CHURCH DISCIPLINE...forgotten doctrine o[...]
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Forgotten Doctrine of the 21st Century

I Corinthians 5



The time to deal w/ church discipline is now…not because of any problems, but because there aren’t any problems.  Our unity is great…God’s power is upon this church, and this message is about how to keep it that way!  I’m not aware of any who need discipline at present, but it will happen in the future.


3 attitudes have become prevalent this century…they have become gods of our society…these 3 mindsets:

  1. Open-mindedness
  2. Total acceptance
  3. Privacy

These are the gods of our society.


  1. Open-mindedness

Is considered the highest of all character qualities in the day in which we live.  I’m all for keeping an open mind, in the good sense of what that used to mean.

But, unfortunately, the open mind of the 21st century is a mind which says, there is no such thing as absolute truth…what’s true for me, may not be true for you…and vice versa…truth is relative to the circumstances…truth is constantly changing.  Have you heard these things?


The doctrine of church discipline described in tonight’s passage has for all practical purposes disappeared in recent years, as the church buys into the philosophy of open-mindedness.


  1. Total acceptance

We are expected today, by those around us, to accept the behavior of everyone around us, no matter what it is.  The cry of the day is “TOLERANCE!”  And the price of intolerance is to be labeled a bigot.  Of course, if you don’t believe like they do, YOU won’t be tolerated!

The abortionist yells, “Don’t judge me, you have no right!”

The homosexual / fornicator / pervert…


We can clearly see the flaw in their thinking, but let’s not kid ourselves, that attitude has crept into the church.


Some church members today expect everyone to accept their behavior, no matter what it is… “You can like it, or lump it!”  And if anyone dares to question them, what do you hear?  “Don’t judge me!”


True discipline is an act of love.  Discipline of our children is not an act of anger; it is to be an act of love.  And love for our children isn’t displayed in saying yes to everything they want, sometimes love is saying no!


Just as parents are expected to exercise discipline over their kids, God commands…He does not suggest…He COMMANDS the local church to exercise discipline and accountability over its members! 


One reason why church discipline has gone by the wayside is that we have become afraid of appearing judgmental. 


Open mindedness, total acceptance...


  1. Privacy

“Stay out of my private life.  What a man does behind closed doors is his business!”  And if it’s true of the president, then who doesn’t it apply to…if even HE is not accountable for his actions, then what I do is my business and no one else’s!


In America, privacy today has been elevated to constitutional status.  Many of today’s social programs are grounded in the false assumption that people have a private sphere around them that no one has a right to intrude upon.


Abortion is grounded in the issue of privacy, as is homosexuality.  Whenever Senate confirmation hearings are held for potential Supreme Court nominees, you’ll always hear this question asked of the nominee:  “What is your position on privacy?”  That is a disguised way of asking their view on these controversial issues. 


The issue of privacy has invaded the home, as kids tell their parents, “You have no right to invade my privacy!  Stay out of my bedroom when I’m not home!”


That thinking is so foreign to me!  My dad found some bad music in my room one time and called me on the carpet about it when I got home.  I never dreamed of questioning his right to be there.  I was just embarrassed to have been found out.


Parents, if they live under your roof, you have the right…even the responsibility…to go into their room, their car, anytime you want to!

You have every right to check up on them, to listen to that CD sitting by the stereo, and you have every right to throw it into the trash can!


Back in MO, we counselled w/ a family once having trouble w/ their teenage boy.  They said, he always runs off to his room and locks the door!  The dad said, “What can you do?”

I’ll tell you what I’d do, when he got home from school the next day, there wouldn’t BE a door!

“Now, maybe when you’re ready to submit, obey, and stop rebelling, we might sit down and talk about you having a door once again!”


This idea of privacy has invaded the church.



These are not new problems.  The church at Corinth was having these same problems 2,000 years ago.  God used Paul to plant a church in one of the most wicked cities of the earth, known for its prostitutes, known for its immorality.

And God put a church there to change that city, but the city began changing the church. 


Ill.—thermostat / thermometer…may FBC ever be a thermostat in this area!


CNN Gallup polls historically show the divorce rate in the church to be the same as in the world.


Why?  Because churches today are spiritual thermometers, when what we’re supposed to be doing is setting the spiritual temperature of our city.  “But it’s so bad out there today!”  “Yes, it is, and the darker this world grows, the brighter our light can shine, unless we compromise…

…and that’s what we do when we neglect to exercise church discipline, we compromise because it won’t be popular.


In I Cor. 5, the church is on the verge of moral collapse.  They’re about to lose their influence and their very testimony for Christ. 


Paul here is dealing w/ a case of open, flagrant, public sin, and the people of the church wanted to sweep it under the rug…it is the easiest way to deal w/ it, you know!


They may not have wanted to accept it, but, at the very least, they wanted to overlook it.  Maybe it will go away!


3 points from this passage:

The Reporting of the sin / Removal of the sin / Repenting of the sin


  1. Reporting of the sin

v. 1-2

“reported commonly”—


Public Testimony aspect

This is not just a rumor going around, hearsay…this is open, flagrant sin, no question about it, everyone knows it.  And that kind of sin hurts the testimony of the church as well.


“...not named among the Gentiles”—even lost people know that’s wrong!


Church discipline is called to action when a church member’s sin becomes public knowledge, in a way that it could hurt the testimony of the church, and they refuse to repent.


Personal Tragedy aspect—

v. 1  “that one should have his father’s wife”—this was a case of incest, possibly w/ his mother, or, more likely, his step-mother. (father’s wife)


Even Christians are capable of committing grievous sins.  This man is a believer, he has been born again, he is a brother in Christ…


v. 5          “that the spirit may be saved”

v. 11        “any man called a brother…”


When you got saved, your old nature was not eradicated…as a matter of fact, it wasn’t even improved.  Yes, you received a new nature, but the old one is still there, and just as wicked as ever!


        We get ourselves under control when we give control over to God, but we all can get away from God and get in the flesh, and we all are capable of doing anything. 


David…broke about 7 of the commandments all at once when he coveted his neighbor’s wife, made lust his God, committed adultery, lied, stole, killed, and covered it up.


That kind of sin in a believer is a great tragedy.  And church members the world over, and members of this church are capable of such things, and do such things, and no less a tragedy is it, that most of them don’t belong to a church that is willing to confront their sin!  Most churches today will accept their sin, or at least overlook it…and when they do, they do their church member a great disservice! 


The whole purpose of church discipline is not to get even…it’s not to get rid of someone, it’s to bring an erring brother to a place of repentance.  The goal is ALWAYS restoration.


But when we refuse to confront them, we give the erring brother a false sense of security.  “I must be ok, no one has said anything.”


v. 2—“you are puffed up” (prideful)


The people of the church were actually proud of the fact that they were open-minded enough to overlook this man’s sin.  They were proud to be “the church for everyone” / “we accept everyone, even fornicators”


Paul said, “You should be weeping!”


Ill.—A few years ago Burger King was sued by parents of kids who were bitten by baby rattlesnakes nested in the “bouncy ball pit” in one of their play yards.  Would you let your baby play in there?


Sin is serious!  And open sin in the church is like a rattler in the crib w/ the baby!  Sin is a maniac w/ a knife loose in a nursing home!  Sin is the very element which nailed Jesus to the cross…it’s time the church take sin seriously!


Sin is so common in the church today that we hear about it all the time…and even the pastors are falling like flies and it doesn’t even surprise us anymore like it used to…we don’t know how to blush anymore!


When should church discipline take place?


  1. When the sin is a matter of public testimony

Sin privately…repent privately

Sin publicly…repent publicly


  1. When the erring brother is unrepentant, will not be dealt with.


  1. When the sin is a grievous sin


I was in a service once in which this topic came up.  Afterward, a church member approached me as an asst. pastor and said, “Well, I smoke, is someone going to discipline me?”


“I thought all sin was the same”—With God it is!


This chapter isn’t dealing w/ sin from God’s perspective, it’s dealing w/ sin from man’s perspective! 


So, where do we draw the line?  I don’t have to speculate?  Paul gives us examples right here:


v. 10-11


And so, we see the reporting of the sin...


  1. Removing of the sin

v. 3-8


Public sin must be publicly judged.  But, the Bible says, Judge not, that ye be not judged?


While we are warned not to judge one another’s motives, we are commanded to judge one another’s conduct.  That’s spiritual authority!


Parents, you have spiritual authority over your children…that’s why they don’t say, “You’re judging me!” (If they know what’s good for them!)


That’s why you don’t tell that police officer who pulls you over and tickets you, “you’re judging me!”  “Yes, I guess I am!” (Otherwise it’s chaos!)

        He’s not judging your motives, he’s judging your conduct…and as the spiritual authority in this church I promise you that I will do my best to obey God in this area, I promise to judge you…to judge your conduct!


That’s another problem with members today, they don’t see the NT church as HAVING any authority!  They think of it as more of a social club to be with friends, or a stage to display their talents.


Social clubs today have more expectations of their members than most churches.  The Masons hold their members accountable…the elks, mooses, and gooses…all the same!  What a sad commentary!


Members, I remind you that you will be held responsible for your actions by this church.  You will be held accountable, in love, for your sake, for the church’s sake, and for God’s sake!


This is not the only passage that deals w/ the issue of church discipline.  There are many others:


Like Gal. 6:1

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.


What’s the process?


Mt. 18—Jesus Himself is speaking!

15Moreover 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. 16But 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. 17And 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 an heathen man and a publican.


I Thess. 5

14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Rom. 16

17Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

II Thess. 3

6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

I Tim. 6

3If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Titus 3

10A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;

I Tim. 1:20

20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.


Notice the strong language in I Cor. 5:

v. 2          “taken away”

v. 5          “deliver such an one unto Satan”

v. 7          “purge out the sin”

v. 13        “put it away”

v. 11        “not to keep company” with them

                [Deny them fellowship, revoke their membership…]


Look at v. 5     “deliver such an one unto Satan”


As a last resort, if they don’t respond to Biblical confrontation, then for their sake, because you love them, for your sake, because you know that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, for God’s sake, and for the sake of His church, you have to do something drastic to wake them up, to get their attention, to open their eyes to the end of their ways!


Ill—your 21 year old son still lives at home, but he brings girls into his room overnight, he drinks, he thumbs his nose at you and God, he won’t respond to your correction and admonition, eventually, you have to kick him out, because you love him…that’s tough love!


You see, if you are part of a Bible-believing church, you are under an umbrella of protection…a spiritual umbrella of protection from Satan that the local church holds over your head!


And whether you lose that umbrella because you’ve been ‘disfellowshipped,’ or whether you willingly step out from under that umbrella because you’re not willing to repent, God will allow Satan access to you.


And I’ve only been in the ministry a short time but I’ve known people for which this was the wake up call they needed…and unfortunately, I’ve known people who wouldn’t even respond then, and they are dead today or wish they were!  God took them on home, lest they do any further damage to His kingdom.


I Jn. 5:16         “…There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.”


And you can see an example of it on your own time in Acts 5.


Now, what if a disfellowshipped member goes on thru life, and never repents, and God leaves them alone too, and doesn’t take them on home?

        That’s evidence of an even bigger problem…that they are not His children.  Heb. 12…God doesn’t spank the devil’s children, any more than you spank that brat at Wal-Mart in line in front of you…although you want to, you don’t, he’s not your child!



I’m saying tonite, that I want God’s best for this church so badly, that I’m going on record, in advance--that I’m willing to obey to the best of my ability, the scriptural command given to exercise church discipline, when necessary.  It’s not pleasant, it’s not popular, but it is critical!


It is with mixed emotions that I inform you that I am quite experienced at church discipline.  I hate that it has been necessary, and yet I appreciate the experience that can be drawn upon in the future.


Here’s the Biblical process that will be followed, on a practical level:


When God brings an issue to our attention, the person in question will receive an immediate contact from the Pastor.  They will be encouraged to repent, and will be offered help and support.

If they choose not to repent at that time, I would return with a witness with me, or send at least 2 witnesses, and again plead for their consideration.

If they choose not to repent, they receive 3 choices:


  1. A last chance to repent, publicly, before the church
  2. Willingly withdraw your name from membership
  3. Be removed from membership in a business mtg. (v. 4)

In accordance w/ our church constitution


Rarely does it get to that stage, thankfully, as it can hurt a church’s image in the community… “They throw members out over there!”


However, if necessary, we must remember that the purity of the church is far more important than the popularity of the church!


It is a joy for me to report to you that the vast majority who were disciplined responded properly at the first confrontation.  Every confrontation I had ended up well, with the goal of repentance and restoration achieved.  And I believe people WANT accountability, they want to know where the lines are drawn, and they appreciate a pastor with nerve enough to confront them!


Church discipline is not the pastor being a pious policeman looking for criminals.  It’s the loving correction of a wayward child.


On a few occasions we’ve had people take the 2nd choice, take the high road, and withdraw their membership willingly.  They said, I’m not repenting, but I will respect your wishes and move on.


Only on one occasion was our pastor told, I’m taking the low road, put your gloves on, I’ll be there in the business meeting and I’ll defend myself!


It should not surprise us that God didn’t allow that man to even attend the meeting.  Last I heard he was in another part of the country living a torturous life of guilt, bitterness, and hatred.  I believe there’s still hope for him and space to repent, and I pray he does.


God takes care of the church that is willing to practice Biblical discipline!


A pure church is a powerful church.


We’ve seen from this passage the reporting of sin, the removing of sin, finally, let’s look at the repenting from sin:


II Cor. seems to indicate that this guy here in ch. 5 got right!  We don’t know for sure, but I’d be surprised if it’s not talking about the same guy in II Cor. 2:6


6Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Paul says here, his punishment is sufficient, he’s repented, it’s time to come home!

Folks, I want to fill this building and then fill it again…but not at the cost of compromise, as many larger churches do it…

…Let’s do it thru God’s power…which comes thru prayer and purity!


Inv.—Is there anything in your life which, if made public…you’d be ashamed?

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