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 Study No. 2       Church Discipline      

 

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT)  

 

BIBLICAL FOCUS:   1 Corinthians 5 & 6    

 

1.THE DIFFICULTY  (vs. 1,2)  

 

There is a double difficulty here that Paul must expose and challenge:-  

 

a) A man was having a sexual affair with his step-mother (v.1)  

b)The attitude of the church to the situation (v.2)  

 

Even though Corinth was a 'fleshpot' in the ancient world, even the so-called 'pagans' had certain standards and one of them was not to commit incest (v.1).  A sin that the non-Christian world shunned had invaded the church.  But the attitude of the church was perhaps even more incredible! Could it be that broad-mindedness and tolerance that is so lauded today were part of the scene then and are not so new after all?   The church chose to excuse rather than to excommunicate.Paul contrasted the attitude of arrogance with what should have been presenti.e.mourning and grieving over such an offence without being condemnatory.  

 

2.THE DOCTRINE  (5:6-13;6:9-20)  

 

a)  Immorality in the church must be treated like leaven in the Passover Feast (vs. 6- 8) where the Jews were scrupulous in avoiding any contact with leaven.  

b)  Separation has a definite place in the life of the believer (vs. 9-13). Note the distinction between believers and unbelievers in this section. In what ways have we tended to reverse the principle of separation as set out in these verses? Notice also that such separation applies not just to sexual sin there are other sins mentioned that require action on the part of the Church.  

c)  This distinction is further emphasised in 6:1-8 which tends to be a digression from the point but it does illustrate that there is a great gap between the church and the world. How can two professing believers take a dispute to secular authorities for arbitration? Such action is a total contradiction so far as Paul is concerned.  

d) High standards of moral purity must be maintained (6:9-20) because they now belong to Christ. Greek philosophy saw the body as something evil and the idea of it being a 'member of Christ' (v. 15) and 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' (v. 19) was quite revolutionary.        

 

3.THE DECISION  

 

The decision was to excommunicate the member.

* "...let him be removed from among you..." (5:2)

* "...hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh..." (5:5)

* "...purge out the old leaven..." (5:11)

* "...you must not associate with him..." (5:11)

* "...expel that wicked person from your company..." (5:13)  

 

Although excommunication is not a biblical word, it certainly is a biblical concept (see Matthew 18:15-17). It would seem wise that 3 aspects be noted before action is taken:-

a)There must be no doubt that such a sin has been/is being committed.  

b)The problem must be a 'recognised sin' before action is taken. In other words, we must learn to distinguish between primary and secondary issues. The sin must be clearly condemned by the teaching of Scripture.  

c)  Such an offence needs to be measurable. It is very difficult to measure envy, lust, pride, hypocrisy etc in their unexpressed forms.  

 

There are two basic purposes in such discipline:-  

*Correction (5:5) Compare this with Galatians 6:1,2.  Such discipline is meant to heal the wound in the Body of Christ- not fester it (2 Cor. 2:5-8)  

*Protection (5:6,7)  There are times when the church's testimony and the Lord's glory need to be protected.  Also members need to be protected from the same sin and its contaminating effects.    

 

THINK TANK  

1.  In your opinion, why is church discipline so rarely practiced today?  

2.  Make a list of the things that might arise in a church that may need correction and could lead to excommunication.  

3.  What happens to a church that constantly shirks its responsibility in this area of church discipline?  

4.  What are the main dangers involved for members in a church that seeks to take this matter of discipline seriously?  

5.  Matthew 18:15-17 - list the procedure set out for addressing grievances.        

 

HOMEWORK FOR NEXT WEEK...READ CHAPTER 7  

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