Church discipline

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.13.17

How Should We Respond to Sin in Others?   

 

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

“Don’t judge me” . . “Be more tolerant” . . “Coexist” . . “You’re an extremist”.

These are common allegations that Christians often struggle to answer. As Paul corrects the Corinthians lack of response to sin in their midst, he helps us answers those concerns we may not know how to answer.

 

Why is Paul Upset?

A church member is sexually involved with his stepmother, which violated Jewish and Roman law

His father died or is an unbeliever, and the stepmother is apparently not in church

Paul was offended by this sin, and their lack of response

Paul accuses them of ‘arrogance’ v2 and ‘boasting’ v6

They were taking pride in their tolerance, or more likely, this is further proof that their sense of maturity is empty

Either way, pride has led them to a perspective of inaction

This scene is a strong example for why pride is dangerous

Instead of holding a perspective that exalts God, pride holds to our own thinking

If we love God, we will hate sin (anything that rebels against God)

v2 humility would not only ‘mourn’ the sin, it would act to ‘remove’ it. This is because humility submits to and fully embraces God’s ways

 

Paul guides them in ways we may need clarity

1.  Paul Addresses Judging One Another 

The Corinthians failed to correctly assess the situation, Paul didn’t v3

v12 instructs us to ‘judge’ fellow-believers. Yet elsewhere Jesus and Paul say “Don’t judge”. What are we to do?

We saw the answer in 4:6, when Paul told them not to go “beyond what is written”

God is the Judge v13. When we repeat what’s ‘written’, we are not judging – we are faithfully echoing his judgments

We cannot live obedient and discerning lives unless we apply God’s judgments

However, holding people to our standards and opinions is improper judgment

If we love God more than ourselves, we will be grateful for biblical correction from others

2.  Paul Addresses Church Discipline   

Paul gives the church specific action to take vs 4-5. It’s the ultimate action Jesus tells us to take with believers who don’t repent (Matthew 18:15-17)

Notice when there is serious and unrepentant sin, the whole church (believers) is called to participate v4

To “deliver over to Satan” is to put them out of the fellowship and care of the church

They should never be out of our hearts or prayers. Rather church discipline is a time that guides and unites us in prayer for them

“But that’s not loving.” God knows what is loving far better than you. His purpose is greater than for their comfort, it is for their soul’s eternal condition

The ultimate purpose of discipline is always gospel fulfillment v5 (this is also true for discipline of our children)

In the church today, discipline is widely ignored, because it is hard, messy and potentially explosive. But we don’t want to be guilty of v2

3.  Paul Addresses Zeal for Purity vs 6-8

Paul points out the broader context of why the church must respond. The nature of sin is to aggressively spread. A little sin acts like “leaven”

v7-8 Paul refers to the Passover festival to illustrate our new life in Christ

At Passover, all leaven was removed from the house. It symbolized putting away all sin to follow God

We cleanse out the old leaven, so we can have a “new lump” made with new leaven v7

Just as sin spreads so should the “new lump” of zealous purity

Purity and zeal should not be fearful or limiting concepts to us. In truth they are freeing and fulfilling!

4.  Paul Addresses Coexistence vs 9-13

Christ is Lord of all, he has authority over everyone. Matthew 28 says in his “authority’”, he sends us with the gospel to “make disciples”

Unbelievers are not disciples, they are under judgment and outside the church

To them we are ambassadors for Christ

We have authority from Christ to freely offer the gospel to them

Those in the church, claim to be disciples

They are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom

This brings them under the authority of the local church as we exercise the rules and benefits of Scripture for the church

We are to mourn what grieves God, wherever it is found

We are to celebrate what honors God, and spread it wherever we can

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

Church Discipline

That’s a phrase that will instill dread into the heart of the most seasoned pastor or church leader.

There are good reasons and bad reasons for this.

The Good Reason is that it means a church member whom you love has become snared in serious and unrepentant sin. This rightly grieves the soul.

The Bad Reason is that the actions church discipline requires are not only unpleasant, they are explosive!

Some people think you are being too hard, some people think you are being too easy. The pastor and church leader who is trying to be faithful to the commands of God’s Word ends up being attacked as if they are the guilty party.

At Greentree, we take church discipline serious, because the alternative is to disobey God and fail our church family – including the guilty person.

Over the years there have been a couple times I have had to ask a church member to forgive me because I did not confront their sinful behavior out of my own fear. I had failed to be a faithful pastor to them.

Church discipline is a process we approach slowly with an abundance of prayer and conversation. We try to give time for grace and the Holy Spirit to work, but eventually if repentance doesn’t come forth, we have to move in. The entire process is heart wrenching for us; from the moment we become aware of the sin, through all of the conversations, prayers and actions.

Jonathan Leeman wrote this article entitled “22 Mistakes Pastors Make in Practicing Church Discipline”. The article is not as long as it sounds. The items are in list form.

Although the article is geared for pastors, I think it is good for all church members to read. It will help you understand how to support your pastors and be a healthy influence in your church. And if necessary, you will understand what accountability your pastors may need from you.

Leeman’s article is also beneficial for all of us as we take biblical community seriously, which means we cannot run when uncomfortable situations arise. Rather we are called to stick it out through joy and sorrow with those God has knit us to in the body of Christ.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”   Ephesians 4:15-16