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December 20, 2021 1:00 am
Remain standing in honor of God's word as we read it together tomorrow if you would turn with me in the book of first Corinthians, might we come to chapter 513 verses and will read this chapter in its entirety. First in chapter 5, beginning in verse one it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated, even among pagans or man has his father's wife and you are arrogant, all you not rather to mourn. Let him who is done this be removed from among you, though absent in body, I am present in spirit and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing when you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus in my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flash so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord, your posting is not good 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. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, leaven of malice and evil with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people, not all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers are idolaters is then you would need to go out of the world.
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed or is an idolater filer drunkard swindler even to eat with such a one, what have I to do with judging outsiders is enough.
Those inside the church in your to judge God judges those outside purge the evil person from among you. The word of the Lord.
Let's go to God in prayer or would you open our spiritual eyes. Now we might understand and believe your word would you soften our wills to submit to that word and we ask that through the power of your Holy Spirit in us, you would use our time tonight to bear fruit in the lives of your people are gathered here for worship. Now we prayed all in Jesus name, amen. Be seated well it's December 19 Christmas Day is one week away and I'm preaching on excommunication tonight. Merry Christmas and I debated veering off of our hard journey through the book of first Corinthians tonight is denoting the fake focus on the incarnation, given that the season and all, but I knew Doug would be preaching on that very topic this morning and then coming up the cell Friday and our Christmas Eve service so I thought I just dictated the series that were already on and preach.
First Corinthians 5. But I do want to try to tie these two unlikely subjects together.
The topics of church discipline in the coming the advent of Christ either not entirely unrelated. If we stop and think about it for long enough, and hopefully we can we can see and come to appreciate that connection a bit more as we walk through our text tonight.
Have a very vivid memory from way back when I was four or five years old, a movie that our family love was was scheduled to air on TV at the end of of this particular week now. Young people need to understand this before DVR and Netflix and Amazon prime a back when you were entirely at the mercy of programming directors as to what you could watch and when you could watch it. And so when a favorite movie was advertising you had to plan your schedule around their schedule.
If you wanted to see the broadcaster, you'd miss it wet night finally came and I was so excited that the whole family had gathered on my parent's bed.
We had popcorn and then coat ready to watch this much-anticipated movie. I was so excited I was bouncing all over the bed and in making a nuisance of myself or my parents that Eugene sit still and knock the popcorn over in and ruin everything here so sit still. I did for little bit minute later I was bouncing around the bed again and so another parent said Eugene sit still for long.
I was bouncing again. This went on for the entire opening of the movie until finally an ultimatum was given Eugene. If you don't sit down you're going straight to bed now that got my attention.
So I sat perfectly still for like a lifetime. 30 seconds later I was bouncing all over the place again, just like I had been before, distracting everyone from from the movie. This time however mercy had run out I had overstayed my welcome and I was banished to my bedroom my bedroom by the way, shared a wall with my parents room so I can hear everything that was going on next door nonmember grieving. As I fell asleep to the sounds of laughter and merriment next door sounds of my family enjoying themselves without me and and it was it was disturbing to say the least, a member think it was that why couldn't I have just sat still excommunication is not unlike the banishing of a disobedient child to his bedroom.
It's the casting out of the Christian from the fellowship and enjoyment of the covenant family so that the unrepentant sinner will feel the loss will feel the missed opportunity. In the end, the devastation brought on by his sin is not a happy topic to talk about.
It's it's even less enjoyable to carry out, but it is a practice that is necessary and essential to a healthy church because it's intended result is actually rescue the center it's it's intended result is to actually purify the church and ultimately it's intended result is to honor the head of the church which is the Lord Jesus Christ. As we walk through this passage tonight, we discover several important things regarding the exercise of discipline the church. The first thing we have to acknowledge from our text is that church discipline is essential to a healthy church. If it's an essential part of a healthy church. Paul begins by saying it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated, even among pagans or man has his father's wife. That last phrase is an idiom that refers to stepmother or a mother-in-law. It's it doesn't refer to a biological mother.
Nevertheless, it was a sin of such a violent nature that even pagans non-Christians unbelievers recognize this is a wicked practice. What then was the Corinthian Christians response. Verse two and view. While this is going on Corinth, you are arrogant. That's an amazing interesting description you'd you think the church tolerating heinous sin like this would maybe be described as negligent or careless, perhaps compromising Abbott. Paul calls them arrogant later and in verse six he'll call them boastful, evidently a church that fails to exercise proper discipline is in some measure an arrogant church, we have to ask what was so arrogant about failing in this matter of discipline thing with me for a moment about why a church would neglect the exercise of discipline. Why would that happen. Why would I would Corinth Rangers need to be reminded to exercise church discipline.
I think there could be any number of of answers to that question. Perhaps we don't want to deal with sin in other people because we know that same sin is in us and and we we are ready to repent ourselves. So how dare we demand that someone else repent maybe were ignorant of of what actions deserve disciplinary process maybe we don't want to have a carry out the mechanics of church discipline.
Nothing is quite possible in our our southern genteel culture that were sometimes more committed perhaps to social propriety, then to spiritual holiness, and that may be the reason would be motivated.
We want to avoid this, this exercise of of church discipline. We we can't bring ourselves to confront someone with their sin, because that's offensive. It's rude. It's taboo in our culture. It's in bad taste. Whatever the reason for negligence in this area.
The fact of the matter is God's word commands holiness among God's people, and it instructs us to make use of the leverage of ecclesiastical pressure in the form of loving discipline in order to spur its members along in their pursuit of that holiness. So when we give more weight to two cultural sensibilities and and social propriety than we do to the clear imperatives of Scripture. Well, that's a demonstration of arrogance to oppose or neglect the word of God in order to accommodate our druthers, or the social customs of the day is to put our wisdom above God's wisdom is in its conceit, it is pride of the first-order. Paul calls it arrogance also is in verse two that rather than allowing this arrogance, we ought to mourn over sin and the devastation that it causes we need to take sin seriously, we need to recognize and acknowledge that the devastating consequence of of sin that's left unchecked, when Meredith was about my daughter Meredith was about a year old.
She accidentally got a hold of a bottle of blood thinner bills and we didn't know if she had swallowed any or not. So we call poison control for revised a big goal is to rush her to the ER where they made her drink this disgusting charcoal powder mix and they pumped her stomach clean and I remember Laura and me holding her hands. As the nurses strapped her to this table in the ER so she wouldn't try to get away. They began inserting this tube down her throat and and she was screaming at the top of her lungs and she she just looked at us with the space of betrayal. Mom and dad, why are you letting the strangers torture me like this. She could understand that what we were doing was for her own good, were trying to save her life. Will she survived the ordeal and was fine but we had to do what we did or else there could've been devastating results.
We had to take this seriously. I church discipline is a lot like that. It feels like torture. It feels like it's harming more than helping at times we can't wait we can ignore the effects of sin that we can respond with negligent arrogance like Lawrence did, telling ourselves we know better. We can mourn the sin of our brothers and sisters as we submit ourselves to God's wisdom and remove the unrepentant sinner verse two from among us.
There's no question then that for a church to be healthy and holy. There are times when it must do the hard work of exercising biblical church discipline.
Paul tells us as much attendance brings up several questions. For example, how do we know when formal discipline is the right response how we carry out that discipline practically what is the purpose for which the objective order and goals of this process, we can actually answer several of these questions as we study the situation that occurred here Corinth, for starters. Let's take the question of purpose. Why do we practice church discipline. What's the goal, the objective that were after. Well, Paul mentions at least three goals in our text. First of all, we exercise church discipline for the good of the sinner for the good of the sinner for that oftentimes the prevailing attitude towards the sin of a Christian brother or sister is let's get this over with.
He's being too disruptive this situation.
This is causing too much bad PR solicitors rush to judgment with burn the bridge.
Let's move on. Get this behind us and if were not careful to keep our own emotional reactions and chat.
We forget that when it comes to the discipline in the church. The goal is restorative, not punitive.
Our own book of Church order says the power which Christ is given.
The church is for building up, and not for destruction.
It is to be exercised as under the dispensation of mercy and not of wrath motivation behind discipline is restorative rather than punitive.
So the goal of of this process is to see an unrepentant sinner repents to be restored to come back to the Lord and for repentance to see the excommunicated person restored to communion receivers know very clearly there in verse five, Paul says you are to deliver this man who had committed a sexual immorality deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord, there is there is protection in the church there.
There are means of grace to be enjoyed in the church there is the the moral reinforcement of of encouragement of like-minded saints in the church, but being put out of this covenant community means being cut off from those very benefits the natural effect then of being cut off from these benefits is that one's sins and the consequences of those sins are spat out there accelerated, so much so that Paul refers to as a delivering over to Satan, the impenitent person wants his sense of let him have it, and in doing so, we are removing him from all the restraining graces that that he is spurning effectiveness of turning over to Satan. Paul says, is the destruction of the flesh, word flesh is a is a tricky word of the New Testament sometimes is positive, sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's neutral word flesh here simply refers to the physical aspects of of one's life at to say that turning someone loose in this regard is to destroy their flash is simply acknowledging that a sinful lifestyle often has physical, temporal consequences. Consequences that affect your health or your of your abilities, your emotional state your mental state and so on.
I may give myself without restraint to alcohol or promiscuity or to bitterness and resentment toward anger and deception agreed.
Eventually, those indulgences will begin to wear me down physically and emotionally and mentally. People can indulge in so much sin that they literally dive from the consequence from the effects of of this indulgence. But Paul's hope is that the unrepentant individual who is given over to these lust of the flesh will begin to taste enough of the misery and pain and ruin that comes with it that he will see his sin for what it is and he'll abandon that sin and return in humility and repentance to the faithfulness that he wants for so the goal is punishment for the sake of restoration, not punishment for punishment sake number four look at another goal or objective of church discipline, let me point out an underlying assumption that's maybe easy to to to miss in this text, but it's very much embedded in this idea of removing a professing Christian from the church delivering them over to Satan.
If, if that is the action that is to be taken in order to reclaim a center, then it implies designate that being connected to the church is of great value is, and that the underlying assumption is being cut off from the church is supposed to be devastating. And it must mean that being a part of the church is immensely important and end of of value, something to be treasured. Fear, however, that our modern attitude towards church membership and participation in the body is is such that excommunication has largely lost its teeth. It's as if a parent tells a child, you better behave around and not let you eat your broccoli if we don't like broccoli.
If we don't see the value of eating healthy vegetables were not the least bit concerned about losing that privilege. We come to church discipline. I wonder if we so downplayed the importance of our connection to the visible church that the threat of having that connection severed makes us shrug rather than panic if excommunication doesn't stain, then it probably confirms the disconnectedness from Christ because you can't love the bridegroom and hate what the bridegroom loves to mock the spanking is to display an unrepentant spirit for the sin. All that to say love for the church is an underlying assumption here when it comes to the practice of biblical church discipline, and if that's the case, and when we're in fellowship with church. We know we need to foster a love for the church because if the time comes, God for bid where we need to be disciplined by the church. We need to have foster that connection so that excommunication if it has to take place can do its work.
The first goal.
Church discipline is the salvation of the sinner leveraging his love for the people of God and the means of grace in order to motivate him to repent. But there's a second goal of church discipline. Not only is it a practice for the good of the center.
It's also practiced for the purity of the church.
Verse six says, 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. And in verse 11 says I'm writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name brother if he's guilty of sexual immorality agreed. As an idolater, revile her drunkard swindler. But even to eat with such a one so what's all this talk of of leaven 11 is yeast.
It's a it's an organism that has an amazing capacity to replicate and spread and so Baker's put it in go to make it rise is delicious it if that's what it does. But in Scripture leaven is sometimes used metaphorically to symbolize wickedness. I once wickedness gets into something it's gonna spread quickly is gonna spread completely thoroughly dislike 11 spreads in go the ideas that once you've turned leaven loose. There's no taking it back is not an undo button when it comes to the wickedness in the same way once you allow sin to fester in your life and your family and your church. There's no one doing it, it will spread quickly and it will spread thoroughly in the book of Exodus we read about God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt and we read how on the night God would finally bring this magnificent deliverance to pass. He instructed each house in Israel to kill a lamb and they were to take some of this blood from this slain animal and and painted on their doorpost and across the lintel. They were to eat the meat after that went night. An angel came through Egypt, killing all the firstborn children.
This was an act of divine judgment that Egypt deserved and and God swept through Egypt killing the firstborn's angle passed over the name Passover. The homes that had the blood on the front door. That blood protected them. You used your seeing the metaphor under seeing the symbolism play out well. The commemoration of this this historic event of Passover became an annual festival every year Israelites would kill the Passover lamb. They would put the blood on the front door just like they had done in Egypt but got added another part to this Passover ceremony. He told him that for seven days leading up to Passover, they were to clean out all the leaven out of their homes all the yeast were not to eat anything that had leaven in it and so Passover in the Old Testament is often referred to as the feast of unleavened bread, will this Passover feast was was doing much more than than just looking back to Exodus it was also looking forward to the Messiah and the symbolism in this feast is made very clear, especially in light of the New Testament's frequent explanation of the symbols leaven represents sin. Christ is the Passover lamb. The blood on the door posts points us to Christ on the cross that Egypt is the world Canaan is the new heavens and the worth and and on and on. The symbolism goes. So when we come, first convince five and Paul begins to talk about the need to separate from unrepentant professing believers because leaven leavens the whole lump. He saying that when we allow sin to go unaddressed, unchecked and unchallenged in the body of Christ were not merely doing a disservice to the unrepentant center were also running the risk of that sin, spreading and contaminating the whole covenant community is the principle of bad company corrupting good morals. What we tolerate, we will eventually condone and embrace and become.
And so the goal of Church discipline is not merely to motivate the sinner to repent. It's also to keep sand from becoming normalized within the body of Christ through its tolerance within the church.
The neglect discipline then is not simply a failure to love the individual sending also failure to love the whole church is one of the intended goals of the disciplinary process is protection for the body from the leaven of unrepentant sin, then there's 1/3 goal or objective to be pursued with regard to church discipline that only is it good for the individual and for the purity of the church. It is also for the honor of Christ the honor of Christ also is in the latter half of verse seven.
Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, leaven of malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. So, thinking metaphorically, still Christ is our Passover lamb. In other words, Christ is for believers, what the Passover was for Jews. The Passover demonstrated God's covenant love for Israel, and it distinguishes them from Egypt in a thousand different ways.
They belongs to God and so God would protect them and preserve them, but part of that protection and preservation, was that God would also sanctify them, he would make them holy. Unlike those on the holy Egyptians around them.
They were saved by the blood. So they were different and they were to be different.
They were set apart.
They were holy and conduct any creed to claim the protection offered by the Passover lamb and yet disregard the prohibition against eating leaven would ruin the whole point. If the lamb saves you he saves you all the way across all the way down brothers and sisters. This raises the stakes if we toyed with sin in our midst by prioritizing tolerance over purity or niceness over holiness. If we pretend not to notice what God tells us to reject were not only playing with 11 that will eventually overrun us. We are demeaning the sacrifice of the Passover lamb were essentially saying thanks Jesus forgives out of hell we got from here and and this is the point where our text tonight most clearly bumps up against the Advent season in which we find ourselves in other is a right way and a wrong way to celebrate the incarnation, just as there was a right way and a wrong way, or Old Testament Israel to celebrate the Passover festival. My intention denies not to ruin anyone's celebration of Christmas, but church we would be hypocrites if we imbibed in all the festivities of AdVent all in the name of celebrating the Christ child, only to then turn around and forget that he came to mortify our sin. Through his death on the cross.
You cannot sincerely celebrate the incarnate son of God while giving a pass to the sin in your life.
We mortify sin in our own lives. We mortify sin in the life of the church because the glory of Christ demands it.
If he is our Passover lamb. We have no right to indulge in the leaven of sand through negligence or laxity as we fight sin. So however you celebrate the coming of Christ do so in such a way as to acknowledge why he came in such a way as to not be ashamed when he comes again only seen that church discipline is important we sing why it's important. Lastly, we see how church discipline is to be practiced will give us a very skeletal description of the process in verses three through five. We have a much more comprehensive description in Matthew 18 we just briefly highlight some practical aspects of the process of church discipline. In verse three Paul says, for though absent in body, I'm present in spirit and as if present.
I've already pronounce judgment on the one who did such a thing to notice first that an actual judgment is pronounced a verdict is rendered. This isn't some sort of informal slap on the wrist.
It's an official apostolic declaration of guilt verse four. When you plural when y'all are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus.
My spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan, so notice from Matt that this is a very public process.
This isn't happening in some back alley behind the church. It's happening front and center. While the church is assembled.
Remember the disciplinary process is intended for the benefit of the whole covenant community public sin is publicly condemned so as not to be publicly condoned so the case of the current demand. Church discipline was was definite it was apostolic leaf corroborated and it was administered in public if we had over to Matthew 18 just for second we find a more elaborate description of the process that Paul describes in first Corinthians 5. Matthew says in Matthew 18 verse 15 unit, you will notice this passage.
Well, I think if your brother sins against you going to tell him his fault between you and him alone for a private very informal very personal as the starting point. But then if he rejects that informal admonition. Matthew says take one or two others along with you that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses to the formality of increases, doesn't it. As the publicity of it increases the formality of it also increases. If he still refuses to listen. Matthew says tell it to the church when out of scandals, conflict, public see how each stage that the discipline at each stage of the discipline. The pressure to repent increases within Matthew's final step is where Paul took up the issue at Corinth after he says and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector, and that's the stage we pick up this story in verse contains five what we gather from Matthew's fuller description is that formal discipline of a church member's is not to be administered hastily were required to take pains in in charging a brother or sister with sin. We also see that there are varying degrees of formality of discipline. Sometimes the discipline is formal, as was the case with with Paul in the Corinthian which an official verdict must be rendered. Other times, the discipline is more informal, in which a simple appeal to a conscience is is appropriate. Sometimes, church discipline is private. Other times it's very public, depending on how widely known the sin is. Matthew also insists upon the necessity of investigation and proof by the mouth of two or three witnesses in this link suggest some sort of judicial process by which evidence can be evaluated and and corroborated her or thrown out. Leave it there as far Matthew 18 does not want to highlight three important distinctions back in first Corinthians 5. We need to keep in mind, through all of this and will and will end with these. First, there is a distinction between repentant and unrepentant members distinction between repentant and unrepentant Christian now. Henry closely not all sin that I observed in my Christian brother or sister requires formal church discipline. Sometimes sin is committed in ignorance is we've we've been guilty of that ourselves right. We just didn't know better, sometimes it's committed intentionally, but the offender is grieved by an and is repentant. Did you notice that in first Corinthian's five Paul in addressing the Corinthians identifies specific sins of which they are guilty selling them to excommunicate someone, but also identifying, sending them in the ones doing the excommunication. He says in verse two.
Your arrogance so it begs the question what why is Paul ready to excommunicate Mr. incest but not Mr. arrogant well because formal excommunication is reserved for those who are demonstrably unrepentant the principal to remember is that just because a person sends doesn't mean as a candidate for ecclesiastical censorship.
There is room for appropriate forbearance in the process.
We don't want to be too slow to judge what Corinth was doing, but neither do we want to be too quick to judge came across a quote by St. Augustine that I think is is timely with regard to to this passage is read it. Augustine said some people Christians not from hatred of other men's iniquity, but zeal for their own name.
Cover themselves with the shadow of Stern severity going to be so spiritual and point out everybody else's sin. They pervert the correction of a brother's fault, which scripturally is to be done with moderation. Instead, they pervert it into sacrilegious schism and under pretext of severe justice persuade others to a savage cruelty desiring nothing more than to burst the bond of unity and peace again. We have two ditches going have two imbalances we want to want to stay out of both of those imbalances.
We do well. I think to remember that immediately following. Matthew 18's instruction concerning the process of church discipline. We see Peter asking Jesus how forbearing we should be with those who have wronged us in and Peter says is seven times good enough in one of these assay no 70×7 words you absorbed as much as you can admonish when you must.
But even in our admonishing. Remember, you two are a sinner saved by grace. So discipline is reserved for unrepentant professing believer. Secondly, there is a distinction in how we respond to this sins of believers as compared to unbelievers falls were explicit about this in verses nine through 11.
The underlying assumption here is that as Christians we live in two kingdoms. The church in the world and the practices and procedures by which we live in each are not always identical. There will be times when you cannot break bread with a professing Christian because of the scandalous nature of their and penitence and its reflection on the name of Christ, while at the same time you can and should break bread with an unregenerate pagan that feels like hypocrisy sometimes doesn't.
But it's not. There's no is no inconsistency or hypocrisy in this because your purpose in separating from this unrepentant professing believer is is the winning back of that person. A person who is already known.
The sweetness of Christian fellowship and he needs to feel the poignancy of its loss while your purpose in the in the case of fellow shipping with a pagan is never known Christ. It is, is to win a person who's never known what that sweet fellowship is like, you can't miss it because he's never had. I think the parable of wheat and tares has special application to this principle might be a good idea to go home and read that parable alongside first Corinthians 5.
And finally there is a distinction between the temporal judgment of the church in ecclesiastical matters in the ultimate judgment of God in salvation.
Paul acknowledges in verse 12. What have I to do with judging outsiders unbelievers out there in the world. God judges those outside now in the very next chapter 1st trip in six Paul Paul is going to acknowledge that there is coming a day when the people of God will judge the world, but that day is not here yet the church has authority now to excommunicate a professing believer who is not walking worthily of Christ. But it is not for us to declare an unbeliever elect or not elect from our vantage point in redemptive history. We can't know that God can and may still change their heart and so we witness to the lost.
We worn the lost. We call them to repentance and faith.
But we don't pronounce final judgment on them. That is God to do in God's timing.
Christian you are saved by grace but you are saved by grace unto good works. God wants us to pursue holiness and virtue. When we fail in that pursuit. We need to repent. When our brothers and sisters in Christ fail in that pursuit. They need to repent.
When we don't want to repent.
We need the mutual encouragement. Sometimes a harsh rebuke of the body of Christ. So whether we are admonishing or being admonished need to remember that chastening discipline is intended for the good of the center.
The purity of the church and ultimately the honor of Christ or to remind us that chastening is an expression of your love for your people may Grace Church be a body that laws what you love and that demonstrates that love through consistent and gracious discipline whenever it is necessary, but Lord, make us a body of believers. It also never forgets the grace that we have been shown in Christ in us and that name we pray. Amen