Church Discipline - Part 2

Previously, I wrote about the importance of the disposition of the heart in church discipline. In this series of articles I want to expand on that a bit further with regards to the major biblical teaching on Church discipline.

Part 1, covered Matthew 18:15-35, and Part 2 will cover 1 Corinthians 5. Part 3 will look at the practical application of discipline.

The Corinthian church had many problems one of which was not dealing with persistent sin in their midst. In chapter 5 we find a particularly startling example.
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. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who had done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor. 5:1-2)
It appears that the church in Corinth was arrogant with regards to their spirituality. They thought they had it all together when really they should have been in mourning that such a sin could be in their midst. They didn't understand that one person's sin left unjudged would eventually corrupt the rest of them. Not only that, but by not judging this man, they were exposing him to God's judgment on the day of the Lord. We can see from this that God uses church discipline as a way to restore those who profess His name. Church discipline is not for outsiders but for insiders.
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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you" (1 Cor. 5:11 -13)
It is important to note that the verses above are not one-time sins by individuals, rather these individuals are characterized by their sin, idolater, reviler, drunkard... To apply this teaching of shunning to every sin would leave churches empty. It would be like taking a person's driver's license away every time they cut someone off on the road and refusing to let them drive until they took a driving course. On the flip side, if a person is known for cutting people of regularly they should take a driving course.

Church discipline in 1 Corinthians is needed not only for the person who's life is characterized by sin, but also to protect the church from the spread of sin. Chapter 5 should not be applied in all circumstances. It would be the wrong application to not eat with someone because they cheated one time on a math test, however it would be properly to someone's life who is characterized by cheating.


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