Summary: Exposition of 1 Cor 5:9-13, regarding the third part in the series on restorative accountability, or church discipline
Text:1 Cor 5:9-13, Title: Who’s Coming for Dinner?, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/19/10, AM
A. Opening illustration: Guess Who is Coming for Dinner, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,”
B. Background to passage: Remember, Paul has called the church out on its failure to discipline. This really doesn’t have to do with Paul preaching against sexual immorality, the issue here is the church’s failure. Then he explains why it is so important: the purity of the bride. Now he is going back to clarify the sphere of the discipline of the church. In doing so he instructs on the how-to’s of discipline, as well as our posture toward the world and those in it. “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
C. Main thought: in the text we will see how we as the church should act toward sinners in and out of the church
A. Toward Sinning Believers (v. 9, 11)
1. Paul clarifies that his instruction to confront the sin, turn the sinner over to Satan, and purge out the leaven from the church only apply to those “called brothers.” For it is the brothers that have been bought with a price; that are God’s children; that are God’s representatives; that have been set free from sin; have been commanded to purity and holiness and repentance; that have contact with the church members; and have contact with the world. Do note that this accountability is provided for those that are “named” or profess Christ, which of course would be a necessity for church membership. Although I have had occasions where we held regular attendees that professed Christ accountable. And the nature of the judgment is to not have intimate fellowship with them personally or corporately. Our translation says “keep company with,” and the word means to mix with or mingle with, but has the connotation of close fellowship. This was exactly what they were doing. So believers are supposed to remove themselves from close fellowship with unrepentant believers for two reasons: to prevent themselves and the church from being infected with their sin, but also to shame their brothers in Christ into realizing their sin. He says not even to eat with them. And in the Jewish concept of the “table bond” there was close fellowship over food.
3. Illustration: “No church is healthy enough to resist contamination (even though they think they are) from persistent sin in its midst, any more than the healthiest and most nutritious apples can withstand contamination from even a single bad one.” –JM, "This person can no longer be treated as a spiritual brother or sister, for they have forfeited that position. They can only be treated as one outside the church, not hated, but not held in close fellowship." –WW
4. We are to be harsh toward believers and their sin, but give grace to those who don’t love Christ. That doesn’t make sense. But it does if you view the confrontation of sin as redemptive, and allowing one to continue unchecked as deadly. Many speak of not judging, and quote Matt 7:1 as a proof text to imply that any judgment one makes is against scripture, however that is very much an overstatement. We are clearly called here to judge other believers. And we are among those that will be judged of God if we are undiscerning. This is one of the reasons why that church unity is really necessary to sufficiently and helpfully carry out restorative accountability. It really speaks when the entirety of the church stands united to speak for Christ and say that what you are doing is not right, please relent.
5. So what does this look like? Jesus says to bathe every aspect in prayer. Then we are to check our own hearts and motivations, preparing ourselves, so that we may be led by the Spirit. Then we look for an opportune time to speak to the individual, lovingly and humbly pleading with them to turn from their sin. Jesus says that if he hears you, you have gained your brother. If he doesn’t, we are to go and carefully select two or three godly people from the congregation to go with you a second time, and express the error to the offending brother again. If he hears you…but if he refuses, and persists in his sin, Jesus says to inform the congregation, discreetly, but openly when they are gathered in the name of Christ. And the congregation at that point all have the responsibility to go and beg the person not to go down a path of destruction and shame. If they hear the congregation then…But if they don’t, the church must remove them from fellowship, and remove fellowship with them. “Discipline is difficult, painful, and often heartrending. It is not that we should not love the offenders, but that we should love Christ, His church, and His word even more. Our love to the offenders is not to be sentimental tolerance, but correcting love.” –JM. A young child accidentally took sleeping pills from the medicine cabinet. The Dr. told the family to keep the child awake for the next 8 hours even if with the pain of a slap if need be. The pain was necessary for the child’s survival. So too in the Christians journey. And all of this is done with a heart ready and longing for the person to return, be forgiven, and restored without prejudice.