Monday, August 2, 2010

Church Discipline

TEXT: 1   Corinthians  5 :1-13
DATE  PREACHED :   The Lord's Day     01/08/2010

Our general  theme for the exposition of this  Corinthian letter  is “ Loving and serving  the body of Christ for all its worth” . This letter  helps us to understand   the  way in which  we can love our  church  by  being committed  to maintain its purity  in our relationships with one another   to the glory of our great bridegroom , the Lord Jesus Christ .
We   have seen  that this church has become greatly fragmented , because  the eyes of  its  members  were  more focused on men more than on Christ .  We have seen that in this process the church had  developed a real contempt for their founding father – Paul (Ch 4)  .  But that is not all .  In Chapter 5   we see a further exposure of the problem  of this church.  We note that  they  continue  to  tolerate a  sexually  immoral  man  among them   .  
And because of this , Paul calls them ‘ arrogant (or puffed up)  (5:2)  .  He tells them that their boasting is no good (5:6)  . He uses  strong language , telling them what to do  with such a man : “Let him be removed (v2) …. Deliver this man to Satan… (v.5) cleanse out the old leaven…(v.7) do not associate with sexually immoral people (v.9) …. Do not associate with anyone  who bears the name brother if he is guilty  of  sexual immorality, greed , or is an idolater, reviler  , drunkard or swindler…” (v.11) …purge the evil person from among you…”  (v.13)

Since  nothing has substantially changed  in these challenges that face our churches, what is it that we must   learn  from this passage ?  How does a church deal with such an issue ? 
Five  lessons :
1. The church  has  biblical standards  (rules ) and has a right to expect every member to obey  its biblical standards   (vv 1-2)  The apostle Paul  writes with a sense of astonishment to the church  : 1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
 What I want you to observe in the first place  is this . When you are a member of  the church  ,you  don’t have to  believe that the church is a ‘ free for all to do as we please’. The church is a community that has rules which are  based on biblical  principles .   You cannot  simply  choose to trespass God ‘s principles  or rules  as you like  .  The  rule that  was trespassed here  was this  : “There will be no sexual immorality in the church“.  The type of sexual immorality described here  was explicitly forbidden in the Torah  .
We shall see  that there are further rules mentioned in v. 11  which  may not be  trespassed  in the church community  such as   :  no greed  (Gr.  pleonexia  lit. a desire to have more) ;  no idolatry  (Gr.  eidolatrys lit. a worshiper of idols)  ;  no reviling  (Gr  loidoria – a word of  uncertain  origin ,  “to rail – to scoff /to  mock / to use abusive language”);  no drunkard (Gr.   methuoo)  ;  no swindler  (Gr harpax    lit.  ravening like a wolf ; hence extortioner  or swindler) .

So when  the church  sees  these things happing in her midst  she must act. No  sexual immorality (of whatever kind)   in her midst  may  be  ignored  .  No greedy   person  has  a place here . No drunkenness shall be tolerated among us . There will be no  swindlers welcome here .  
We  must expect our members  to obey Christ  by  living a pure and godly life  .
Unfortunately  the  Corinthians  were tolerating  moral  sin , and in this case   a sexual immorality of a sort  of which  the Gentiles  would even  say , “This is wrong!”  
Even in our day  when sexual  values are severely stretched,   the  unbelieving society, would say that it is wrong for a man to have in a sexual relationship with his father's wife ( obviously his father’s second wife).
So we see  that Paul considers their failure to be shocked  at such behaviour  as arrogance  (5:2).  How should they behave at such news ?  They should be mourning! This is terrible . A brother  does this!  This is shocking.They should have removed this man from their  fellowship  with immediate effect !  
It is  sad to think  how similar modern  Christians  think and act  on  such a  matter .  A number  of  modern   Christians tend to think that  such toleration is  a virtue. They  would sooner despise the holiness of God and the  holiness  of the church than to get rid of an evil man  among them , and all this  in the name of tolerance  ! 
Unfortunately there appears  to be a skewed view in this regard .  Some  tend to think that  strictness  equals ‘legalism‘ , or that it undermines   the concept  of  ‘grace’ .  Some think  that  the church must not have any rules , because if we come to Christ by grace,  we  ought  to  accept anyone   regardless of what  they are doing. But that's not what this text teaches us. This text teaches us that when we come into the church, we come into a society with rules – God’s rules  !

2. The Church is a Society that is to Judge Its Members (vv 3-5) “ For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 
The second point  follows logically  from the first  : The church  has every right  to  judge its members.  Some  think,   on the basis of a text like  Matt 7:1 ,  “Judge not  that  you be not  judged"  , that any sort of judgement is forbidden  in the church.But  our  text explicitly  shows us   that
 Paul pronounced judgement on the  sexual sinner  as if he were present  (v.3) . He  expected the Corinthian church to  pass their judgement also  ( v.12) .
Lets get the matter straight : The kind  of judgement  which we ought to avoid ,  and  which  the Lord  Jesus  refers  to in Matt 7:1  refers to  a harsh , hypocritical judgment , by which someone  who is guilty of  the same ( or greater)  sin  judges  someone  else . It is clear that we must avoid such  hypocritical judgement .
 But  it  is most  emphatically not wrong  to  judge the members of  the  church when they sin . In fact,  it is absolutely necessary  that we must judge sin , as we shall see in a moment . [ In   1 Cor 6  we shall  see  an example of this]
But what about this adulterous man here in Corinth ? How is he to be judged ? Paul says  (paraphrase) :  " I  have  already judged him  on the basis of the clear evidence presented .  But now, when you get together  as a church to make  a judgment against him , and  the  power of the Lord Jesus  is present  ( according to Matt 18:18- note  this is a text on church discipline ) , and  when you think of me as being present with you in spirit , I tell you : Hand this man over to Satan  for the destruction of the flesh  so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” 
Paul is absolutely sure  where Jesus stands on this issue also.
Delivering  someone to Satan is simply another way of saying  “excommunicate the man- put him out of the fellowship of the church ”.  This tells us  something about the blessing of being a church member , and the safety and security that  this fellowship affords .  Excommunication from the church  means  that a person is now “out in the cold” , exposed to the  cruel  ‘taskmaster’ , Satan . Out there , without the protection of the church  , Satan  will  hammer his  body, … but hopefully he will be converted before  he dies or before the Day of the Lord comes .  Such a man like the prodigal son ( Lk 15:11ff)  may perhaps only come to his senses ‘out there’  ! As he remembers what the church was like,  thinking of  all those who loved him, perhaps he will yet truly turn  to the Lord , who is gracious to forgive repentant sinners .  The second observation from this text is  : The church  must judge its  sinning members.

3. The Church  must remember that sin spreads  if  it  is not  dealt with. (vv 6-8)  
“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore  celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Let me remind you of the OT  practice  here  .  During the time of  Passover, the Jews would take time  to remove every  evidence of yeast  from their homes .  Though yeast in itself is not sinful , it  symbolically  represented  something that reminded  them of evil .
The application to the church is this :   The  cleanness of the  OT  home  now devoid of evil  by removing all traces of  yeast  is  compared to  the church  which is  a body of cleansed sinners    (through Christ our Lamb that was slain for our sin)  from whom  every  trace of sin  has been removed .    
But now they have  allowed  this man to ‘ dirty’ the clean status of the church .  What must they now do ? Remove him – because if they don’t,  he will  continue  to  ‘dirty’ the house . He will bring  yeast – sin into the church , and that  sin will spread like yeast in the congregation . 
Somehow  we have  adopted  the idea that  we should tolerate sin in our churches , and that doing so,  we  help  such people .
But the opposite is actually happening . This is damaging the church!  We are not talking here about  members who sin and immediately repent  and do the right thing . We  are talking about members who willfully  continue to sin without repenting  :   They  continue  in  sexual  sin ; they  habitually get  drunk  ;  a   greed driven business man who  earns money dishonestly ;  a person  that  is  continually  slandering others.  The third  point is that we must  stop such people . It  would be arrogant to let this continue.
4. When a unrepentant member sins  we  remove our most precious gift -  our fellowship (9-11)  “ I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of 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.
 If you  have  known the beauty of relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ and have tasted the sweetness of that kind of relationship, it should almost destroy you to think that you  are being removed from it.
Paul tells the Corinthians  to take  strong action  against a person  who is morally  impure. He  says that the church is not even to eat with such a one. We have seen that several strong statements  are made in this regard  .
When  we discipline a person who is not repenting, we must  come to that place where we  will excommunicate him / her.  That means that he / she must be removed from  the membership roll of the church, and be told to leave . The  language is awfully strong  here :  "purge  the evil person from among you ." "Do not even associate with them." "Do not even eat with them." They are  not welcome to worship  with us in that frame of mind .  We remove our most  precious gift from them  - in the hope, of course  that they do repent  !

5. Failure to   apply discipline to sinning members  is disobedience towards  God (vv 12-13)  “ For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges  those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
We have considered v. 12  under point #2 . I want  to close  by reminding you of the importance  of purging evil from our midst .  It is  not just about the person  that keeps on sinning willfully  that must be removed  . It is also for the good of the church  . God intends for His church to be pure (holy) as he is pure (holy)   . If we ignore that  we will compromise the holiness of the church.  And so we are commanded  to "  purge the evil person from among us  “  . In this Paul  quotes a biblical precedent, often repeated  ,  from the   book  of  Deuteronomy.  And  the purpose  for this  purging was , so that the covenant community might stay holy and obedient to God .  May God help us not to compromise the holiness of His church by failing to discipline sinning members . 

No comments: