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Striving for Holiness Through Church Discipline: The Application

The Church of Corinth; Struggling to be in the world but not of the world  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  54:51
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Ermine (stoat)
cold climate weasel that protects the purity of its coat.
The Need: (1-5)
The Picture: (6-8)
The Church benefits from Paul’s words of application as we consider how to strive for holiness through Church Discipline.

1. The Recipients of Church Discipline

Paul begins by referencing his previous letter as it has been called. It sounds like he previously told the church at Corinth to stay away from those immoral people. To not associate means to not mix up with socially or mingle with. Following the clarity of what Paul has written here in 1 Corinthians, these believers in Corinth were not suffering from an unclear previous letter from Paul, they were suffering with prideful ear buds that kept them from hearing truth from the apostle.

A. Gospel Witness in the world (4 things)

Don’t leave the world
1 Corinthians 5:9–10 NASB95
9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
Paul has to clarify then with them what he is not meaning when he says “do not associate” so that the Corinthians do not lose their gospel witness. Paul lists four types of people in the world.
the immoral of the world
the covetous (greedy) of the world: desire and cheat those who have what they want
the swindlers of the world: the word here means to rob, seize, steal by force at times
Idolators of the world
Now we know that our world’s makeup is of people like this. Everywhere we turn we run into immoral, covetous, swindling idolators and what Paul wants to make clear in this passage is that he is not telling Corinth to stay clear of these unbelievers. He actually gives the reason why at the end of verse 10, to remove such people would actually mean the church would have to remove itself from the world. We know that the church had its purpose to be in the world but not of the world.
Jesus prayed in john 17:15 to the Father
John 17:15 NASB95
15 “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.
Paul makes clear as does Jesus that the church was left in the world after the ascension of Jesus to be the gospel witness to these types of people and our purpose is not to remove ourselves from being a positive influence in their lives.
A. Gospel Witness in the world
Don’t leave the world
Don’t look Like the World
1 Peter 2:11–12 NASB95
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Instead of leaving or isolating ourselves from the world, believers in Jesus Christ are called instead to abstain from sin in our lives, so we don’t look like the world. When we live in sin, we look like the world and therefore our story looks like their story. But when we live in the world, but we live holy in the world, then we are radiant like snow that reflects the rays of the sun.
Too many churches want to look like the world to appeal to the world. That actually works for a time but God does not honor that blasphemy. God allowed Israel to have a king like the other nations as a judgment, but we know Saul was a disgrace to God and to God’s people, even though he had limited success. Don’t fall into the trap of seeing a growing church that looks like the world and even such a church. That temporary growth is only for a time and it is actually a judgment from God for their lust for worldly things.
A. Gospel Witness in the world
Don’t leave the world
Don’t look Like the World
Don’t love the world
1 John 2:15–17 NASB95
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Being in the world, but not of the world also means that we have to be careful to not love the things of the world. Being in the world is dangerous for the believer but necessary. The church must always be vigilant to stay ready with the word of God in their hearts so that they are not tempted to love the world instead of loving Christ.
This danger is why we homeschool our kids. We don’t hate public schools or public teachers but we see that public schools are not teaching our kids values that line up with God’s word. Instead, public school are going the opposite direction. Public schools are anti-Christ no matter how much we want to rationalize it. Their curriculum and many of their instructors are humanists, atheists, and now most recently Socialists. You might have teachers who are believers but they are forced to teach a curriculum that is anti-God. As the culture changes, we will see this more and more and the church culture will be forced to homeschool.
Friends, let me encourage you now, get your kids out of public school. They are being taught the very opposite of what Christ wants them to know and love. When we started homeschooling 18 years ago, people would say to us, “I want my kids to be missionaries in their school and show their friends the love of Jesus.” I get that sentiment, but just this past week, Pastor and Theologian Voddie Baucham made a clear statement that I want you to remember. He said, “our kids are not missionaries, they are the mission field.”
I know I might sound like I am contradicting myself here by saying that Jesus does not want us to leave or isolate ourselves from the world and yet I am telling you to rescue your kids from the clutches of atheistic, marxist, humanistic instruction in public schools. But remember, most of your kids are not believers, and when they become believers, they can only be missionaries after they are trained. Once trained, then they are ready to impact the world for Christ. Train them at home. Teach them the gospel. Let the gospel take root and grow. Once it has shown mature fruit, then send them out to be lights of the gospel in the world around them.
A. Gospel Witness in the world
Don’t leave the world
Don’t look Like the World
Don’t love the world
Don’t judge the world, warn them
Finally getting back to the text, Jesus says don’t judge the world in v 12-13
1 Corinthians 5:12–13 NASB95
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
Paul is not making a declaration about the church’s role in declaring truth in the world. The church cannot judge the world at this moment because the world not does not recognize its authority. But as Paul says in 1 Cor 6:2, in the final judgments the church will reign with Christ and play a part in judging the world, as they finally see Christ as Lord over all. Until then, the church rests in God’s ultimate and final judgment for their sin. We as faithful gospel witnesses are called to warn the world of the impending judgment, revealing the hope that Christ offers alone.

B. God’s Authority for the Church

Secondly and chiefly, Paul deals with the issue at hand, the instruction to remove those from the body of Christ because the Lord Jesus has spiritual authority over his body to met out such discipline. The Lord Jesus is the head of the church and therefore he rules over her. He gave his life for her and his discipline is necessary for her growth. This is not authoritarian dictatorship but sovereign love and compassion on her.
Jesus desires the good of its bride and holiness is for her greatest good. Therefore, through the human under-shepherds leadership, and the spiritual family participation, the act of church discipline which results in excommunication is an act of necessary love. Holiness is the key in the church and a necessary component of its growth in Christ. An unholy church is a diseased and dying one.
Therefore, God has given the church authority over one another because it belongs to Christ. It practices His authority in the lives of believers so that sin can be squashed in their lives. Because we are spiritually knit together, any sin that evades one life actually puts great risk to the whole.
This is also true of all our lives, not just our behavior. Life decisions we makes as believers should be made in community, not individually. I do not mean that you should call your small group up to decide what cereal to eat for breakfast or what dinner choices to add to your grocery list. But life decisions for one member affects the whole as well.
Relate this to your family. As you raise your kids, don’t you want to not only want to direct their behavior in relation to Christ, but their life decisions as well. Hasn’t the Lord given you authority in such a way that you are responsible to make sure their relationship choices, their career choices, their future choices all line up with the faith that they have in Christ?
Shouldn’t the church have that same interaction with choices in each one of our lives? There are more announcements about life decisions re: church members than there are evaluations before decisions are made. Hasn’t the Lord given spiritual authority to church leaders and to one another to speak truth and wisdom into each of our lives so that we make informed and wise decisions that honor the Lord.
Matthew 18:18–19 NASB95
18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

2. The Extent of Church Discipline

A. Remove Them

I do not want to belabor this point but this ultimately what Paul is rebuking the church in Corinth from failing to do. He has shown them the need for this removal. He has provided a great picture of the removal. Now he is practically describing what that removal looks like.
Do Not Associate as I said before means do not mingle or mix together. This is a clear break from the norm of life in order to demonstrate to the person the seriousness of sin. Paul uses the same word in 2 Thess
2 Thessalonians 3:14–15 NASB95
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
The shame is a swift reminder of sin’s great separating effect between God and man. If sin caused such separation, then a sinning brother requires a separation as well between the godly and the ungodly. Again, notice the spirit of Paul’s instruction and how it should be done with admonishment which includes love. When a lack of repentance ensues, and you consider them an unbeliever, then love still rules the day. You are called to reposition that relationship as one of gospel witness and not brotherly love.
Notice the OT quote, from Deuteronomy that Paul uses to give further evidence that such separation is a declaration that God’s holiness is worth such a painful divide. Look with me a few OT passages,
Deuteronomy 13:5 NASB95
5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.
Deuteronomy 17:2–7 NASB95
2 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. 6 “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Notice in just these verses, the community could not remain holy if evil people dwelt in their midst. The Lord instructed the people to bring His justice upon them because of their evil. Just as God used Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon as his instruments of justice, God also used his own people to bring retribution to evil persons in the community. Again, the community health was at stake and must be dealt with.
What was the punishment? Death! That may sound harsh to some but it is not. Death is what we all deserve and God was literally giving them death after mercifully giving them grace by engaging in a relationship with sinners. They were given opportunity to walk in faith and they refused the ways of the Lord. Death came to them earlier than expected but it was doled out by the community under the command of the Lord.

B. Reject Them

1 Corinthians 5:11 NASB95
11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Paul also states that not only should the church remove this unrepentant sinner from among them, but the church must reject fellowship with them as well. Some may say that Paul is saying the same thing here but notice he adds, “not even to eat with such a one.” This breaking of table fellowship was serious for this culture as it signified relationship between the Lord and one anther. To reject eating with them does not carry the same weight in the West but it was a clear break in the relationship.
Simon Kistemaker writes,
“In an eastern society, established norms of hospitality might not be broken. To not offer food to a relative, an acquaintance, or a guest could be interpreted as an act of war. Jesus’ parable of the friend at midnight indicates that a host would be willing to incur his neighbor’s displeasure in an effort to obtain food for his guest.”
I appreciate this addition because it not only challenges our Western practices of poor hospitality for the sake of our own individualism, but it requires the church to push beyond western cultural norm in order to carry out biblical church discipline. This means that rejecting a dinner invitation should include more than a response such as “I cannot come over tonight.” Instead, it gives the believer an opportunity to share why there is a separation in their friendship until repentance is established.
Is this painful? Yes, but sin in the church should pain believers more when we know how shamed the name of Christ is when sin dwells in our midst.
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