Summary: In today's lesson we learn about the discipline of immoral church members.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the discipline of church members engaged in blatant, unrepentant sin. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Immoral Church Members.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 5:1-8:
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:1-8)
We are all familiar with the tsunami that hit the northeast shore of Japan last month. Several months earlier, however, on October 25, 2010, a massive earthquake set off a tsunami that struck some Indonesian Islands. The tsunamis leveled whole villages, leaving hundreds dead or missing. According to the survivors, the deaths could have been avoided, or at least minimized. Unfortunately, the tsunami warning system—two buoys off the island—weren’t working properly. As a result, they didn’t alert the islanders to the coming danger.
Since 2004, experts have improved the tsunami detection network. The DART buoys (as they are called) measure wave height. If a buoy measures an unusual wave, it transmits that information to the shore. This system often provides the only warning signal for islanders to prepare for the oncoming danger.
Unfortunately, according to the report, the buoys “have become detached and drifted away. Sensors have failed. As many as 30 percent have been inoperable at any one time.” As a result, the buoys often fail to awaken people to the reality of future tragedy.
When blatant, unrepentant sin enters into a church, sensors should go off. Alarms should sound so that the church does not experience a tsunami of destruction that follows in its wake.
The apostle Paul heard of blatant, unrepentant sin in the church at Corinth. He was shocked by what he heard. And so he sounded the alarm so that the sin could be disciplined and a tsunami of destruction not be allowed to destroy the church.
And so, in today’s lesson we learn about the discipline of immoral church members.
Let’s use the following outline for today’s lesson:
1. The Need for Discipline (5:1)
2. The Refusal to Discipline (5:2)
3. The Command to Discipline (5:3-5)
4. The Reasons for Discipline (5:5-8)
I. The Need for Discipline (5:1)
First, notice the need for discipline.
Because Christians struggle with sin in their lives, there is always the need for discipline. Ordinarily, Christians engage in self-discipline as they constantly put down the sin they see in their lives.
Occasionally, however, a Christian dabbles with sin. He enjoys it. He does not acknowledge it. And he does not repent of it. Over time it becomes a habitual sin. And even if it is brought to his attention, he may still not repent of it. It is at these times that there is a need for church discipline. And this is what the apostle Paul draws our attention to in our text for today.
A. The Notoriousness of the Sin (5:1a)
First, notice the notoriousness of the sin.
Paul said in verse 1a: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans. . . .”
By saying, “It is actually reported,” Paul indicated his shock and horror at the situation in Corinth. He was astonished by what he was hearing, as he should have been, because of what was taking place in the church in Corinth.
He was appalled to hear that there was sexual immorality among the Christians in Corinth. The Greek word that is translated as sexual immorality is porneia, from which we get the word “pornography.” Commentator Gordon D. Fee says that porneia “in the Greek world simply meant ‘prostitution,’ in the sense of going to the prostitutes and paying for sexual pleasure.” He notes that this sort of sexual activity was so culturally acceptable that the pagan Corinthians did not have second thoughts about it.