The Ninth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
Reformed Christians consider church discipline to be one of the three marks of a true church. The reason for this insistence upon church discipline as a mark of the church is found in our passage, where Paul commands the Corinthians to remove (excommunicate) a man from their midst who was professing faith in Christ, while at the same time, openly engaging in an activity which even the pagans regard as shameful. While the church is to be a hospital for sinners, and while there should always be sufficient grace for anyone struggling with sin, those who insist upon living as a law unto themselves, and who harden their hearts and are unrepentant when confronted, must be removed from the church. Yet, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul does something quite unexpected. He cautions the Corinthians not to judge the pagans outside the church (the world)–because they don’t know any better. At the same time, he warns those who profess faith in Christ that once they trust in the Savior they cannot live as they did when they were pagans.
We have completed the first four chapters of our study of 1 Corinthians. We have looked closely at Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to leave behind the worldly wisdom of first century Corinth, and instead to begin evaluating things–including Paul’s ministry–in the light of the revelation of God’s wisdom in the cross of Jesus Christ. Having established the foundation of this church through the preaching of the gospel, and stating that the members of this church were the living temple of the Holy Spirit, Paul now moves on to discuss specific issues. As we saw last time, Paul speaks to the members of this church as his spiritual children, rebuking the immature among them and refusing to allow those still holding on to the wisdom of the world to divert him from his divinely-appointed mission.
In chapter 5, Paul now takes up a series of things going on in Corinth which had come to his attention and which are causing serious problems in the church. The first of these is the case of a man in the Corinthian church who is co-habiting with his father’s wife (his stepmother). Somehow word had gotten to Paul that this was going on, and that no one in the church was doing anything about it. As we work our way through Paul’s discussion of this deplorable situation, it is important to notice that Paul speaks much more sternly about the church’s lax attitude toward the issue, than he does about the guilt of the individual offender, who is never named even though presumably, everyone knew who this was. What Paul condemns in the passage is the conduct of the church–the elders have failed to discipline the offending party. The fact that Paul says nothing about the woman involved may very well mean that she is not a Christian, and not a member of the church, or else she too would be subject to discipline.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here