excluded all leaven from their houses (Ex. 12:15). It was a symbol of "corruption and the self-propagating power of evil." If there was no place for leaven under a lesser covenant, there certainly was no place for it under a better one.

1 Cor. 5:7 (Amp.) — "PURGE (CLEAN OUT) THE OLD LEAVEN that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated, for Christ our Passover (Lamb) has been sacrificed."

JBP - "CLEAR OUT EVERY BIT OF THE OLD YEAST that you may be new unleavened bread! We Christians have had a Passover lamb sacrificed for us - none other than Christ Himself!"

For seven days at Passover, the Israelites kept free from the use of leaven. This was "the feast of unleavened bread." What they did typically for seven days, the Christian does in joyous actuality all the days of his life.

1 Cor. 5:8 (JBP) — "So let us 'keep the feast' WITH NO TRACE OF THE YEAST OF THE OLD LIFE, nor the yeast of vice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of unadulterated truth."

Paul now gives some further instruction on discipline. Apparently in a previous letter he had warned them about "companying with fornicators." Some of them had thought they were to keep aloof from all who were unclean. However, Paul knew that in the normal course of life they would from time to time have to be in contact with people of the world who were morally unclean. They were not required to become involved with such people socially. The case was different in the church. Fellow Christians were their "family." Some of their fellow Christians were obviously immoral. With such there must be a definite position taken.

1 Cor. 5:11 (JBP) - "But in this letter I tell you NOT TO ASSOCIATE WITH any professing Christian who is known to be an impure man or a swindler, an idolator, a man with a foul tongue, a drunkard or a thief. My instruction is: "DON'T EVEN EAT WITH SUCH A MAN."

Paul enumerates six categories of wickedness with which the obedient believer is to have no association within the church. They are

a. A FORNICATOR - One who is licentious, impure, immoral, sexually unclean.

b. COVETOUS - The covetous man desires and seeks to take away what another possesses. He is plainly characterized by unbridled desire for that which does not belong of right to him." It has been variously translated "overreacher, avaricious, grasping, swindler and greed." In some verses it is closely related to "lust" in a sexual sense. It is used in this sense and translated "defraud" in 1 Thessalonians 4:6. It is related to "all uncleanness" and translated "greediness" in Ephesians 4:19. This is also suggested in Ephesians 5:3 which refers to "fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness."

c. AN IDOLATER - Modern idolatry may be more subtle than that of Paul's day, but equally bad. Anything which takes the place of God in Christ to which we give our "religious attention" becomes our idol. It may be material, intellectual, or spiritual. We also find idolatry associated with covetousness. "The covetous man is an idolater" (Eph. 5:5). "Covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). "Whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God (Amp.).

d. A RAILER "A person with a foul tongue (railing, abusing, reviling, slandering)" (Amp.). "An abusive person, one who attacks with vile abuse, who is guilty of slander or vituperation."

e. A DRUNKARD "One habitually under the influence of strong drink." This also includes being under the influence of drugs.

f. AN EXTORTIONER "It means one living by preying on others, and that with the idea of violence or unlawful methods; "rapacious" would be the better word to use."

As we come to the end of these studies, there is much left unsaid.

This last section on church discipline is particularly contentious in the 21st century as we have seen many leaders exposed and vilified in the media and church alike. Seldom has the church followed these instructions and sought to redeem and restore. Rather we have allowed the civil justice system to take the lead and in the church have remained silent or even tried to cover sins / faults up. This ought not to be!

We are called to represent the Kingdom of God, the church clearly holds the mandate to demonstrate what heaven is like, i.e. model what Jesus would do.

He is truth, and to represent and walk in truth we MUST WALK IN LOVE. The same love Jesus lived out and described in 1 Cor 13 - particularly vs 4-7.

We need to have Holy Spirit actively living and guiding us in order to walk this out - it takes Holy Spirit in us to be able to do LOVE and justice like this. Hence our need to Walk In The Spirit!