Dealing With The Disorderly
The Bible implicitly states that if you, as a Christian, are living wicked, depraved, or degenerate lifestyles, then you are living in the wrong kingdom. You are in the Devil's kingdom if you are living that kind of life. The church at Corinth faced the very grievous problem of a man living sexually with his father's wife! Sadly, every Christian in Corinth knew about this wickedness that had infected the church. This matter had become common knowledge. This was an evil so great that even non Christians would avoid it. It had become a great scandal against the church of our Lord. God had given a principle in Deuteronomy 27:20 that this man was violating. He had said, "Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen." Instead of dealing with the situation the brethren at Corinth were filled with pride. They ought to have been troubled over it; they should have been mourning, but instead, what were they doing? They were indulging their own pride. They had become vainly self-confident by their own "spiritual purity." Paul wanted to know why they had not mourned enough to take care of the problem that existed in the church. In the church, acts of discipline should always take place with a spirit of mourning that there has to be any discipline at all, not with a spirit of pride, anger, or revenge. There should be deep grief on the part of the church that there is the occasion for discipline, and, of course, only a spirit of tender compassion for the one that has offended God can exist.
The need for church discipline at Corinth: There was a terrible sin that was destroying the church at Corinth. Paul said, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife." (1 Corinthians 5:1) Paul said this sin was so evil that even the heathens would not allow it to happen or participate in it. The nature of the sin was horrible. A brother in Christ was living in sexual immorality with his own mother or his stepmother. The man and the woman involved in the sin were to be blamed for their evil. Likewise, the entire church was to be blamed for the complacency with which they had looked upon such a horrible sin. The sin of a brother committing fornication with his father’s wife was shocking to Paul. He was even more shocked by the attitude of the church toward this matter. He said, "Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:2) Due to their own pride and spiritual indifference, the church at Corinth had not removed this brother from its fellowship.
The command from God to practice discipline: Speaking words inspired by God, Paul told the church that they should call a special meeting and deal with this matter. "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Corinthians 5:3-5) Observe these truths about what should take place: (1) God gave the local congregation authority to practice discipline. (2) The discipline was to be carried out "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." They had the authority of Christ Himself to withdraw from this offending brother. (3) The offending brother was to be delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This had happened to Ananias and Sapphira. They died in Jerusalem for the sin of lying to God. (Acts 5) (4) At best, the sinful man was delivered to Satan. He was to suffer physical affliction, the purpose of which was to bring him to repentance and turn out for the good of his soul.
The reason for church discipline: The first purpose of church discipline is the salvation of the offending brother. God still wants this brother saved. Another reason for discipline is to keep the sin from spreading in the church. Paul said, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) The idea was that the spiritual cancer must be cut out in order to keep it from spreading. The church must be kept pure in order that brethren will continue in Christ, the Christian's Passover. They were to purge out the sin just as the Jews were to purge out the leaven from their houses before that Passover. They were to literally engage in the service of God by putting away evil from the church.
The extent of church discipline: The church had authority from God to practice discipline only among its members. Paul is not talking about the church dealing with fornicators of the world. He said, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) The church must practice discipline among its members. It has an obligation to withdraw its fellowship from those that cannot be reached with more moderate approaches. It is imperative that the conduct of the church be such that “the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed.” (1 Timothy 6:1) Yet, we have not done well in the practice of consistent church discipline. Is it any wonder that the church is weaker today than it has been in past decades? Withdrawing fellowship from a sinful brother is not an act of revenge against those that have fallen from the faith. It is an act of love designed to restore the fallen brother and it is also an act designed to protect the church from his sinful practice.
Will you appreciate Jesus enough that you will receive Him as your Lord and Savior NOW? To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21). After your baptism use your life to honor God and to help build up His blood, bought church!
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037