The way Christ guards the holiness of the church is by the use of the neglected grace of Church Discipline. It is driven by salvation of the sinner and the holiness of the church.
What gets in the way of resolving some conflict is when the church remains silent and fails to discipline.
My first minister used to be an electrician, he knew a builder who did work for a couple in his church. They failed to pay him for his work, they owed him $20,000. The minister asked the builder will you take them to court? And he said that the bible does not allow me to sue Christians. The builder absorbed the injury and forgave them. I love and don’t love that story. Why wasn’t this couple disciplined by their church? Every organisation has boundary markers and each one has a set of expectations, they define who is in and who is out and sometimes expelling members becomes necessary to guard the group.
So when a member of a club keeps breaking its rules they are asked to leave
a. To preserve the values of a group
Political groups expel their members when they fail to maintain the core ideals of its party.
b. Sometimes it’s to protect the other members.
A school will expel a violent child to protect the other students
c. Sometimes it's to punish the person for breaking the group’s rules.
As a society, we expel criminals to jail, in part to punish them for the crimes they have committed.
If expelling people from groups is important for the health of any group, it is no less important for the church. It’s just that we do it for different reasons. The church reformers in the 16th century said that one of the marks of a true church is church discipline. You cannot have a holy church if you are not prepared to discipline.
Let go to the feral church at Corinth.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)
They have a reputation but it’s not a good one, the nature of the sexual sin is that a man is having sex with his step mum. The Father maybe dead because he is not mentioned, the woman herself must be a non-Christian because she is not disciplined.
What makes it worse is that ... you won’t even find it among the non-Christians
… and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife ~1 Corinthians 5:1b (NIV)
These Corinthians were worse than the world. Even the non-Christians were shocked by this sin, a man has his fathers wife and you are proud. They have confused their freedom from sin with the freedom to sin. Coming to Jesus was a free ticket to sleep with whoever you want.
The church is not just tolerating it but celebrating it. This church was out of control.
For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. ~1 Corinthians 5:3 (NIV)
So much for do not judge. Paul doesn't say wait till I get to Corinth and when I have gathered all the information, I will form a committee and we will write up a report and then make a recommendation.
I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. Why? because God already has.
“Do not have sexual relations with your fathers wife; that would dishonour your father.” ~Leviticus 18:8 (NIV)
The proper response is grief, not boasting. Grieve like you would the death of a member of your family. Weep because those who don't repent place themselves back on the express lane to hell.
When Ravi Zararius was exposed, and it is so upsetting, the action to be taken is described in a range of ways, but it’s the same thing.
… put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? ~1 Corinthians 5:2 (NIV)
…hand this man over to Satan, ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
… [do] not to associate with sexually immoral people ~1 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV)
… Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)
... Expel the wicked person from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:13 (NIV)
In Matthew 18:15 Jesus makes it clear that expulsion is the last word and not the first.
Church discipline begins with a private rebuke. If that fails, then take two or three witnesses and if that fails, then and only then take it to the church. Treat them as an unbeliever.
…hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
The goal is to save the man not punish him. We are not a bikie gang that breaks the legs of those who break the club’s rules.
There is a tribe on Lake Titicaca in Peru where they live on man-made grass islands. When the tribe has a fallout with a family they literally cut them off and let them float away. There is no going back! Church discipline is always done so that they can repent and be restored, that is why it is done with grief and tears and not joy. It is not out of revenge it’s about repentance and salvation.
I interviewed Hadyn, from Liberty ministry. He confessed Christ but kept engaging in one night stands with other guys. When I asked him what was most helpful? He said when his minister threatened to discipline him.
Church discipline is loving. I don’t know how many people have thanked me for loving them by speaking the hard word. Expulsion gives a taste of the final judgment and it’s loving.
To one man who was disciplined and repented Paul says in the second letter…
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. ~2 Corinthians 2:7 (NIV)
Once the man repents we are not to rub his nose in it. To discipline is to love the sinner. To not do it wounds the church.
The first reason is to save his soul and the second reason is to keep the church holy.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. ~1 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NIV)
Yeast is a living organism that will reproduce on its own, making bread rise. The yeast refers to sin and the dough points to the church. Paul doesn’t want the yeast of sin to spread and infect the rest of the church.
Remember this church like MBM was called to be holy.
… called to be holy, ~1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)
Church discipline not only loves the sinner but it protects the rest of the congregation.
Imagine we have wife swapping happening in church and said nothing about it, did nothing about it. No one would be protected. Every year we shepherds are watching the wolves and keeping them out to protect the sheep. This is the neglected grace of Church discipline that helps the church to be like Christ and not the world.
The yeast was taken out of bread during the 7 day Jewish feast of unleavened bread. At the heart of the feast was the annual Passover meal, it was the feast that remembered how Gods people escaped death in Egypt. The Jews escaped Egypt by killing a lamb and pouring its blood on the doorpost. When God’s angel came to judge, He passed over every home that placed the blood of the lamb on the doorpost. They were saved.
Now Christ is our Passover lamb. At the cross Gods judgment Passover over you by being poured on his Son 2000 years ago at the cross once for all. That is why you can’t make God angry, Jesus drank the cup of Gods anger in your place. He drank, so continue to celebrate the feast 24/7 by sincerity and truth.
If Christ died for sin then we die to sin.
When we don’t take a stand, we don’t love Jesus, we don’t love the person who sinned and we don’t love the rest of the congregation.
We are not to judge a person for their motives. That is for the Lord. We are not to judge the world that does not have the Spirit. It is only for those who carry the name ‘brother.’
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. ~1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV)
We constantly have non Christians coming to us who are greedy, who get drunk, lie and cheat, and sleep around. Hear me now, we won’t judge you, we love having you with us. But we judge those who call themselves a Christian and want to justify their sinful choices. That is what is unacceptable.
Put it this way, if you call yourself a Christian and want fellowship with us but justify your sinful behaviour then one of these will have to go, either stop calling yourself a Christian, stop fellowship with us, or our preference is – stop justifying your sin. If you don’t you are under God's wrath and we want you in heaven with us. This judgment is only for believers, we are not called to be the worlds spiritual cop
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ~1 Corinthians 5:12-13b (NIV)
It also critical that we don’t confuse Christians struggling with sin and those who justify their sin. If we expel those who battle with sin, what would happen? we would have expelled each other, no one would be left at church.
Church discipline is not for saints who sin but for those who are proud of being able to sin and claim the name, Christian.
This is not about the man who has slipped up one day but a man who has his father's wife.
This is a settled state of disobedience.
It is not about a man who has gotten drunk it is about a drunkard. It is not about a man who committed a sexual sin it is about a person who is sexually immoral. Otherwise, no one could turn up for church.
What does it look like? Most who fall into sin withdraw themselves. Few justify sin and then want to stick around at church.
We physically don’t pick up someone and kick them out of our Sunday services. We don’t act rudely to them when we see them at shops. We don’t ignore them on the side of the road if their car has a flat.
We speak and act with grace, we make it clear that we are not on the same page. We can’t have fellowship. You are not my brother or sister in the Lord. We will urge you to not take the Lord’s supper, you will not be able to serve at church, you cannot attend growth groups
We keep pleading for repentance and if there is repentance then we celebrate like mad.
Friends, this is God word, will you obey it? Will you be committed to the holiness of the church?
I remember the first time I had to do it, a man in growth group had left his wife and was living with another woman. He called himself a Christian and assumed nothing would change. I spoke with him. The week before a man gave his testimony, he shared how he had been attending church for 2 years but realised he had not repented. I used his example and said do you think you have repented. I thought the same thing. I said you need to stop sinning, or stop calling yourself a Christian or leave growth group. One of those 3 will have to go. He stopped calling himself a Christian, that was good, no pretending.
The two best days in life is the day you know you’re not a Christian and the day you become one. Months later he repented and left that relationship, he has been with us ever since, strong in the Lord.
Don’t neglect the surprising grace of church discipline.