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Can The Church Refuse To Discipline

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1 Corinthians 5:1-13


1.         Read the text: (1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

2.         Regarding the text:

(1)       “One of the besetting sins in all layers of human society is a conspicuous absence of real discipline.  Homes reel on the brink of disaster without it; schools, colleges and universities have allowed it to slip from their grasp; laws of the land frequently have no teeth injected into judicial decrees; most religious bodies exclude it; the church of the Lord is largely minus the imperative presence of corrective or punitive discipline.  Lack of discipline is a sure breeding ground for contempt of law and order.” (Robert Taylor – ADL, 1982).

(2)       We look at the world of politics and wring our hands at the apparent lack of ethics.  “Politics is a lagging indicator.  Culture eventually makes politics” – Robert Bork.

(3)       We live in a world today without discipline because we have become a society / culture that discounts discipline.

(4)       We see the same picture painted by Paul of Corinth.

3.   The world and even many in the Lord’s church would have us believe that practicing church discipline is somehow an unscriptual or ungodly idea.

(1)       There are congregations that have never seen church discipline practiced.

(2)       Can we be the Lord’s church if we refuse to observe the Lord’s supper?

(3)       Can we be the Lord’s church if we refuse to observe the Lord’s teaching on discipline?

(4)       Reasonings we hear from the world and the weak:

A.      Doesn’t the Bible say, “Judge Not”? (Mt. 7:1-5).

a.       Judgment forbidden = hypocritical judgement.

b.       Judgement of withdrawing is commanded (2 Thess. 3:6).

B.      We all sin!  Let Him who is without sin cast the first stone.

a.         We don’t all sin to the degree of the one in 1 Cor. 5!

b.         There is a difference in sinning and being controlled by your sin!

c.          There was division at Corinth but Paul knew that problem could be corrected with teaching.  The immoral man was “set” in his sin.


I.             THE SIN: FORNICATION (VV. 1,2).

1.           Isn’t it a wee bit strange that the Corinthians had all sorts of questions for Paul about marriage (1 Cor. 7) but they omitted this case?

2.           Notice the “gravity” of the situation.  “actually reported” (v. 1).

(1)          KJV = commonly.

(2)          Some translations accurately translate it “everywhere.”

(3)          They were living with sin (tolerant) and everyone knew it!

3.           Sexual Immorality / Fornication was the sin!

(1)          porneia/ =Porneia = all types of sexual uncleanness.

(2)          In this case it is a reference to incest.

A.        Forbidden by Jewish law (Lev. 18:7ff; Deut. 27:20).

B.        Forbidden by Christian law (Gal. 5:19ff).

C.        Forbidden even by Greek / Roman law!

4.           The church was trying to convert the Gentiles of Corinth yet was guilty of living more ungodly than the Gentiles!

5.           The Corinthians didn’t even hesitate at the state they were in!

(1)          Reminds me of many of my very own brethren’s reaction to the fornication and adultery of our President!

(2)          Reminds me of many congregation’s attitudes towards gambling, drinking, adultery and a host of other sins!  (We are “broadminded.”)

A.    Little or no remorse.  Puffed up instead of mourning.

C.     Little or no corrective action taken (teaching or punitive).

6.           The Bible does make it clear that some (unrepentant/hardened) should not be tolerated but rather removed (Cf. Rev. 2:18-29; 1 Cor. 5:2).

II.           THE SOLUTION: FOLLOW CHRIST(1 Cor. 5:3-5).

1.           Walk in the doctrine and authority of Chirst, our head (v. 4).

(1)          “In the name” is a phrase that describes authority.

(2)          We must do what we do according to Christ’s authority (Col. 3:17).

A.        To whom do you turn if you wish to drive an automobile?

B.        To whom should we turn in religion (cf. Acts 4:12)?

2.           Work as the body of the head (v. 4).  We come together to do as Christ commands.

3.           Withdraw when appropriate (v. 5).

(1)          The shame will bring “destruction of the flesh” or kill the appetite.

(2)          Salvation of the spirit is at stake (cf. Day of the Lord).

(3)          Do not keep company with (v. 9) = “do not mix oneself with.”

(4)          “Put away the evil person” (v. 13).


        Parents understand ignored behavior does not go away in a child, it gets worse.

1.           Souls are in danger.  The sinner must be saved (v. 5).

2.           The church is in danger.  The influence of an ungodly person can be deadly and destroy the church.

(1)          It is like leaven (vv. 6,7).   Paul emphasizes “little” = mikra.

(2)          It must be “purged out” that a “new lump” might be.

3.           The Christian life is supposed to resemble the “Passover” (v. 8).

(1)          Israelites ate the Passover in Egypt dressed ready to depart.

(2)          There was to be no leaven in their home.

A.        An Israelite diligently swept the home to remove any.

B.        In the same manner, the Corinthians were to “clean house.”


(3)          A Christian “keeps this feast” by living sincerely / truthfully.

A.        Sincerely = without wax = without pretense.

B.        Truth = without falsehood = reality.

(4)          We cannot remove ourselves from the world, but we can remove the worldly / unrepentant / dead in sin / leaven from our midst (v. 9-11)

4.           Paul stresses that God is the judge (v. 13).

(1)          People outside the kingdom may accuse us of “judging” when we identify them as “lost” or “sinners,” but when we speak what the Bible speaks, it is the judgment of God.

(2)          So it is when we withdraw fellowship from a Christian living in sin it is God’s judgment not ours.

A.        We must be careful when we do it .

B.        We must not build up “strawmen” in our minds.

C.        We may make mistakes in the process.

D.        But we must carry out the judgment of God.

(3)          We do not deserve to carry the name of our Lord if we refuse to observe His wisdom regarding the Lord’s Supper.  By the same token we do not deserve to carry His name if we refuse to observe His wisdom regarding brethren content to live in sin.

5.           The seriousness of the situation demands it!  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  Therefore God says, “put away from among yourselves that evil person.”



1.         There are many other passages showing the need for discipline (Mt. 18:15-17; 2 Thess. 3:6; 3:14-15; Eph. 5;11; Rom. 16:17).

2.         Discipline is designed to save the soul of the offender and the souls of others.  Discipline is designed to keep the church pure.  Discipline is designed to show our obedience to the Lord in all areas of our life.

3.         I believe the church of today is reaping the results of the church of yesterday’s refusal to practice discipline.

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