- The Obligation (verses 1-2a)
- The Execution (verses 2b-5)
- The Explanation (verses 6-8)
- The Ramifications (verses 9-13)
Now we're coming to a new section that deals specifically with one of the sins of immorality that is found in the first letter of the book to the Corinthians, and of course the sin which was rife within that particular church. Chapter 5 verse 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. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 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, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 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: 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. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person".
Now we're taking our study this evening under the heading 'Discipline in the House of God'. As I've said already, we're entering into the second division within Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and it deals with their second greatest problem, their second greatest sin. The first problem the church in Corinth had was that they were divided, and divided over the following of their particular favourite spiritual leader and preacher and teacher. The second problem is not division, not the fact that they're divided, but the fact that they are disgraced. As verse 1 says: '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'.
Now in verse 21 of chapter 4 we ended the last section, where Paul mentioned: 'What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?'. He's talking to them of how it might be necessary that he doesn't just write a letter to them exhorting them and rebuking them in the things that they should be doing, and that which they should not be doing, but they might goad him into coming to them and correcting them with a rod. We saw just at the tail end of last week's study that it is necessary, and the mark of a spiritual man and particularly a spiritual leader within the church of Jesus Christ, that he uses the rod of correction when it is necessary that it is used. He's not soft when there is a time called for for hardness.
Now this is a fitting link when we see what the theme of chapter 5 is. It is astounding, as we read these verses, to see this particular sin that actually was in existence among the people of God, believers, Christians taking the name of Christ in the church of Corinth - it's absolutely astounding! But what is more astounding than the fact that this sin existed is the attitude that the people of God had in Corinth to this sin, how they put up with it. There was an attitude of tolerance, to turn a blind eye to the immorality that there was in Corinth, to ignore it - and probably their ignorance of it was the fact that they were so taken up as to whether they would follow Apollos, or Cephas, or Christ, or Paul; that they had got their priorities wrong and they had let this immorality spread beneath their feet while they were bickering and arguing about irrelevant things.
This can happen in any church, and I want you to remember how we can commend the church of Corinth for many things - they were made up of many wise men, although they seemed to be puffed up in their human wisdom yet many of them were wise. They knew the word of God, some of them were eloquent preachers, very intellectual. It says that they came behind in no gift, they were a church that was filled with spiritual gifts that were genuinely of the Spirit of God. We could apply this to our own day and age, that it doesn't matter how big a church is, it doesn't matter what a church has going for them or how many spiritual gifts they have, or the great preachers that stand in the pulpit - it is possible, it may even be likely, that in the day and age in which we live that immorality is breeding underneath the floorboards! Perhaps the church itself, or even the leaders in the church, are ignorant to it - but the terrible possibility is that it is going on.
Let me give you an example of this in the book of Revelation, if you turn with me to chapter 2, you know of the writings to the seven churches, the letters that are given to them by the Lord. Remember that this is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking, and in verse 18 of chapter 2 He talks to the church at Thyatira, verse 18: 'And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire', isn't that wonderful? The Lord Jesus Christ, if you want to know what the Lord Jesus looks like now - it is not the gentle Jesus, meek and mild, that often we picture on the stained-glass window or in the storytelling minds of our childish imagination, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ancient of Days, high and lifted up, who is coming one day very soon as the Judge of all the earth; and His eyes are as a flaming fire of holiness and righteousness that devours all sin and cannot look upon iniquity, and are like a laser beam into the very depths of the souls of all His children on the earth even now. So He looks down at this church at Thyatira, and He says, commending them: 'I know', verse 19, 'thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first'. That's very commendable. If the Lord could say that about this church, I think we would be well pleased. But then He goes on: 'Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols' - and He goes on in the judgement that will come to this woman Jezebel.
I don't know, I'm not going to go in this evening to all the prophetical significance of these verses, but just taking it in its perfectly literal interpretation: obviously in the church at Thyatira there was a woman called Jezebel, and she was encouraging false worship to God - but what the Lord Jesus Christ had against the church was that with all that they had going for them, they were putting up with that woman! That was a sin, a sin just like the sin in the church at Corinth, where the church was not prepared to deal with what was known sin. Almost reminiscent of the words of Peter himself in his epistle, Paul is just saying in chapter 5 that judgement must begin in the house of God. If we can't sort ourselves out, how are we going to tell the world how to be saved and how to live aright? The picture I have in my mind when I think of this is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself coming up to the temple, and with those eyes that could not be seen by ordinary men - but He still had that spirit within Him of those eyes of flaming fire - He saw that they had made His house, and He said: 'My house, which ought to be a house of prayer, a den of thieves and robbers'.
Remember now, this is the Christ, and He took a whip and he scourged them and pushed all the money changers and the dove sellers out of the temple. We know that today as the cleansing of the temple, when the Lord Jesus said in John's record: 'Take these things hence' - that's what He said, because it is God's desire that His temple should be cleansed. The temple today that God inhabits is the church of Jesus Christ, and in our capacity it's the local church - but the sad thing about it in our contemporary age is that most local churches have discarded the discipline of church discipline. I don't know whether they think it's archaic, whether they think perhaps it's outdated or it's not politically correct in the day and age in which we live - but I would put before you this evening that the day and age in which we live, even in the church, is more Corinthian than it has ever been, and therefore there is a need for Corinthian discipline within the church today more than ever.
Roy Lauren, the biblical commentator, said these words: 'If there is a need for a mission of evangelism to the world of natural men, there is equal need for a mission of correction to the church of carnal men'. I believe that if the church would judge itself with regards to immorality and to known sin, and get rid of the rot, it would be easier for the world around us to be persuaded of our reality! So this is the theme of Paul's fifth chapter of 1 Corinthians, and the first thing that he simply lays down for us is the obligation of church discipline, of discipline in the house of God - the obligation, in other words the need for discipline. The problem with this church was exactly this, that they did not see the need for discipline - otherwise they would have disciplined.
In verse 9 this is clear, because Paul, if you look at it, and we'll look at it in more detail later if we've time, said: 'I wrote to you in an epistle not to company with fornicators'. It's not the epistle, I believe, that he's writing now, it was a previous letter that he had written to the church that subsequently has been lost - we don't have it - but in that he warned them not to company with fornicators. Now the very fact that he has to write another letter to them saying the same thing implies that they didn't listen to him the first time, and they didn't see that there was a need, that there was an obligation upon them to discipline these people in the church. I wonder, as you're gathered here this evening, do you see a need for church discipline? Do you see this as something that people who are really tight, or really strict, or orthodox, or eccentric, or fundamentalist do? Or do you see it as something that is laid down within the word of God that is not an option for us to pick and choose, but is an obligation that when there is a known sin within the local assembly it has to be - has to be - dealt with?
This particular sin was the fornication of a believer. Sometimes people say: 'Well, are you sure? I mean, are you sure that this was a believer that was committing this particular sin? I mean it seems such an awful abomination in the eyes of God for someone who knew Christ to engage in such an awful thing'. Well, let's look down at these verses till I prove to you that it is a believer. 'It is reported', verse 1, 'commonly that there is fornication among you' - now who is he writing to? He's writing to the church of Jesus Christ, and he says that this fornication is among them. If that's not enough for you he goes on: 'Such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles'. Now, was Corinth in Greece? Yes. Where the Greeks among the Gentiles? Yes. So what's he saying? That they're Jews? No. There is a differentiation made here that they've been brought out of the Gentile races unto Christ, and they are the church. So he's saying that the man that is committing this sin is committing something that the Gentiles wouldn't even commit, so he's come out of the Gentiles and he's a believer.
If that's not enough for you, you go to verse 11, and it says: 'But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator'. Of course 'the brethren' are only brothers and sisters in Christ, there can be no other meaning than that, so it proves that he's a saved man. In verse 5 he talks about what we ought to do with people like this: 'Deliver such an one unto Satan' - how can you deliver a man to Satan if he already belongs to Satan, if he's not a believer? You can't do it...'for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus' - an unsaved man's spirit will never be saved and delivered on the day of the Lord Jesus. I hope I've given you enough reasons to show you that this is a man who is saved by the grace of God, yet this man is committing such an awful sin in the eyes of God.
What makes it so terrible is that it has come to the ears of Paul. He says in verse 1: 'It is reported commonly'. Now if you turn with me back to chapter 1 and verse 11 you find that the partisanship within the church, the party spirit, was also reported to Paul: 'For it hath been declared unto me of you', verse 11, 'my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you'. Now the house of Chloe reported unto him about the fightings that there was and the factions within the church, but this is a different report that is coming to Paul in chapter 5 and verse 1. It wasn't an individual report, but the sense of it is that it is come abroad - it's common knowledge, it's all over the place within the church and outside of the assembly, it's common knowledge that this is going on! 'I don't need somebody to come, one person from a specific house, to tell me something that I don't already know, because it's noised abroad in the church and even in the world that this is going on!'.
That's the sense of this statement, and it's not slander, it's not backbiting, this is something that is proven - it's a known fact, it's indisputable that this fornication was going on within the church, it was there for all to be seen - if you like, it was on the very front page of the Corinthian Times, everybody knew about it. The problem was: everybody knew about it, but nobody wanted to do anything about it! Fornication, he says - now, if you know anything about that word 'pornea', it's the word we get 'pornography' from, it has many meanings. It really means any immoral sexual illicit behaviour outside and, at times, even inside the marriage bond. But here Paul gives us, as he does on many occasions, as the Scriptures usually do when fornication is mentioned, he gives us what exactly he's specifying. He says this sin that is not even heard among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
Now that word 'have' in the Old Testament doesn't just mean 'have' in a sexual capacity, but it actually means to marry this woman, to 'have' within the marriage bond this woman. Of course, the woman is specified as his father's wife - and we know that your father's wife is your stepmother. It's not his mother here that is spoken of, it's his father's wife. To make this sin even worse, if we were to go this evening into 2 Corinthians, we would find that at the time of this particular sin his father was still alive when he was committing fornication with his stepmother. So his father is living, and this man takes away from his living father his stepmother and commits fornication with her. The likelihood, because Paul doesn't specify this sin as adultery but as fornication, is that she had divorced this man's father, maybe through this fornication I don't know, but it seems perhaps that she is not married any more to his father, but he has taken her away and now he has set up home, is the implication, a marriage bond with this woman who is likely not a believer because Paul doesn't mention any discipline to her whatsoever. So he's in an unequal yoke, in an illicit fornicatory relationship which is equivalent, the Old Testament law says, to incest - and it's as bad as having your own mother to have your stepmother!
This is the sin that is right smack in the middle of the church of Jesus Christ, and is in the whole view and blaze of the assembly without shame - and no-one lifts a finger to do anything about it! It's terrible, isn't it? What makes it even more terrible, as Paul says, is that this is a sin that isn't even named among the Gentiles. Jewish law forbade it, but Roman law also forbade it, and even the Greeks. Now you know from your studies already in the book of Corinthians, and from reading these portions in your own devotions, that the Corinthians were no angels when it came to immorality - but the fact of the matter is that even they weren't as low as this particular sin! The tragedy and the implication as we try and apply this to our own particular age is staggering: that the church, although we're washed in the blood and we are meant to be sanctified, we're meant to be holy and different, and do the things that we never did before and stop doing all the things that we practised in our past, it is still possible for people in the church to commit even viler sins than those outside of the church - and I fear that it is going on within the body of Christ!
I only need to talk to unbelievers and men who have been put off Christianity because of the business colleagues or a family member that have done the dirty on them, and they think: 'Well, I have greater moral standards than that man' - and listen, they do have greater moral standards! They make the false equation, but yet the false equation that they make is upon the false testimony of the child of God. Do you see how devastating it is? To make it more personal to our own hearts, when you think about it and take one step further it's unbelievable almost to imagine that the natural conscience of an unregenerate man could actually act on a higher moral level than the dulled conscience of carnal believer. We need to take heed if we think we stand, lest we fall.
That was their problem, for verse 2 tells us they were puffed up - this word meaning the bellows of the fire, or it could be likened to the blowing up of a balloon, you have to puff at it. It was their sin that led them to these factions in chapter 4 and verse 6, in verse 18 he talks about it again, how they flagrantly said: 'Oh, you'll never come to us and set us straight', and they were puffing against Paul that he was weak in his correction of their sins. So they were proud about the servants of God that they followed, and they were also puffed up in pride about their selfish ideas about the wisdom that they prided themselves in, that was not the wisdom of God but the wisdom of men - and now it's no longer the servants of God and their selfish wisdom, but it's now their flagrant sin, and in the face of it they're puffed up! They're not ashamed of this! They're proud of their toleration of it!
Paul says: 'When you should have been on your face mourning, you have not mourned, that this deed might have been taken away, that God would have answered your prayers and maybe taken the one away who is sinning, or maybe even brought them back in repentance'. Their noses are so high in the air that they couldn't smell the stench that was among the church that God could smell! I believe that this is the Laodicean spirit when the rulers in the church and the people in the church have this self-satisfaction where they feel that they have need of nothing! This church put up with it. Let me say that with all the exhortations that we have within the word of God to love our brethren, and to be meek and long-suffering, to forgive one another, to be at peace with one another, there is nothing, nothing at all in the word of God speaks of peace at any price - nothing.
You need go no further than this passage of Scripture to see that Paul, inspired by the Holy Ghost, is saying that sin that is known sin in the assembly must be dealt with. I wonder is that perhaps why there is so much trouble in the assemblies of our land today: because there is no rule and they're not following the precepts and the principles of the word of God, and we need to sit up as an assembly and make sure that we are in accordance with the word of God as well! We've seen already that there are rulers in the church, there are people that God has set over to oversee the assembly, and those rulers have to rule! There are times that they rule and they have to use a rod! Don't you forget that. Although it might be in love, and it must be in love, it must be in correction, it must be with a view to bringing people back into fellowship, those rulers with the rods are not wee boys to be made fools of. Sometimes I wonder...this is an obligation, a scriptural obligation: the need, the need for church discipline.
Then Paul goes on and talks about the execution, now I thought in hindsight that maybe that wasn't a very good choice of word - the 'execution', we don't want to get into that! Maybe 'the exercise' would be a better phrase 'of church discipline', which is really speaking of the method. Now people come to me quite a lot and say: 'Did the Lord not say 'Judge not that ye be not judged', Matthew chapter 7 verse 1?'. Yes, He did say 'Judge not that ye be not judged', but if you remember our studies in the Sermon on the Mount - what the Lord is talking about there, that is if He's not contradicting Himself and the rest of Scriptures, is the judgement of motives. In other words, the things that you and I cannot see - for instance, if you see a man in the assembly walking down the street with his sister, and you don't know his sister, you immediately think he's having an affair with another woman. It is to put 2 and 2 together and make 5; it is to use evidences that you don't have in your mind, facts that you think you have but don't really have, and make an assumption and conclusion. You can't judge the unseen, that's what the Lord is saying: 'Judge not that ye be not judged'.
But that's not the judgement that we have here, it's not something that says that you put up with sin that you know is rife and flagrant within the assembly, you close your eyes to it and you become ignorant to it, and you forgive everybody - that's not what this is. Then someone says to me: 'Well, what about the word of God that says that you're to forgive your brother 70 times 7?'. Well, that's right, you're to forgive your brother 70 times 7 - but let's clear this one up, because I get fed up listening to these things. Matthew's gospel chapter 18, the danger is that people pluck these little verses out of their context in the passages that we find them in. Matthew chapter 18 verse 22, Peter said in verse 21: 'Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven'. Oh, that's great, isn't it? Let's just forgive everybody! Let everybody do what they like in the assembly, and let's just forgive them and turn a blind eye to them - is that what it means? This verse is in the context where the Lord addresses the subject of church discipline. If you look at verse 15: 'Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican'.
Now, what's the Lord saying? He's saying that if a brother offends you, or is offended at you, you've to go to them and sort it out. If they won't heed you've to take another brother or two brothers, and if they won't heed them you've to bring it to the church, and if they won't heed the church they've to be put out, and cast out and treated like a publican or a sinner! If they come back to you in repentance, 70 times 7 forgive them - don't take it out of the passage and the train of thought that the Lord Jesus has here! Although there are times even when our brethren don't ask for forgiveness on a personal level, don't confuse what is a personal level, which is a personal realm, to the realm of the assembly. You would never say: 'Let all the prisoners out!' - unless you were one of our politicians! - you would never say that, you would say: 'Let them face what's coming to them, because there has to be justice, there must be justice'. Even if a man is repentant, we would say he must serve a sentence - you wouldn't just let him go, would you? Why? Because it's a different realm we're talking about here: there is the realm of the state; there is the realm of the home; and there is the realm of the assembly. Sometimes things operate differently in those realms.
What is the scourge of assemblies, I believe, today is what we could call 'papering over the cracks'. Do you know what that is? I've done it: you've got a crack in the wall, you think: 'This is right good paper, it's quite thick' - she doesn't know this - and you just paper over it, and you hope that it'll not be seen. But you know what happens, when the paper gets wet, and after some time when maybe somebody knocks against it, the crack comes in the paper because there's no foundation there. What has to be done is you have to get an instrument to pull out all the loose gravel, and clean out the crack - maybe even make the crack bigger, and it looks worse at first, and then you have to fill the crack up - and it takes time for the crack to harden over again, and then you paper over it and it lasts! What we have today within churches is cosmetic dealings with these factions and problems, and it's papered over and the thing festers and gets worse and worse and worse.
Whenever you address the subject of church discipline people say: 'Oh, you're just looking for a fight. You're wanting to bring trouble to yourself, trouble into the assembly, you're wanting to dig up problems that aren't even there on the surface - you're looking for trouble! Just leave everything be, let it be at peace'. Let me say to you tonight that that is the peace of the graveyard, where the deadness and bitterness of strife and envy and maliciousness and hatred and backbiting and rebellion is allowed to fester under the ground in death! That won't do. It may be the semblance of peace, but the wound needs to be cleaned out, it needs to be painful, it needs to be smarting, and then it needs to be sewn up and healed.
My friends there's no other way, this is the way it must be, and anything else is a farce, and the blessing of God will never come upon it. This is the way God operates, this is God's word, this is even what God does Himself - Hebrews 12:6: 'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth'. Paul says in verses 3 and 4 'I judge', 'I have judged', he didn't have a committee on it, he didn't have a church vote on it, no-one raised their hands, he didn't even talk or need to talk to the parties involved - now I'm not saying you don't need to do that, but all I'm saying is this: the sin was so blatant and obvious that there was no doubt about it, it had to be dealt with. There was no discussion, there's no politics involved: 'How many people will we lose?', 'Who will we offend?' - it had to be dealt with! That's it.
He's hundreds of miles away, but there's the singularity of his judgement. He sees it, he's not prepared to sweep it under the carpet, and he says: 'In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ', verse 4, 'when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such an one unto Satan'. Now this is tremendous, the authority that he has to do this: 'When you're gathered in the name of Jesus Christ' - now this proves that these believers know a lot more, even in their flagrant sin, than what some believers know today. Matthew 18, where two or three are gathered together in the name of the Lord He is in the midst, and He's in the midst for discipline, His authority is on the church for discipline. They knew it. Paul says: 'When you're gathered together in His name, His power is there, Jesus Christ is there. You are there as the church, my spirit is there with you, I agree with what you're doing and I want you to deliver such an one to Satan'. Do you see the authority here? Jesus is there, He's putting His stamp upon it. The apostle is there in spirit, he's putting his stamp upon it. The church is together, they're putting their stamp upon it - and they're delivering this one to Satan, and even Satan's made to put his stamp upon it!
The believer is put into a sphere, excommunicated into a place, the world, the place where Satan is god, that lieth in the lap of the wicked one - and, if you like, he's fresh meat and fair game for the devil to do with him as he likes. This is frightening stuff, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. What is the destruction of the flesh? There's different schools of thought, one basically thinks that if you commit a sin like this, or any sin and you're excommunicated from the church, and you're outside in the world, that the devil gets his clutches on you physically and you get some disease and you die. Well I'm not saying that could never happen, and it certainly happened to some of these believers as we'll see in chapter 11, when they were getting drunk around the Lord's Table many were weak and sickly among them and many slept - died. But I don't believe that this is what this means here, the destruction of the flesh, because the flesh in Corinthians usually if not always means that old nature within you, the old man that actually led this individual into his incestuous relationship with his stepmother. The thought is here that for this man's own good you're to put him out of the church, and allow him into the realm and the sphere where Satan rules, that Satan may bring him down so far that that desire and fleshly nature within him is quenched and he comes back repentant to the church of God again.
Why? So that on the day of the Lord Jesus his spirit may be saved. I'm not getting into a discussion about whether this was a power that the apostle had of himself and we don't have it today, he may have had a supernatural ability to actually deliver people unto Satan - and he does it to two heretics who blasphemed, we read of it in the book of 1 Timothy. But I know this: the world is still the realm of the devil, and if you deliver such an one to the realm of the world and excommunicate them from the church, the devil will deal with them! Now the big problem that Paul had in his day - surprise, surprise - is the problem that we have today, for very few churches discipline people. Those that do discipline people find that when they put them out of their church, there are a hundred and one churches that are ready to open the doors and invite them into theirs. But what is worse than that, I feel, is when even the church that excommunicated them invites them in themselves! Surely that's worse?
My friend, if you know better than God's wisdom, you go down the road and set up your own church and put your name over the door, and do what you like - but here we'll be following God's wisdom, and you mark that. I've got past friends falling out with me, I've got long past people not liking me, I've got long past people calling me a liar and a hypocrite and all the names that you can think audibly and on paper - I don't care, I'll stand with God. We'll do what's right, and my friends: it's because God says it, and more than that, if you would follow the wisdom of God you would find out that it's the best for the person that's underneath it. The reason why they're to be disciplined is so that they would come back in repentance, realising what they've done; being ostracised from the assembly, being dealt with by the devil, being cut off from the fellowship, that they would be shocked into realising what they've done, and they repent. And I'll tell you, if they repent, they're to be embraced and forgiven and accepted once again - and I believe that in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 this very man repented and was accepted again.
Don't you think that overseers have some kind of sadistic thrill with wielding the big stick. They must remember too that discipline must never be exercised for the satisfaction of the person who exercises it, but always for the mending of the person who has sinned, and for the sake of the church. It's not to be vengeful, it's always to be curative; it's for the good of the assembly, but it is for the good of the disciplined! Remember that.
That the execution of it, and then there's the explanation for it, the reason for discipline in the church. Paul said in verse 6: 'Your glorying is not good'. You see they were tolerating - this isn't a small sin, but they had tolerated small sins. Just as the oak tree lies in the belly of the acorn, so big sins lie as seeds in respectable little white small sins, as you might want to call them - falsely so. The fact of the matter is this, more than anything in this chapter, that sin always thrives where there is a toleration of it. When it is ignored and when there's a blind eye turned to it, it will always thrive. That's why Paul says: 'Know ye not that a little leaven' - know ye not? These big proud Corinthians, and you don't even know this? All your knowledge and all your spiritual gifts, do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? It's logical that if you bring in a little leaven and put it in the dough that it will fill the whole of the loaf of bread - and if you bring a little sin into the assembly, or you allow a little sin to grow, it is logical that it will filter right through and affect. People will see and say: 'Well, if they can get away with it, I can get away with it!'.
They didn't know it, that the whole assembly would be affected, because leaven imparts its nature to all with which it comes into contact. It contaminates, and even the old leaven that they hadn't previously dealt with, the remnants of their old life and their past sinfulness, had to be dealt with - put away the old leaven. The point is this: their indifference actually convicted them, I believe, with the offence, because they were guilty of the spread of the evil in the assembly because they didn't do anything about it.
Now here is an illustration that Paul gives to them as an explanation, the reason why we need to discipline in the church. The end of verse 7: 'For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us'. Focus on the Lord, that's what he's telling them, that's the answer to all your problems: focus on the Lord. But he says: 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us' - now notice he doesn't say: 'Christ my passover is sacrificed for me'. See, you can't say that. You can say: 'For the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me', but you can't say 'My passover was sacrificed for me', it's 'Our passover was sacrificed for us' because he's talking about Exodus, where there was the Passover. The children of Israel were delivered from Egypt through the Red Sea and towards the promised land, and each household was told to take a lamb without blemish and without spot, to slay it, put the blood in a basin, put it on the doorposts and the lintel, and God would see the blood and would pass over them. But each lamb was not for an individual, it was for a household. What Paul is saying in this illustration is that 'the church of Jesus Christ today is my household'.
Now here is what the Jew had to do the night before the Passover. They were to go to the place where the leaven was kept, and they were to scrub it clean of all leaven. They were to go to the kneading trough where the dough was kneaded, and they were to scrub it and sweep it and even scrape it so that there would be no leaven on the board at all. They were to light a candle and go into every crevice of the house and every cupboard of the kitchen, and make sure that there was no leaven left. When they had done all of that they got on their face before God, and then lifted their hands toward heaven and said: 'O God, I have cast out all leaven from my house, and if there's any leaven that I do not know of, with all my heart I cast it out!'. Where the blood of the Lamb was there was to be not one iota of leaven. You know that leaven is a picture of sin, don't you? Here it's a picture of sin in the assembly, and Paul is telling us that this is what we've to do as Christians: we're to ransack our soul and our church of all leaven!
In verse 8, we're to eat the feast, to keep it - and it's not talking about the Passover now, or even the Breaking of Bread - it's talking about the feast of Christ, the Christian life. We're not to eat it with old leaven of malice and wickedness, sitting around the table of the Lord looking daggers at somebody across the way - that's not to happen, and that's to be disciplined! That's to be disciplined, and all forms of wickedness that wreck assemblies - because you can't sit at the feet of Christ and eat His feast, and hate your brother. 'If any man say 'I love God', and hateth his brother, he is a liar' - you're a liar. It's to be ate in sincerity and truth, and that word 'sincerity' means 'unalloyed and pure' - that is the assembly that God blesses, and that is the assembly that God takes forward. Sincerity and truth.
Then there's a fourth thing, the ramifications - verses 9 to 13. The sphere, the implications, the effects of this - now don't get worried about this lost letter. You've wrote many a letter that was lost, and none of them were inspired, and Paul did the same. You're not going to make all of his letters inspired now, are you? He wrote a letter to Corinth that wasn't inspired - otherwise we would have it in our Bible, because God has made sure that we have all of His word before us. He tells them in that other letter that was lost not to company with fornicators, now he explains this in verse 10, which writes off the interpretation of the exclusive brethren that you can't ever have company at all, whatsoever, even to eat a meal, with people that are unbelievers - and even in the ships out in the Irish Sea, where they're fishing, when they sit down and one's an exclusive and one's not they put a big plank between them on the table so they don't have to look at one another! That's the ridiculous extremes that men get to. I went to school with a young man who was put off Christ and Christianity and everything because his family wouldn't have anything to do with him, and he actually came to the point of lying to tell them he was saved so that he could eat his dinner with them! I'm sure that's of the devil himself - we know that, commonsense tells you that, and Paul tells us in verse 10 that we are not to be isolated from the world. We are to be separated from the world, but what is he talking about here? He's talking about brethren, the brethren that do this thing you're to isolate yourself from and separate yourself from, because it will contaminate believers. He lumps in, and I want you to see this in verse 11, covetousness with fornication, the love of money, grabbing money, robbing people, fleecing people, squeezing the poor of every penny for your own devices, being convicted of dishonesty in business or financial affairs, or tax fraud - he links it to adultery, do you know why? Because God said in the commandment, the last one: 'Thou shalt not covet your neighbour's wife', it comes from the same seed as lust.
Look at all the other sins, we don't have time: idolaters, railers - that's people, as Harry Ironside said, whose tongues are loose at both ends, and there's a pivot in the middle and they just spin around at everybody. Isn't that what some people are like? They never stop talking - listen: you beware, because one day someone might tap you the arm and say 'Come on in here till we have a word with you about your slander, your backbiting, your talking, your scandal'. That's as big a sin, Paul says, as going with your stepmother. We go on: drunkards, extortioners, with such do not eat. This isn't the Lord's Table, he's telling them: don't fellowship and don't socialise - why? For their good! Verse 12, you can't judge the world and I'm not asking you to judge the world, God will judge them one day. The church isn't to judge the state, it's not to judge the home, it's to judge the church. You cannot judge those who are without, God will judge them, but you - look at it - you are to judge them which are within! And when you put them without, verse 13, God will judge them. This is the word of God, the discipline in the house of God that is preventative, it's preventative against the sin and the leaven spreading. It is purgative, to cleanse out the temple of God from all sin. It's punitive, for it chastises the individual who has sinned - but praise God, and let us remember this, it is curative. The aim is to bring those people back into restorative fellowship.
Our Father, we pray that Thou will forgive us if we ever have a flagrant disregard for the holiness of Thy temple, that Thou art here and we cannot just do as we please. Our Father, we pray that all of us will submit to the authority of Jesus Christ who is present with us at this moment, the authority of the apostle in his doctrine and teaching, the authority of them that have the rule over us, the authority of the word of God - that we will do Thy will. Father, for those who have been disciplined, who will be disciplined; we pray, our Father, that they will see the error of their ways, and that they will repent and do the first works, and with open arms that we will be able soon to receive them again into our fellowship. Lord, unite us together in the bond of peace, not a false peace, but the real. For Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirteenth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Discipline in the House of God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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