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Church Gone Wild: The 4 Whys of Church Discipline

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 3, 2023 9:00 am

Church Gone Wild: The 4 Whys of Church Discipline

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 3, 2023 9:00 am

In this message from 1 Corinthians 5, Pastor J.D. teaches about the messy but necessary process of church discipline.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Jesus welcomed into his family people with all kinds of problems, from all kinds of tragic and broken backgrounds. Paul himself had formerly been a murderer. Mary Magdalene, she had been a prostitute with seven demons.

There's nobody within the sound of my voice that is too messed up for him to receive, but you've got to be willing to come and have him do it his way. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author and theologian J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. teaches about the messy but the necessary process of church discipline. And we might find it harsh to hear what the apostle Paul says about those who persist in sin, but if we truly care about our people, if we truly care about the vulnerable, if we truly care about our neighbors, and if we truly care about Jesus's reputation, we will be faithful to confront our brothers and sisters in love. Parents who may be listening with their young children, please note that the confusion happening in Corinth included some topics that you may or may not want your kids to hear about yet.

So if that's the case, I encourage you to pop in your earbuds or listen to this message on your own at Now let's join Pastor J.D. in 1 Corinthians chapter five. Please open up your Bible if you have not already to 1 Corinthians chapter five verse number one, where the apostle Paul says it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you and the kind of sexual immorality that is not even tolerated among the Gentiles. Or read that as the pagans.

A man is sleeping with his father's wife. Welcome to church this morning. If you are a first-time guest, I apologize. You could not have come on a weirder Sunday. By the way, I should probably also acknowledge that the subject matter this morning, as you can see from that very first verse, has some, shall we call them adult themes.

Now I'm not going to be explicit. The adult nature of this will mostly be in the background because the focus of this passage is not on what this guy is doing but on how the church was responding to it. My own 11-year-old son will remain in here if that helps you. But for you parents, if you feel like this might raise some questions that you're not ready to answer or you feel like, you know, what kind of parent are you that your 11-year-old would sit in here for this, now would be a great moment for you to acquaint yourself with our excellent kids ministries.

You just get up at any campus and walk out to the lobby. They will see the look on your face, and they will know exactly why you're there, and we will get you where you need to be. Okay? If you remember from the very first week, we saw that there are five major sections in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. The first section, chapters one through four, was about the problem of divisions in the church, and we spent three weeks looking at that. Now in chapter five, Paul begins to address some confusion, shall we say, that the church has about sex. Corinth, you might recall, was a notoriously immoral city.

It was situated on this isthmus, that's how you pronounce that word, between two major ports, one on either side, which turned the city into both an economic powerhouse as well as making it a very popular vacation destination. And so young, upwardly mobile people from all over the empire poured into Corinth, and these young, upwardly mobile people brought young, upwardly mobile issues. And so sexual immorality was a problem. Plus, the city boasted scores and scores of temples to the Greek and Roman gods, and so the worship rituals in many of these temples often included some type of sacred prostitution, so to speak. The point is that sexual immorality was all around them. And so on one level, it's not surprising that the church in Corinth was dealing with that in its midst. But this sexual immorality that you're dealing with, Paul said, it goes beyond even what the pagans are doing. Again, verse one, it's the kind of sexual immorality that is not even tolerated among the pagans. A man is sleeping with his father's wife. His father's wife means it's either his mom or his stepmom.

I don't know and honestly don't want to know. Most scholars say that it is his mom, stepmom, excuse me, since Paul calls her his father's wife and not his mom. But either way, either way, if there's a woman that you call mom and then ask her to the prom, that's over the line, right? Can we agree with that? By the way, the is sleeping with is written in the present continual tense, which means that this is an ongoing thing.

It's an ongoing accepted thing. You know, some of you glamorize the early church. Oh, the apostles and all night prayer. But don't, okay? We've got a lot of problems, but to my knowledge, we've never had this one, okay? This kind of debauchery, Paul says, is not even tolerated among the pagans.

I mean, you know it's bad when your pagan neighbors are going, nasty, right? Now that's just wrong, right? But rather than mourning over this, Paul said, you're arrogant.

You're arrogant. Why weren't they dealing with it? I mean, it seems like they knew it was wrong. There might have been a few that thought, well, hey, I mean, this is Corinth and to each his own. You know, back then the ancient philosophers always said, what happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.

So who are we to judge? There might've been some who were like that. There might've even been some who were like, you know, Christ has freed us from the curse of the law. So that means he's freed us to love in whatever way that we seem fit, whatever seems best to us.

And so to each his own and let's just, you know, let's be free in Christ. Paul does seem to have both of those groups in mind and the comments he makes in the next few verses. But it seems to me that the way Paul is speaking to them assumes that most people in the church knew that what this guy was doing was wrong. And Paul knew that they knew it was wrong. And they knew that Paul knew that they knew it was wrong. The reason they were not dealing with it is because doing so would create a scandal.

It would give the church a black eye in the community and they're arrogant and they don't want to have to go through that. Cause y'all these kinds of situations always end up messy, don't they? Usually when you confront somebody in something like this, they're not like, oh, was that wrong?

I mean, hey mom, did you know? I mean, that's not how they respond. No likely this guy would be offended and he would have made a scene. Maybe he was a prominent figure.

Maybe he gave lots of money to the church and this is just going to get messy. So let, you know what? Let's just not poke the hornet's nest.

All right. Isn't it easier just to leave well enough alone and let God deal with him? Let me just ask, just so we're all on the same page here. Have you ever felt like that about some situation? You know what somebody is doing is wrong, but you know, you know how they'll probably react and it is easier just to leave well enough alone. But Paul says, Paul, listen, he says, listen, a brother of yours is being destroyed by sin. And you're, you're, you're concerned about your reputation.

You're concerned about not rocking the boat. Verse two, shouldn't you mourn? That word for mourn, by the way, in Greek means mourning like at a funeral, like weeping over someone like they died. Paul's like, sin is destroying this guy. At your church, you ought to mourn.

It ought to tear your heart apart. So Paul says, verse three, let him who has done this be removed from you. And I thought, wait a minute, kick someone out?

Like out of church? Yes. You say, what about unconditional love and acceptance? It is true. We are called to unconditional love, but our fellowship is conditional. You say, I thought we were supposed to be an open and embracing community.

Yes, we are. But our primary calling is to be representatives of the family of Jesus. And yes, Jesus welcomed into his family, people with all kinds of problems, from all kinds of tragic and broken backgrounds. Paul himself had formerly been a murderer.

Mary Magdalene, who was one of the church's female leaders, she had been a prostitute with seven demons. But each of these people from all these different backgrounds that came into the church, they all had one thing in common. And that is no matter how messed up their past or even their presence, they had come to a point of what we call repentance. And that doesn't mean that your life suddenly becomes awesome and it's fixed and it's squeaky clean.

It just means they came to a point where they recognize that Jesus was Lord and that his way was right. Listen, I will tell you this morning, Jesus can take you with all kinds of problems. There's nobody within the sound of my voice that is too messed up for him to receive, but you've got to be willing to come and have him do it his way. And I know that raises some questions for some of you. Hang on. Okay.

I will get to your questions. I promise, I promise. But for now, let's just keep reading. Paul says, you're to deliver this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord. You're like, can you imagine a more strongly worded sentence than that one?

Not only do you remove them from membership in the church, you deliver them to Satan? You're like, what does that even mean? Okay, listen. All right. It's like this. This is the deep end of the pool. Okay.

So hang with me. The church provides, local church, being a member in a local church provides an umbrella of protection from a lot of the curses and judgments on sin. It shields us from a lot of sin's effects. Some of that is practical. I'll show you that in a minute.

And some of it is supernatural. Paul says that removing someone from that umbrella of protection allows them to experience some of the pain of their sin and the hope that by God's grace, it will wake them up to the seriousness of that sin. Paul draws here from the imagery of the Passover. You'll notice in the next few verses that he brings up the Passover over and over. You remember the Passover?

And basically it was like this. God had told Egypt that because of their persistent rebellion on this one designated night, my death angel, who was likely Satan, by the way, is going to go through Egypt and kill the firstborn in every household in Egypt. Well, of course, all the Jewish people, they're living there among Egypt.

And you know what? They're sinners, just like the Egyptians are. And so God says to them, he's like, hey, that's going to include you too. But I will spare your firstborn sons, Israel, if you will kill a lamb and then put the blood of that lamb on the doorpost of your house. And he said, when the death angel, again, most likely Satan, when the death angel sees the blood on the doorpost, he will pass over your house and not enter it and not bring that curse into your house. So we have the name Passover.

Now I want you to think about that image for a minute. Inside of the house, under the blood, with Jesus, you're safe. Outside of the house, you are exposed to death and the death angel, Satan. Paul is saying in the same way, you are to put this person outside of the house so that they are exposed to the death angel and the curses of sin. And maybe, maybe by God's grace, when they start to experience the pain of that devastation, maybe they'll wake up to the seriousness of sin and they'll come back. That is what you are to do, he says, with somebody in the church who names the name of Christ, but persists in stubborn, willful, rebellious sin. Now let's be very clear.

This kind of thing that I'm talking about only happens after every other attempt at reconciliation has been tried and they have rejected it. Jesus actually lays out what that process is supposed to look like in Matthew 18. There's two chapters in the Bible that describe to you what this looks like. One is 1 Corinthians 5, the other is Matthew 18. I want you to hold your finger in 1 Corinthians 5 and flip back over to Matthew 18.

Now let's return to our teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Jesus is going to describe the process. Here's how it goes, verse 15. He says, if your brother sins against you, some translations, by the way, leave off against you because the focus here is just sin. If your brother sins, go and tell your brother his fault between you and him.

What's that word? Alone. Okay, alone. If he listens to you, then you will have gained back your brother. So step one, we'll call this private correction.

You know, all this is really simple. On one hand, you go, you go to them, and then secondly, you talk to them. Then tell him or her his or her fault between you and him alone.

That word in alone is a special word in Greek that means alone. Don't bring 10 other people together to team up on him, just you and him alone. Verse 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. Step two, let's call this small group clarification.

If they didn't listen to you and you went one on one, take two or three people from their immediate circle, their small group, their serving team, and you go and talk to them. Taking two or three people will not only help ensure that they understand the seriousness of what they're doing, it'll also help ensure that you are seeing things clearly. That's why Jesus said in the mouth of two or three witnesses, got to make sure you're seeing it the right way and taking two or three people from their circle will help ensure that. Verse 17, if he refuses then to listen to them, then tell it to the church. Step three, we will call church admonition. This is where the church elders get involved.

If they don't listen to you or to their small group, then the elders come in and in a more official capacity, they warn them about the seriousness of what they're doing. Verse 17, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile. Again, that's like a pagan and a tax collector, which in their minds was the worst kind of sinner. Step four, we'll call that church exclusion. That is where you remove them from church membership and you put them outside of the house of the church to be exposed to the activity of Satan. Now, they are still welcome to come and sit in church. Of course, lots of unbelievers do that every single week. They're just not to do so in the capacity of family members. It's one of the reasons when we take communion, we're like, hey, if you're not a believer, don't touch his bread in the cup.

It's not for you. Not that we're being mean. It's just that that's a family thing. If you're not part of the family, we want you to be part of the family. You could join today the part of the family of God, but that bread in that cup, that's a family thing. Yes, you are welcome to come to church. Nobody's saying you can't come.

You're saying you should not come in in the capacity of family with the benefits of family. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul's going to describe what that stage looks like. Now, let's go back over to 1 Corinthians 5 and let's look at verse 10 of that chapter because Paul's going to describe that fourth stage this way. He says, verse 10, anybody you see who bears the name of brother, if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler, you are not even to eat with such a person. Now, eating there means eating a meal of fellowship. It doesn't mean if you're ever somewhere in a restaurant and that person's there, you're like, oh, get away.

You're in a neighborhood potluck, and you're like, no, we can't eat. What he's talking about is, back then, eating was one of the most intimate forms of fellowship. To have somebody in your home and to eat with them was a sure way of saying, hey, we're united as family. Paul is saying to avoid doing things that imply that you're family, like that kind of eating. Some scholars even think, by the way, that Paul here is referring to communion, where we eat the bread and drink the cup together. He's like, don't do that because you don't want to imply that God is okay with their sin by implying that you're okay with their sin by eating with them as if you're family together. Paul then gives you four reasons that you need to do this, four reasons that we have to do this.

Before I get into those, though, let me just take a real quick timeout because there are a couple of things I want to be clear on. First, when we're talking about a public action by the church, we are talking about, in the case of somebody who blatantly and defiantly persists in something that is clearly and blatantly unbiblical. We're not talking about things like, I'm concerned you're watching too much TV, or I think you're buying too many shoes, or you seem a little cranky in the mornings. Of course, we should always be speaking into one another's lives. That's part of iron sharpening iron, but the later stages of this discipline process that we're looking at, that's when we're dealing with somebody who is overtly defying something that Jesus says clearly. That's my first clarification. Second clarification, in a large church like this one, this kind of public exclusion happens more appropriately on a localized level with a person's small group, or their service team, or their immediate circle because they're the ones who know about the sin. Based on what Paul is saying here, we don't need to announce somebody's sin to thousands of people who don't even know them.

When we're talking about that kind of thing, we're thinking more on the localized level of those who know them and are a part of their lives. With those clarifications, here's the four reasons why Paul says that we need to do this. Four reasons the church must remove a willfully sinning member from its midst. Number one, he says, is for the sake of the sinning brother. For the sake of the sinning brother, he says, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. The hope, the goal is always that they wake up from their sin. That the pain of being removed from the blessings of the church wakes them up and brings them back to their senses. The goal is never punishment or exclusion. The goal is always healing and restoration. That's number one.

Number two, he says, you do it for the sake of other believers. That's verse six. Do you not know? Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump as you really are unleavened. Now, leaven is not a common word for us. In fact, many of you are like, I have no idea what leaven is. The word that we use for leaven in our culture is yeast. You may not know this, and this might ruin your bread eating experience, but yeast is a type of fungus that makes bread rise. It grows and multiplies really quickly, which is why if you've ever had a little bread maker, you know, you got to start with a little yeast thing.

And sometimes if you don't have it, you can borrow some from somebody else and just put a little bit of it in it, and soon it spreads to the whole batch of dough so that the whole loaf is going to be filled with yeast. The Bible uses that as a picture of sin. Just like a little yeast quickly spreads to the whole lump of dough, a little sin in the community, a little willful sin of the community is quickly going to infect everybody. And so at the Passover, God had them that night take out all the yeast from their houses and put it outside the house and eat only unleavened bread.

That was a symbol that they were leaving the sin of Egypt behind, that they should not keep any of it in their houses. Another analogy that might relate even better to us would be cancer cells. Just a few cancer cells, if left unchecked, will soon multiply and destroy the whole body. That's where it's going.

It might be localized for a time, and if you can get it when it's localized and cut it out, things will probably be okay. But you let that thing go unchecked, it's going to multiply, and it's going to destroy the entire body and kill the whole thing. And the same way Paul says, open rebellious sin by those who with their mouths say they belong to Jesus will soon affect and corrupt and destroy the whole church.

So for the sake of the church, he said, you've got to get it outside the house. Now, maybe you're still sitting there and you're thinking of this. You're like, I'm having trouble thinking of this as consistent with love. Let me switch the analogy.

Maybe this will help. I know of families, and you probably do too. I know of a family where an older sibling returns home from college, and they start to live at home again post-college, and they start to make some really bad choices, dabbling with drugs. That means that makes them start to bring around the house all kinds of really questionable people, even stealing things from the house. The parents, of course, are brokenhearted. This is their son, but they're not just worried about him. They're also worried about the safety of the younger siblings, and they're worried about what the younger siblings are seeing. So they have loving conversation after conversation through tears, asking their son to change, asking their son to just abide by things that are safe and healthy in the family, but the son persists in doing things that keep putting the family in danger.

Finally, the mom and dad, in love, brokenhearted, ask their adult son to leave and live somewhere else. It's not because they hate their son or have given up on their son. They just know that they need to protect their other kids. Plus, they know that life on the street is hard.

Maybe if they remove that protective covering, maybe if they quit always giving him such a soft place to land so that he never experiences the painful results of the decisions he is making, maybe then he'll wake up to the foolishness of his choices. Parents, you get that, right? That's not unloving. In fact, sometimes continuing to house and protect this person would literally be the most unloving thing that you could do for them.

You are enabling them. In love, you unhouse them so that they can experience some of the consequences of their sin. That's what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul says, first, you do it for the sake of the sinning brother.

You also do it for the sake of other believers. Third, he says, you do it for the sake of Christ himself. For Christ, you see, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for sin. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven which he was crucified for, the leaven of malice and evil, but we get to celebrate it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Christ died, Paul says. He was tortured. He had his body ripped apart to get rid of sin.

So why would his bride, why would his church, why would his family tolerate in their midst people who say they love him but whose lives are filled willfully with things that put him on the cross? Our hope is that this message has provided you with clear biblical understanding of what church discipline is and how important godly accountability and community is. I'd like to tell you a little bit more about our newest monthly resource. It's called Cutting Through the Noise, 14 Five-Minute Studies in 1 Corinthians.

If you've ever felt like you wanted to dive deeper into God's Word, but you just don't know where to start, we believe that these short studies can help you create some consistency in your walk. We'd love to send you a copy as a token of our thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. It takes friends like you partnering with us to make Summit Life possible, allowing more people to hear this gospel-centered Bible teaching on the radio and web.

Will you join that mission today? The suggested donation is $35 or more. Call 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online at That's While you're on the website, you'll also want to subscribe to Pastor JD's weekly newsletter.

The articles and resources go in-depth with many of the topics that we cover here on the broadcast. Sign up online at I'm Molly Venovich. Thank you for being with us this week. Have a great weekend of worship, and we'll see you again right here Monday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-03 10:35:52 / 2023-03-03 10:46:25 / 11

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