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Message # 19 | 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 | June 12, 2016

Introduction

We all sin – regularly.  Sometimes those sins are, from our perspective, quite dramatic and carry severe consequences.  This reality shouldn’t shock us.  After all, we realize that while we are believers we, we still have the flesh present within us and we are waiting our final redemption by Christ.

What has shocked me at times . . . the ways believers respond to their sin.  There are times when a believer comes and confesses a sin with a tone of grief and repentance.  I’m not ever surprised by this and it’s a wonderful part of being a pastor – in that I am part of people’s confession and repentance.

There are other times when someone comes and acknowledges a sin in their life but they don’t think it’s wrong.  Those times are a little bit more challenging, but I’m still not surprised.  We are amazing at justifying our sins.  Most often, when a believer is shown from God’s word where they are wrong they acknowledge that and take steps towards fighting it.

What has surprised me . . . believers who seem to boast in the midst of their sin.  Either they don’t even realize it’s sin and they are proud of it . . . or they value transparency more than purity.  In our present culture transparency seems to be the greatest virtue . . . almost to the point where “as long as I’m transparent, I can do anything I want and you have to understand and not judge me – after all I was transparent.”  In this chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with a sin that seems to shock him, and he was concerned about the negative ramifications to both the unrepentant sinner and the rest of the church.

Read Passage:  1 Corinthians 5:1–8 (ESV) 1 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. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Purpose Statement:  Unrepentant Sin is not to be tolerated in the church.

Message Outline

The nature of the sexual sin.

It was probably not his mother or else it would have been incest

His father was either dead or no longer married to her or it would have been adultery (μοιχεύw).

She was probably not a Christian because there is no direction in dealing with her.

The practice is forbidden in Leviticus 18:8

Leviticus 18:8 (ESV) You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.

It was of such a nature that even the unbelieving world condemned it.

The present infinitive (exein) seems to indicate that this sin is ongoing, not a onetime event, and clearly not unrepentant. This is a key point in the passage.

This unrepentant man seems to be one of the two primary people motivating both 1 and 2 Corinthians. Paul has dealt with false teachers in the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians and the last 4 chapters of 2 Corinthians . . . he now is dealing with a specific individual that seems to as well be the man mentioned in both 2 Corinthians 2 and 7.

Inappropriate Attitude Towards Unrepentant Sin

The Offender Lacked Repentance

While sexual immorality was the specific sin in this case, any unrepentant sin is not to be tolerated.  The key to understanding and applying this passage correctly is realizing that Paul is referring to ongoing unrepentant sin.  Dealing with repentant sin in the church is entirely different than someone who is in ongoing unrepentant sin.  If we dealt with repentant sin in the way this passage is going to outline, we would end up having no one in the church and we’d all have to avoid each other.

This passage is an example of Matthew 18 being followed.  It is consistent with Matthew 18 but has less information and guidance . . .

Matthew 18:15–18 (ESV) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Step # 1: The process of church discipline begins on an individual level.  We can often think of church discipline as being very broad and involving the whole church and primarily the church leadership.  This is not the case.  Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (vs 15).  If he repents, praise the Lord, extend forgiveness, and be restored to your brother.

Step # 2:  If he does not repent when approached alone, we are directed to take one more believers along to once again confront him – always in a spirit of humility and gentleness.  Verse 16 offers the reason for taking a couple of witnesses, so that “every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”  Therefore, they are present not only as witnesses that the sin was committed but that the offender was confronted and did or did not repent.  Once again, if he repents, extend forgiveness and restoration.  The event is over.

Step # 3:  If the offender continues in his rebellion, the incident is brought to the church.  There is some debate as to what this looks like.  Some bring it to the entire church and others bring it to the elders at this point.  Our practice here would be to have the issue brought to the elders and they would decide how, when, and if the whole church would be informed.  Throughout this process, at any time that the offender displays and communicates repentance the process would be stopped, but if not . . .

Step # 4: The offender is removed from fellowship from the church.  They are told to treat the offender as a Gentile and a tax collector.

GTY:  The term “Gentile” was primarily used of non-Jews who held to their traditional paganism and had no part in the covenant, worship, or social life of the Jews. On the other hand, a “tax-gatherer” was an outcast from the Jews by choice, having become a traitor to his own people. Jesus’ use of these terms doesn’t mean that the church is to treat these people badly. It simply means that when a professing believer refuses to repent, the church is to treat him as if he were outside of the fellowship. They are not to let him associate and participate in the blessings and benefits of the Christian assembly.[1]

Got Questions Ministries: The process of church discipline is never pleasant just as a father never delights in having to discipline his children. Sometimes, though, church discipline is necessary. The purpose of church discipline is not to be mean-spirited or to display a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, the goal of church discipline is the restoration of the individual to full fellowship with both God and other believers. The discipline is to start privately and gradually become more public. It is to be done in love toward the individual, in obedience to God, and in godly fear for the sake of others in the church.[2]

The Church Was Arrogant

Not only did they tolerate it, they were arrogant about its presence in the church.  It seems most likely that the church saw their dealings with this man as some type of wonderful expression of patience and tolerance.  They probably considered themselves loving and understanding.  They may have thought, “We have an open mind.  We’re not judgmental.”

Barrett:  It could be regarded as an example of the freedom of which they were proud.  They were now spiritual persons, and what they did with their bodies was no longer significant, except in so far as it could demonstrate how completely they had transcended the old moral restrictions of conventional religious life, Jewish and pagan alike.[3]

Tolerance – when it comes to unrepentant sin – is not spiritual maturity or grace.  It hinders the spiritual development of the unrepentant sinner and it hurts the health of the church as a whole. We’ll talk more about this shortly.

Appropriate Attitude Towards Unrepentant Sin

Grief

They should have mourned the presence of sin in the church.  There was nothing in this situation to be arrogant about.  There were no grounds for assessing the church as spiritual mature based on their tolerance and love.  They should have instead been grieving that this sin was present and that it was being ignored or overlooked.

Judgment

The reality of judgment

Paul’s voice is just one.  He clearly makes a firm decision, but he leaves it up to the whole church to come to a decision and act upon that decision.   This is consistent with all other passages in the NT concerning church discipline.  We will be looking at this idea with more depth next week as we finish up the rest of chapter 5.

Bible.org:  Perhaps no verse is so taken out of context and misapplied as Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” If you keep reading, in verse 6 Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine” In verse 15 He adds, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” To obey those verses, you must make some fairly astute judgments! You must judge that a person is a dog or a swine or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul tells the church that they are responsible to judge those within the church. Practicing biblical church discipline does not violate Jesus’ command, “Judge not.”  I realize that for some of you who do not have much background in the Bible, this topic will sound as if we’re trying to revive the Salem witch trials or the Inquisition. But the Bible is our standard for faith and practice and it has much to say about this subject.[4]

Next week we are going to take a deeper look into this idea of judging, but this week we’ll just consider two things in reference to judgment dealt out by the church, (1) it is for the benefit of the individual and (2) it is for the purity of the church.

The purpose of judgment

(1)  For the benefit of the individual.

Calvin: An “end of discipline is, that the sinner may be ashamed, and begin to repent of his turpitude [wickedness]. Hence it is for their interest also that their iniquity should be chastised, that whereas they would have become more obstinate by indulgence, they may be aroused by the rod. . . . when he says that he had delivered the Corinthian to Satan, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus,” (1 Cor. 5:5;) that is, as I interpret it, he gave him over to temporal condemnation, that he might be made safe for eternity. And he says that he gave him over to Satan because the devil is without the Church, as Christ is in the Church.” [5]

(2)  For the purity of the church. Paul offers some logic for his analogy . . .

1 Corinthians 5:6–8 (ESV) 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

(1)  The reality of a little leaven leavening a whole lump being symbolic of one unrepentant sinner affecting the whole church.

Barrett: a small quantity of yeast is sufficient to impregnate a whole lump of dough, and one corrupt member is sufficient to corrupt a whole church. . . . This is not the only time that Paul uses this analogy of leaven in the context of church discipline (Gal 5:9).  Barrett says, “In Jewish circles leaven was a natural image for evil because all leaven had to be removed from the house before the Passover could be celebrated.”[6]

Constable: It was not good for the Corinthians to feel proud of their permissiveness (cf. v. 2). Sin spreads in the church as yeast does in dough (cf. Gal. 5:9; Mark 8:15). Eventually the whole moral fabric of the congregation would suffer if the believers did not expunge this sin.[7]

(2)  The concept of the Passover . . . The Jews prepared their homes for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread by getting rid of all leaven in the house.  This Passover celebration was a remembrance of the deliverance they had experienced in Egypt.  It was an act of worship to a gracious God.  In the same way, we celebrate our deliverance from sin through Christ and we are to rid ourselves of sin . . . personally rid ourselves of sin . . . and rid the church of unrepentant sinners.

(3)  The ongoing sense of our festival in comparison to the once a year celebration of Passover.

Chrysostom: It is festival, therefore, the whole time in which we live. . . . the whole of time is a festival unto Christians, because of the excellency of the good things which have been given. For what hath not come to pass that is good? The Son of God was made man for thee; He freed thee from death; and called thee to a kingdom. Thou therefore who hast obtained and art still obtaining such things, how can it be less than thy duty to “keep the feast” all thy life?[8]

Conclusion

There is a beautiful end to this man’s story!  The man does repent and the church needs to be directed to forgiveness.  Paul tells us of this in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 2:5–8 (ESV) 5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.

 

[1] A Grace Community Church Distinctive, Grace Community Church, accessed May 10, 2016, http://www.gty.org/resources/distinctives/DD02/church-discipline

[2] What Does the Bible Say About Church Discipline, Got Questions Ministries, accessed May 10, 2016, http://www.gotquestions.org/church-discipline.html

[3] Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 122.

[4] Cole, Stephen J. “Dealing With Sinning Christians: An Overview of Church Discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13).” Bible.org. Bible.org, n.d. Web. 10 June 2016.

[5] Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1845). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 3, pp. 251–252). Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society.

[6] Barrett, The First Epistle of the Corinthians, 127.

[7] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 Corinthians, 51.

[8] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. In P. Schaff (Ed.), H. K. Cornish, J. Medley, & T. B. Chambers (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians (Vol. 12, pp. 85–86). New York: Christian Literature Company.

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