READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l In 1 Cor 5 Paul turns his attention to church discipline. He has heard that a certain man is sleeping with his stepmother and the real shame is that there is no outrage! The congregation appear to be proud of their tolerance and broadmindedness. Paul finds this deeply disturbing and addresses four areas of church discipline.
1. Why is it needed?
To deal with the sin of the individual (V5). Paul says that this man should be handed over to Satan, meaning that he should be excluded from fellowship in the hope that he will come to repentance. Discipline is also needed to deal with an arrogant church. Paul is referring to the Passover unleavened bread. He likens yeast in bread to sin which will spread and affect the whole church if it is not rooted out. He is calling for Christians to be pure, undefiled and unleavened just as Christ who was pure and unblemished was sacrificed for them. Are we passover people? Do we detest sin? Or do we pass over it?
2. When is discipline called for?
Paul is not only talking about sexual sin. There are many things that should be disciplined. In today’s terms, they could be financial fraud, abusive behaviour, rebellion against authority, defamation, character assassination, drunkenness and more. Paul is addressing conduct that is in nature intentional, habitual, systematic, persistent and unrepentant. If someone makes a mistake and is repentant that is different from deliberate and wilful sin. Paul also draws attention to the impact of the bad conduct. The more damage it does, the more necessary the discipline, e.g. moral failure of leaders. Paul makes it clear that his concern is only for Christians and not for people outside the church.
3. How is it administered?
Paul says that sinners should be excommunicated. But how do we apply this today when people can easily move from one church to another? Matt 18:15-17 provides us a process. It starts with a private conversation. If no repentance is forthcoming, then involve a few others. If this is unsuccessful, bring the matter to the Church leaders and they will confront and examine the matter. Possible discipline decisions might mean removal from leadership or a volunteering position. Possibly, a person may be removed from a Small Group. However, people will always be allowed to attend Worship Services.
The worst-case scenario would be that church membership may be removed from the person in question.
However, we are to remember that the purpose of discipline is never punishment but always restoration.
4. What are the challenges?
In today’s world there is too much emphasis on individual responsibility. We do not feel that it is our place to interfere. We should have the mind of Christ as revealed in the Bible and help one another to grow in the pursuit of holiness. We are afraid of being busy bodies, or feel that it is unkind to judge. Could it be that we are too large a church for real accountability? This would be a tragedy. But the fact of the matter is that even within a Small Group, it is possible to keep things hidden.
We are often too shallow in our relationships for timely discovery of sin and when it is discovered it is too late. It is very possible to spend time in Small Groups discussing Bible passages but never sharing our true thoughts and how we do life. We need to lovingly journey with one another.
There are three Discipleship lessons for us.
1. Discipline is painful but necessary. We cannot pretend that nothing has happened and walk away.
2. Discipline is owned by everyone for the maturing of community. Hebrews 12:6 says – “The Lord disciplines those He loves”. We cannot leave it to the leaders and pastors and choose not to get involved. Through mature and loving discipline the Church is built up.
3. Loving discipline is imposed for restoration and healing. We must always speak the truth in love. In this atmosphere of love and sincerity, our sin and failure can be properly dealt with for the healing, restoration, building up and strengthening of the Church!
(Sermon notes by Frances Lim)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- Apart from the sin of incest, what was wrong about the attitude of the church in Corinth?
- What does “handing the person to Satan” (v 5 ) mean? How does that help the person?
- Why is discipline important for the church? (v 6 to 8) Why is the church called to “get rid of the old yeast”?
- What do verses 10-11 tell us about the types and nature of conduct which call for discipline?
- Paul speaks of excommunicating the sinner. How does Matt 18:15 – 18 provide us with a process to deal with similar issues today? What are your views on this process?
- What are some challenges to discipline in the church today? Do any of them resonate with you?
- The sermon had a few discipleship lessons about church discipline. What spoke to you?
- How can you play your part to lovingly help someone in sin return to God?
Pray for us as a church that we will be firm, uncompromising with sin and loving as a community.