November 30, 2019

Applying Church Discipline At Times Is Necessary

INTERESTING FACTS : John Dickinson, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION; GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA; GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE; GENERAL IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
 
"Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity."[1]
 
Daily Reading : 1 Corinthians 5 - 8
 
TEXT : 1Co 5:1  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. 1Co 5:2  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 1Co 5:3  For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 1Co 5:4  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1Co 5:5  To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1Co 5:6  Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 1Co 5:7  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 1Co 5:8  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
 
THEME : CHURCH DISCIPLINE
 
1 Corinthians 5 
 
Account of the incestuous person, or of him who had married his father's wife, 1Co_5:1. The Apostle reproves the Corinthians for their carelessness in this matter, and orders them to excommunicate the transgressor, 1Co_5:2-5. They are reprehended for their glorying, while such scandals were among them, 1Co_5:6. They must purge out the old leaven, that they may properly celebrate the Christian passover, 1Co_5:7-9. They must not associate with any who, professing the Christian religion, were guilty of any scandalous vice, and must put away from them every evil person, 1Co_5:10-13.  (Adam Clarke)[2]
 
1 Corinthians 6 
 
The Corinthians are reproved for their litigious disposition; brother going to law with brother, and that before the heathen, 1Co_6:1-6. They should suffer wrong rather than do any, 1Co_6:7, 1Co_6:8. No unrighteous person can enter into the glory of God, 1Co_6:9, 1Co_6:10. Some of the Corinthians had been grievous sinners, but God had saved them, 1Co_6:11. Many things may be lawful which are not at all times expedient, 1Co_6:12. Meats are for the belly, and the belly for meats; but the body is not for uncleanness, 1Co_6:13. Christ's resurrection a pledge of ours, 1Co_6:14. The bodies of Christians are members of Christ, and must not be defiled, 1Co_6:15-17. He that commits fornication sins against his own body, 1Co_6:18. Strong dissuasives from it, 1Co_6:19, 1Co_6:20.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
 
1 Corinthians 7 
 
A solution of several difficult cases concerning marriage and married persons, 1Co_7:1-6. God has given every man his proper gift, 1Co_7:7. Directions to the unmarried and widows, 1Co_7:8, 1Co_7:9. Directions to the married, 1Co_7:10, 1Co_7:11. Directions to men married to heathen women, and to women married to heathen men, 1Co_7:12-16. Every man should abide in his vocation, 1Co_7:17-24. Directions concerning virgins, and single persons in general, 1Co_7:25-28. How all should behave themselves in the things of this life, in reference to eternity, 1Co_7:29-31. The trials of the married state, 1Co_7:32-35. Directions concerning the state of virginity or celibacy, 1Co_7:36-38. How the wife is bound to her husband during his life, and her liberty to marry another after his death, 1Co_7:39, 1Co_7:40.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
 
1 Corinthians 8 
 
The question of the Corinthians concerning meats offered to idols, and the Apostle's preface to his instructions on that head, 1Co_8:1-3. The nature of idolatry, 1Co_8:4, 1Co_8:5. Of genuine worship, 1Co_8:6. Some ate of the animals that had been offered to idols knowingly, and so defiled their conscience, 1Co_8:7. Neither eating nor abstinence in themselves recommend us to God, 1Co_8:8. But no man should use his Christian liberty so as to put a stumbling block before a brother, 1Co_8:9, 1Co_8:10. If he act otherwise, he may be the means of a brother's destruction, 1Co_8:11. Those who act so as to wound the tender conscience of a brother, sin against Christ, 1Co_8:12. The Apostle's resolution on this head, 1Co_8:13.  (Adam Clarke)[3]
 
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "Applying Church Discipline At Times Is Necessary."
 
The application of Church discipline is not a decision that is made lightly.  Further, it is reserved for the more protracted and severe cases of disobedience to the Word of God.  That is, disciplining a member of the body of Christ is a serious matter.  Once again, it is reserved for only the most egregious incidents of misbehavior.
 
In our text of 1 Corinthians 5, a member of the Corinthian Church had taken his father's wife (his step-mother) and had sexual relations with her.  For whatever reason, the Church overlooked the sin.  Moreover, the Corinthian Church went on "rejoicing," even though their behavior - overall, was chaotic, confused, and out of order.  Perhaps some in the Church did not even take notice of this man's sexual sin.  Yet, the Apostle Paul indicates they knew about it, but did not address it.  At least the leaders or Elders did not.  For this reason, he writes to them in chapter 5 instructing them what to do in this case.
 
The Apostle Paul tells them the man must "be taken away from among you." This means, he was not permitted to gather with the body of Christ whenever it came together.  He was to be treated as though he did not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of all.  However, the Apostle Paul also makes clear that this man is still a member of the body of Christ.  He was simply to be taken away from their presence, to let Satan have his way with him for a season that his flesh might be "destroyed." The Greek word for "destroyed," means death in some instances.  Here, it means "ruined." The inference is that this man's flesh was to be stricken with some type of infirmity or acute disability that would take away his desire for illicit sexuality.  In so doing, he would be "saved," in the day of our LORD Jesus Christ.
 
The reasoning behind this judgment may escape the mind of the modern Christian.  If it does, it is it because the meaning of being "born again," is not clearly understood in this generation.  The entire plan of God as you see in the life of the LORD Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Apostles is one of living in the "inner man." The inner man is the spirit and soul that lives inside your body.  Simply put, it is you.  Man, made in the image of God, is comprised of spirit, soul, and body.  Of course, the body, or the "outer man," is what the Bible also calls "the flesh." The flesh or body of man is important to the Christian since it is the "temple" of God's Holy Spirit.  For this reason, the body or flesh plays an important role in the life of a Christian.  Again, the body or flesh is the temple where God now dwells.  The body or flesh is to the New Testament what the physical temple was to Israel in the Old Testament - the seat of God's dwelling.
 
Therefore, with this in mind you gain a better understanding of why this judgment was placed on this particular Christian.  It is because his body, like yours, is the place where God dwells.  When you were born again, God took up his dwelling inside you.  This is both a remarkable honor and a great responsibility.  On the one hand, the presence of God inside you inspires admiration.  On the other hand, it places you under an obligation to behave in a manner consistent with the nature of the one true God.  This includes holiness and love.  For this reason, the Apostle Paul would go on to write all of the "high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Since God dwells inside the true Christian (believer), the type of life you lead is vastly different from those who do not profess to be Christians, or do not believe on the LORD Jesus Christ.
 
There is something else to consider as well.  As mentioned in Romans, the value of the group (Church) is greater than the value of one individual.  For instance, in a military operation - a battle in which soldiers in a unit are engaged in exchanging fire, if a soldier goes down, the unit must continue to fight.  Obviously, the life of the soldier is important.  However, if members of the unit stop to help their wounded comrade, they may jeopardize all of the lives in the unit.  All armies have corpsman whose responsibility it is to take care of the wounded and dying.  The soldier's responsibility when actively engaged in is to keep on fighting.  Therefore, you have an example of the value of the group (in this case a military unit) being superior to the value of one individual.
 
Thus, it is in the Church.  One man or woman is of less importance than the aggregate number in the local Church.  In other words, the group (Church) must take precedence over one individual.  Again, as in the illustration of a military unit under fire, it is not to say one person's life is not important.  It is just that paying inordinate attention to one person - even though they are of great value to God, is less than the need to focus on the total number of people.  Simply put, the group (any group) and its standards, principles, and rules are higher in value.
 
In the case of the man in the Corinthian Church, it was necessary to put him out of the congregation since his sin was such that it would infect the entire body of Christ.  His misdeeds would eventually jeopardize every member of the Church.  The Bible in the Book of Hebrews addresses the same principle (that is, putting someone away, or disciplining a person in the Church for a season) when it speaks of the vice of bitterness.   A habitually bitter person (salient word is "habitually") will eventually spread their discontent and unhappiness (not to mention anger, wrath, rancor, etc. and so forth) to the entire body of Christ.  So, we see a principle in the New Testament (it was in the Old Testament as well) that is similar to the human body.
 
When the body is sick, it attempts to "cast out," the source of the sickness.  Whether it be bacteria, virus, or any manner of illness, the body will quickly go to work to correct the problem - would ever it may be.  The human body is designed by God to heal itself.  The body of Christ is the same.  It is designed by God to "cast out") the spiritual sickness or disease until that person is fit to return to the body having been sufficiently  "cured" of the illness that plagued him or her, and would have eventually made the entire body sick.
 
In the 2nd Corinthians, the man who was cast out of the Corinthian Church was restored to the fellowship.  He had remorse, then repentance, and with this in mind, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthians to bring him back into the fellowship so that he would not be overcome with too much sorrow.  Godly sorrow works repentance.  However, once repentance has been accomplished, the disciplined individual should be brought back in to the body of Christ for fellowship, care, and edification.  Of course, the operative word is "repentance." Without repentance, there is no cure. 
 
The Church of Jesus Christ is to celebrate its LORD without "leaven."  Leaven, or yeast as you know, is what makes bread rise.  In the Old Testament leaven is symbolic of sin.  This is why the nation of Israel was instructed to have unleavened bread (matzo) when celebrating the feast of Passover.  It was symbolic of the atonement of the blood of the lamb that took away the judgment of God.  Thus, in the New Testament, the leaven inside the Church is sinful behavior.  It is to be put away by everyone who names the Name of Christ.  When an individual does not put away flagrant sin, then they are to be put out of the congregation; hopefully only for the season.
 
Applying Church discipline sometimes is necessary.  It should never be done with any sense of satisfaction, pleasure, or gratification.  In addition, it is only reserved for serious breaches of the commands of the LORD.  The Church, and the people who comprise it, are the salt of the earth.  However, as Jesus taught, if the salt loses its flavor, and its ability to preserve, then there is nothing left to flavor or preserve whatever food stuffs it was intended to flavor or preserve.  When the Church is corrupted, society follows right behind letting loose with behavior that is detrimental to everyone in the community or country.  For this reason, Church discipline and maintaining the standards of the Bible - assisting they be complied with, is the need of the hour.  For - "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov.14:34)

  • [1] From the Last Will & Testament of John Dickinson, attested March 25, 1808
  • [2] Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
  • [3] Ibid
  • [4] Ibid
  • [5] Ibid
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