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On The Right Side of Scripture

On The Right Side of Scripture

by Stephen Davey Ref: 1 Corinthians 5; 11

In this Communion message, Stephen focuses on the importance of church discipline and the biblical approach to dealing with unrepentant sin within the church community. Communion (the Lord's table) is a means of rededication. Communion calls believers to confess their sins, commit to obedience, and rededicate themselves to holy living. 1 Corinthians 11, highlights the importance of self-examination during communion. This self-discipline allows believers to invite the Lord to judge their motives, actions, and words.

When self-discipline fails, the church needs to practice what is called church discipline. In 1 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul addresses a church that failed to discipline an unrepentant member engaged in immoral behavior. Stephen argues that church discipline is necessary for sins that create disunity, encourage ungodly living, reject the claims of Christ and Scripture, or discredit the testimony of the church.

While church discipline can be challenging and may lead to problems, ignoring it can result in more significant issues, such as a loss of church purity and respect. Ultimately, discipline is an act of love that aims at restoration. The church must be on the right side of Scripture rather than conforming to cultural norms. We are to uphold biblical principles, even when discipline is necessary, with the ultimate goal of reconciling the repentant back into the fellowship of believers.


People have often asked me if they should be baptized again now that they are living a more dedicated life for Christ, or because they now know so much more about the Bible, or their walk with Christ. Can baptism be an act of rededication?

I typically explain that baptism is a one-time event. It isn’t connected so much to spiritual growth as it is to spiritual life – their new life in Christ, following their salvation. In fact, baptism is the ordinance of identification. You are identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, your Savior.

But because of God’s gracious work in our lives, the Lord does in fact give us an ordinance of rededication – and that’s this practice of the Lord’s table – or communion. 

Every time we approach this table, we are called to confess our sins to Christ – to respond to His call to purity . . . to refresh our commitment to obedience . . . to rededicate ourselves to holy living.

According to the New Testament, communion is a time of self-discipline.

In I Corinthians 11 Paul encourages the believer to examine themselves – to examine their faith, their walk, their attitude. Communion is the context for this self-examination – so communion becomes a time when we invite the Lord to judge our motives, our actions, our words.

In fact, when we allow the Lord’s table to become a time of examination, Paul writes here in verse 32, “we are disciplined by the Lord.”

We are reproved and corrected as well as encouraged and refreshed.

Now if someone refuses that personal discipline from the Lord – and by the way, every time you open the word of God, the Lord disciplines you – “all scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

If we won’t be disciplined in private by the Lord and His word, Paul wrote earlier to the believers in Corinth, then the church is to called to discipline the unrepentant believer from her midst.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul confronted the church for its refusal to deal with a sinning, unrepentant believer whose immoral lifestyle had become common knowledge.

Paul writes over in I Corinthians chapter 6 and verse 9, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

In other words, if people who prove they care nothing about God and God’s word, by their unrepentant ungodly lives – they will not belong one day in God’s kingdom – so how is it that they still belong to your church?

That’s the question Paul is challenging the church with here.

Paul goes on to write here in chapter 6 and verse 9: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived – in other words, no matter what the church might say – or your culture might approve – don’t be deceived – Paul goes on to write in verse 9: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And maybe you’re thinking to yourself right now, “But I’m guilty of some of those sins – are they unforgivable?” No – Paul goes on in verse 11 to write, “But such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, there isn’t any sin or sinner that Jesus won’t forgive!

But what about someone who wants to stay inside the church without repenting of their sinful lifestyles? Should the church do something about it?

Well this church here in Corinth wasn’t doing anything about it.

But why would the church in Corinth – or the church today – refuse to deal with an unrepentant, sinning individual?

Paul gives the answer back in chapter 5, starting with verse 1, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you – Paul goes on to identify it here – “for a man has his father’s wife.”

So here’s a man committing adultery with his father’s wife – this oughtta be an easy answer for the church.

  • they don’t need to form a committee to see if God’s laws on sexual relations are outdated –
  • they don’t need to ask if these two people are consenting adults –  
  • they don’t need to find out if they love each other –  
  • they don’t need to survey the church to find out how they feel about it –
  • they don’t need a special meeting of the clergy within the denomination to decide if their handbook should allow it.

So why do churches do that? Why do denominations do that?

Why is this man still in the church? Paul gives the answer here in verse 2: [He says to this church] And you are arrogant. Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

In other words, you haven’t removed this man from your church because you are – Paul writes – arrogant. It’s the word for puffed up, haughty pride. This church had placed their opinion above the opinion of God – “We know better than God!”

The danger for this church in Corinth – like so many churches today – is that it was no longer convinced that God had the final word. They had become proud of what they would call “tolerance” toward this man. Paul doesn’t call it “tolerance” he calls it “arrogance”.

So the church in Corinth is celebrating their attitude and Paul says here, in verse 2: “Shouldn’t you be mourning instead?” The Greek word for mourning is the same word for lamenting and weeping at the death of a loved one.

So Paul – who at the moment is in Ephesus – gets word that the church in Corinth is allowing this – saying to themselves:

  • We’re broad minded –
  • we’ve evolved to understand our more sophisticated culture and the needs of people –
  • what this man needs from his church is affirmation, not condemnation.
  • we are now on the right side of history.

Do you wanna be on the right side of history or on the right side of scripture?

Even if all the churches and denominations got together and said culture is continuing to evolve and love is all that matters to make a marriage:

  • if a man wants to marry two women and they love each other – so be it;
  • if a woman wants to marry another woman or three men – so be it;
  • of, as one political leader suggested, marriage between any party should be considered a lease arrangement, with resigning options every three years.

And besides, our world says, you shouldn’t judge anybody for whatever they wanna do.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” The world loves that verse.

But they don’t understand that Jesus was referring in that text to hypocritical judgmentalism. The next verses describe someone trying to take a speck of wood out of someone else’s eye while they themselves have a log sticking out of their own eye.

Jesus is forbidding that kind of hypocritical judgmentalism, that judgmental spirit.

Judgmentalism is different from passing judgment – a judge who sentences someone to prison for murder isn’t being judgmental – he’s passing judgment.

Judgmentalism is proud and pietistic; passing judgment – or as we would say it today – making a judgment call – is something you have to do all the time; you have to make judgment calls between right and wrong – between this choice or that choice.

In fact, the Bible says, “He that is spiritually minded judges all things.” (1 Corinthians 2:15).

As a believer, you’re constantly making judgment calls about everything: between good and evil, between right and wrong – between something good but something that might be better.

That’s what Paul is saying here – he’s pronouncing judgment between good and evil – he writes to the church in Corinth, here in chapter 5 and now verse 3: “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus, and my spirit is present (again, Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote this letter) – with the power of the Lord Jesus, 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. 

In other words, you are removing him from the correcting, encouraging, motivating presence of the church toward holy living; because of his unrepentance, he is now removed from that fellowship and left out in the open, so to speak, to run headlong into the consequences of his sinful behavior.

And those like him are gonna discover that Satan doesn’t care about them at all; Satan is more than happy to get them alone and unaccountable – to more easily destroy their lives – this is what Paul refers to as the “destruction of their flesh” – Satan will corrupt them – ruin their lives – never fulfill them, but only ruin them.

Discipline is ultimately the removal of someone from the church for unrepentant sin – and keep in mind the key word is unrepentant sin.

Now listen, we’re all guilty of sin – we all sin daily – if we removed from this auditorium today everyone who sinned this past week, nobody would be here. There would be plenty of parking.

But this man here in 1 Corinthians 5 not only defied God’s sexual boundaries, the church had decided that their approval of his sin vetoed God’s disapproval.

So Paul continues his rebuke of this church and delivers a warning as well – here in verse 6. Your boasting – your arrogant spirit – is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

In other words, you close your eyes to ungodly people in the church – and the church will soon allow ungodliness – and then it’s only a half-step downward to where the church defends it.

Sins That Require Discipline

Now Paul mentions some sins specifically, as we read in chapter 6. It wasn’t an exhaustive list by any means – it doesn’t mention things like tax evasion, or child pornography, or sex trafficking or illicit drugs, but those are certainly sinful.

From scripture, however, we can certainly categorize sins worthy of discipline.

First would be sins that create disunity in the church.

Perhaps one of the most devastating types of sinning that is overlooked in the church is tolerating someone who breeds disunity. This can be through gossiping; demonstrating a disruptive attitude, a critical spirit, a pugnacious, argumentative demeanor.

Paul writes to Titus in Titus 3:10, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing to do with him.” You could render that, literally, reject him. Obviously, remove him from your midst.

Sins that encourage disunity in the church are worthy of discipline.

Sins that entangle a person in ungodly living are worthy of discipline.

And again, our standard for godly living is scripture, not culture.

We don’t pursue what is considered politically correct because we understand that whatever is politically correct is usually biblically corrupt.

Paul wrote to the Galatian church in chapter 6 and verse 1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught – literally entangled – in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

That’s the ultimate purpose of this process – restoration. Should that believer accept your warning – should he repent of that sin that has captured him, then you’ve rescued your fellow believer from great danger.

Church discipline – removing someone from the fellowship – is not the first step, it’s the last step. When all else has failed. When the warning goes unheeded. When the counsel of other believers is discarded – when the counsel of the elders is rejected.

Another category of sins worthy of serious action would involve rejecting the claims of Christ and the authority of scripture.

Paul told the Galatian church that if anyone preached another gospel – they went somewhere else to find the content for their preaching – they were to be accursed (Galatians 1:8). Don’t have anything to do with them.

The apostle John wrote that if anyone came with something different from the teaching of Christ . . . don’t even greet them (2 John 9-10). Certainly, don’t let them join your church.

Another category would be sins that discredit the testimony of the church and the Lord Himself.

Paul warned Titus of those who needed to be silenced – removed from the stage, so to speak – who were leading people astray by their opulent lifestyles and their arrogant teaching (Titus 1:10-16).

Objections to Church Discipline

Now, the disciplinary action of removing someone from the church is going to be met by a number of arguments.

One might say that it’s not loving to warn someone of sin or discipline them for unrepentant sin.

A loving person wouldn’t do that.

Hebrews 12 and verse 6 says – “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves.”

The loving thing is to warn someone who’s on a collision course with sin.  The unloving thing is to turn a blind eye.

Like a man who looks out his window at midnight and sees his neighbor’s house on fire. The loving thing to do is run over there and bang on the door, until they get outta there. The most unloving thing you could do is act like you didn’t know it.

Discipline is the action of the church that attempts to awaken the believer who is being lulled into the snare of sin. 

Another reason churches ignore this issue is because church discipline can cause other problems.

Yes it will. The unrepentant person might try to cause trouble and stir up dissension and gain a following and divide the church.

People might get upset; people might misinterpret the action taken; people can become confused in the process. Why this person and not someone else?

I had a man email me one time demanding to know why we would discipline anybody at all – he wrote, “Don’t you know you have adulterers and drug dealers sitting on your front row.”

So let’s not do anything about anybody!

As a senior in college, I served for a semester as the music pastor of a small church in Dalton, Georgia. I led the music on Sunday morning and Sunday night and I had a choir of around 20 people.

After only a few weeks, I learned that the choir was actually struggling with one of its members – a woman in the choir that was defensive about an affair she was having with a married man in town – who wasn’t a member of the church. People knew about it, and she defended it.

I went to the pastor and asked about it. He said he’d heard about it too, but he didn’t want to deal with it. He said he didn’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest by asking her about it. I found out that her father was the chairman of the deacon board and her family had been deeply entrenched in that little church for a long time.

Besides, the pastor told me, “There wasn’t any concrete evidence of her affair.” So I decided to take matters into my own hands – late one night, I drove over to her neighborhood and I staked out her house. I had a camera. I was gonna catch that guy. By the way, this is not good advice!

Nobody ever showed up. I never got any evidence. But I did see that choir, and that little church body suffer in many ways – because of what everybody knew, but didn’t want to deal with.

Accountability and discipline can certainly cause problems, but to ignore it brings even greater problems:

  • a loss of power to the church –
  • a loss of purity within the church –
  • a loss of respect for the church.

That phrase Paul used – “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump,” comes directly from this text in I Corinthians 5 where he emphasizes disciplining the unrepentant church member. 

One author commented that the church today has become a religion of support, not salvation; a place of help rather than holiness; affirmation is at the top of the church’s agenda today which is why some of the least demanding churches are now in the greatest demand.

Someone else might say, “Public exposure for sinning is no one’s business but the person sinning.”

Why would you ever name someone publicly for private, unrepentant sin?

Well, according to the New Testament, that exposure warns the believers themselves of sinning; it establishes the integrity of the church; and follows passage after passage of scripture.

The apostle Paul publicly named one church member who had already left the church – Paul writes – “Demas, in love with this present world, has forsaken me” (2 Timothy 4:10).

John the apostle calls out a church leader by name when he writes, “Diotrephes loves to be first – and when I arrive, I will bring [this] up.” (3 John 9) In other words, I’m gonna deal publicly in the church with Diotrephes when I arrive.

Paul dealt with two women in the church at Philippi, whose argumentative spirits were unsettling that little church; Paul writes, I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) In other words, “Stop your disagreements and get along”. Imagine this letter being read in the assembly while Euodia and Syntyche are publicly named, sitting in the audience.

The Lord Himself commanded the church in Matthew 18 that an unrepentant person can reach the point where they won’t listen to anyone as they persist in their sin. Jesus says, in verse 17: “To tell it to the church.”

Their unrepentance leads to their dismissal from the assembly – and, Lord willing, the loss of fellowship with the Lord, demonstrated by their loss of fellowship with the church, will be used by God to bring them to their senses – to repent – to come back home.

God has designed discipline to be an intersection experience; the unrepentant person is given a clear choice – to keep their sin and give up the assembly, or give up their sin and keep their place in the assembly – because they can’t have both.

Great damage has taken place to the reputation of the gospel, and Christianity, and the Lord Himself, when a church allows someone to stay in fellowship with their sin and in fellowship with the church at the same time.

But what happens when the church decides to be on the right side of scripture and deal with a lack of repentance?

That church:

  • exalts the honor of Christ’s name;
  • it ensures the integrity and testimony of the church;
  • it encourages the moral purity of the church.
  • And ultimately, it reconciles a repentant person back into fellowship with the church. 

It’s possible that this man here in 1 Corinthians 5 is the same man implied in Paul’s next letter to the church in Corinth, 2 Corinthains chapter 2, where Paul talks about welcoming back someone who repented.

And that’s the ultimate goal – the restoration of someone on the brink of losing everything that matters in life.

Now because we believe not only in the local church, but in the universal church – that all the redeemed today make up the body of Christ globally – what that means then is to be out of fellowship with one church means to be out of fellowship with the church.

This immoral man here in Corinth who was excommunicated never said to himself: “Well, never mind you all in Corinth, I’m gonna saddle up my donkey and ride over to Philippi and join the church over there.”

No, there was only one option for him – and to this day when someone is disciplined from the church – they can continue in sin outside of church fellowship, or repent and, we pray, be reconciled to the church family and to the chief Shepherd of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ.




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