Summary: In this lesson we discover the necessity of church discipline for both the individual and the congregation.


A. I’m told that Willie Nelson (the country singer) apparently at one time owned a golf course.

1. He said the great thing about owning a golf course was that he could decide what is par for each hole.

2. For you non-golfers, par is the number of hits of the ball you are allowed for each hole. Par is usually between 3 and 5. Hitting a birdie means that you were one hit less than par.

3. Willie Nelson pointed at one hole and said, “See that hole there? It’s a par 47. Yesterday I birdied it.” (Borrowed from sermon by Jason Cole, July 2006)

B. A person might be able to do that on a golf course that they own, but none of us can do that with the church.

1. We don’t get to decide what is “par for the course.”

2. God has already decided what is right and wrong, and if we do not measure up to God’s par, His standard, then we have sinned.

3. We must treat sin as seriously as God does.

C. If sin in the church is not addressed appropriately, then it has destructive effects.

1. UCLA sociologist, James Wilson, has observed an interesting fact about city life:

2. He discovered that the crime rate escalates on those streets where broken windows are not repaired.

3. His study showed that the failure to replace windows makes an announcement to the public saying, “The standards have been lowered and authority has been abandoned.”

4. Wilson sees such practices of disrepair as an invitation for further crime without the threat of adverse consequences.

5. What is true on the street is also true in the church. If we allow sin to go unchecked, we are inviting deterioration and destruction into the Lord’s church.

6. However, when we exercise the discipline needed to stop and change our damaging behavior, we will erect a fence of protection that will prevent further erosion. (Adapted from Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1995, p. 157)

D. As we move to chapter 5 in our study of 1 Corinthians, we see that Paul begins a new section.

1. In the previous 4 chapters, Paul has been addressing divisions in the church caused by pride, immaturity and worldly thinking.

2. In chapters 5 and 6, Paul calls the Corinthians to discipline church members whose actions compromise the holiness of the community.

3. As we study this section of the letter, we must remind ourselves again and again that Paul’s primary concern is not the sin of individuals, but the health and integrity of the church as a corporate body.

4. Those who commit sexual sins or pursue litigation against their brothers and sisters in the faith are doing damage not only to themselves, but also to the community.

5. Therefore, the community must act to preserve its unity and is identity as the sanctified people of God.

I. The Shocking Sin (5:1)

A. Against the backdrop of Paul’s agony over the division within the church at Corinth, he then expressed his additional dismay over a case of sexual sin in their midst.

1. The situation involved a man living immorally with his step-mother.

2. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife.” (5:1)

3. From Paul’s scanty description there is no way of knowing whether the man’s father had died or had divorced his second wife.

4. Certainly the Corinthians, to whom Paul was writing, knew the particulars of the matter.

5. The fact that the woman is not subject to disciplinary action says that she must not have been a member of the church.

B. Paul was shocked by this situation and knew that it compromised the entire church.

1. Even in a society as morally lax as Corinth, this sort of incestuous relationship was considered taboo.

2. The practice of taking close blood relatives or in-laws as marriage partners has been forbidden in all but the earliest days of the human race.

3. The Old Testament prohibited the practice.

a. Deut. 22:30 says, “A man is not to marry his father’s wife…”

b. Lev. 18:6-18 catalogs the close relatives with whom a person must not have sexual relations and the list is quite long.

4. Pagan writers from the Greeks and Romans can be cited who took the same negative view of such practices.

5. So, this offending church member was not only failing to live up to the standard of holiness to which Christ’s people are called, he was doing something that even the world would find reprehensible.

II. The Church’s Attitude (5:2)

A. It appears that the church’s attitude toward this scandal was as bad or worse than the scandal itself.

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