1 Corinthians 5
"Church discipline is not a group of 'pious policeman' out to catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted brothers and sisters
seeking to restore an erring member of the family."
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1 Co 5-6)
Members of the church in Corinth did not want to face the sin of the incestuous relationship between a man and his stepmother. In addition, they did not mourn the sin! This sin is condemned in Leviticus 18:6-8 and 20:11. Even the pagan Gentile nations had laws against it (Cicero Cluentes 6. 15 and Gaius Institutis 1. 63)!
The first steps in confronting a brother or sister had already been given them by Jesus. Here is what I wrote when we covered the book of Matthew earlier in the year:
Jesus teaches how to treat a believer who sins: Matthew 18:15-20
This is what Jesus teaches us to do when another believer sins against us or causes us to stumble:
- Go in private and seek reconciliation by gently correcting (Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1).
- If the person absolutely refuses after many attempts at reconciliation, get help from one or two others (Matthew 18:16).
In this chapter, Paul followed up with what happens after the church leaders intervene:
The goal is NOT to win an argument but to win a brother or sister!
- If the person refuses to seek reconciliation with God and others after exhaustive attempts, ask church leaders to intervene in order to have them hold the person accountable to Scripture (Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-16; 2 Timothy 2:23-26; Titus 3:10).
We will learn later steps as we continue in the New Testament:
- Remove the one in sin from the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:2-13).
- Reject a factious man after two warnings (Titus 3:10).
- Do not associate with the disobedient person so that he will be put to shame; if you cannot avoid him, admonish him as a brother and not an enemy since the goal is that he come back into fellowship (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15).
The goal is always love and restoration of the person in sin! Read the Warren Weirsbe quote at the beginning of this post again!
- Forgive, comfort, and reaffirm your love to the one who was in sin but has repented (2 Corinthians 2:5-8).
1 Corinthians 6
Paul did not think that believers should take other believers to court because:
- If the judge and jury are not Christians, they are not likely to be sensitive to Christian values.
- The basis for going to court is often revenge which is not a Christlike motive.
- The church's reputation is damaged in front of a watching world. (Adapted from The Life Application Bible, p. 2069)
Paul suggests arbitration before a church body. See the link in the Reflection section below for more about this and other peacemaking responses.
The last part of 1 Corinthians 6 contains a list of immoral behaviors. There is no hierarchy of sin on these behaviors. No sin is worse than the other. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, and none of us would be righteous, washed, and sanctified if not for the blood of Jesus Christ! We need to pray for those lost in sin!
Church discipline is so yucky. I don't think anyone "enjoys" it!
As I already did in 1 Corinthians 1, I urge you to read The Peacemaker. It is on my top five books every follower of Christ should read!
Here is also a PDF of a pamphlet I use when I do peacemaker counseling:
The second page on the PDF has an explanation of different "Peacemaking Responses" that were covered in the post from today. It is a great guide to carry with you and share with others. I hand them out like candy!
Lord, I pray that we would all have a humble attitude for those in sin. Teach us how to lovingly confront in a way that will bring about reconciliation with You and others. Help us to not be resistant to confrontation, knowing that it is Your intervention of love in our lives because You want to be close to us and each other. Amen.