1 Corinthians 5: Church Discipline’s Purpose

I Corinthians 5: Church Discipline’s Purpose

The letter to the church in Corinth is a perfect letter for the church today in the 21st century, especially in America.  We live in a sex-saturated society which loves wisdom as did the church in Corinth in Paul’s day.   In the 21st century those who think they are wise by the world’s standards say tolerance goes with wisdom. Tolerance is the pet word of today’s politically correct society. Tolerance of other’s ideas and beliefs does not mean or imply acceptance as good or truth. The culture of today wants non-judgmental acceptance of all perspectives. Yet when Christians speak the truth according to the Bible, we are considered, intolerant, judgmental, narrow-minded and prejudicial.  The claim of Jesus: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by me.”  The way is very narrow-minded, only one way.  This statement by Jesus is politically incorrect, yet Jesus told Pilate, “I came into this world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18)   Pilate’s reply to this is where we are today, “what is truth?” This is the pressure of our society and our world is exactly what Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans (written while in Corinth) which said “be not conformed by the world but transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

God told us in Malachi:  “I the Lord do not change.”  God does not change. The world does not change.   The church today in America is pressured to tolerate sin, not condemn it.   Now when we take in all the counsel we find in the New Testament regarding church discipline, we must heed what Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1:  “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you may also be tempted.”

Let us state up front what is the purpose of the discipline, which is to see repentance and the sinful nature destroyed while the spirit is saved, resulting in restoration of fellowship with the Lord and believers.

Paul told us in I Corinthians 4 to not judge one’s motives.  We are not to judge one’s motives. We are, however, to judge blatant, ongoing, persistent willful sin.

Now often we will hear a Christian quote Jesus from Matthew 7: Judge not, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus in this same passage says you are not to judge as a hypocrite, one who is judging a speck in another’s eye when they have a plank in their own eye.

We are not to judge unbelievers, ‘dogs or pigs’.  We are to judge the fruit. We are to judge blatant sin of professed believers. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells us how to go about this discipline.  Here is the process:

  1. If a fellow believer sins against you, go show him/her their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you and repent, you have won over a brother.
  2. If they do not listen and do not repent, take one or two others, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
  3. If he/she refuses to listen, tell it to the church.
  4. If he/she refuses to listen, to repent, treat them as you would a pagan.


Paul says there is reported sexual immorality among you, of a kind, even the pagans consider wrong.  A man is living in sexual immorality with what we believe is his stepmother, referred to as his father’s wife, rather than his biological mother.

Paul says you are proud, ‘puffed up” (KJV) rather than filled with grief.  Does Paul mean they are proud of this sin?  I believe what he means is their pride keeps them from admitting there is sin in their church. Paul says the church should be grieved and mourn over such behavior.  Pride goes before a fall. Pride puffs one up, like leaven, yeast, does to the whole batch of dough.   Paul reminds them – a little leaven, (a picture of sin) puffs up the whole batch.  This what the church must consider, not what a sex-saturated, wisdom loving culture says is right and wrong, but what the Word of God tells us is wrong, sinful and how to deal with it.

Paul says turn this one over in the power and name of the Lord Jesus to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Hand him over to the devil, under the power of our Lord Jesus.    Remember our study of Job? Satan complained that Job was protected by the Lord, surrounded by a hedge, he could not penetrate.  The story of Job reveals the sovereignty of God which extends to all things being under His control.  “The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he (Job) is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:6)   The Lord handed Job over to the devil, but with restrictions and limits as to what he could and could not do.  Satan was on a leash, held tightly by Almighty God.

And we studied and read, sometimes with horror how Job endured one catastrophe after another.  But then in Job 42: 5, 6 we read:  “My ears had heard you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  Satan under God’s sovereign control was used in Job’s life, to purify his heart and bring him even closer to God.   Paul, himself, will experience a thorn in the flesh, ‘a messenger of Satan’.  God will do the same for us in order to bring us to repentance and restoration. And He uses His church to do His will.

The deliverance of one to the enemy is not to deprive them of salvation for it is not the church which saves, but Christ. It is to restore them through repentance and fellowship with the Lord and fellow believers.

We must also consider what the church looks like to the lost world when carnal Christians live a life just like they do.  They see the hypocrisy of the polluted Church.  Consider the situation in Genesis 19, when the men of Sodom and Gomorrah came to Lot’s door and demanded their right to have sex with the two men( angels) who had come to visit Lot.  Lot came out and asked them not to act so wickedly. He called them, ‘friends.’  They replied angrily to Lot to ‘stand back!’  They said, “This one came in to stay here and he keeps acting as a judge; now we ill will deal worse with you than them.”  The culture about us will not tolerate our calling their behavior wicked. They are telling us ‘stand back.’ Get out of the way. Stay out of the public arena with your belief system.  It is interesting we read “Lot was seated in the gateway of the city” when the two angels arrived. This implies Lot was a politician, one of ruling council members of the city.

A carnal Christian’s testimony is laughable to the world. The two angels who came to escort Lot and his family out Sodom and Gomorrah before its destruction asks Lot this very telling question: “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, whomever you have in the city- take them out of this place! (Genesis 19: 12) So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters and said, “Get up and get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy this city!  But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.   *Remember God would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah if there had been only 10 righteous souls in the two cities.

The angels asked Lot a very penetrating question:  do you have anyone else here?  Lot was a poster boy for a carnal, compromised believer.  As a result he was no soul winner. His witness was a joke because of the life he lived.   Lot was politically correct. He was a compromised politician and successful man by their standards- he could not get elected if he condemned their sexual sins. Today sexual freedom wins over religious freedom every time.


In the Bible, leaven, or yeast is a picture of sin. Yeasts puffs up the whole batch of dough, causing it to rise.  Paul says if we look at the instructions God gave us in the Passover, they contain a picture of what we are to do as Christians. “Get rid of the old yeast, that you may be a new batch without yeast- as you really are. For Christ, Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”

In Exodus 12, God instructs Moses in a new ordinance for the people of Israel, the Passover.  God had been dealing with Egypt through a series of plagues. This would be the last plague, the ‘death of the first born.’  Death of the firstborn in all of Egypt of both men and animals. A destructive, but selective striking down of the first born which would be judgment on all of the gods of Egypt.   Our old nature is first born, and it must be struck down also. Egypt was a picture of the world, and all the gods, idols of this world must be struck down.  God said you must not have any other gods before Him.

Jesus is our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Passover Lamb was to be a male without defect, which is the description given to Jesus. He was without sin. Even Pilate, upon examination of Jesus, said, “I find no fault in this man.”  The lamb was taken in on the 10th day of the month.  Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time on the 10th day of the month, the ‘lamb selection day.”  The crowd which lined His pathway with palm branches hailed Jesus as King, shouting “Hosanna!” which means ‘save us.’  The Passover Lamb according to the instructions God gave to Moses was to be roasted and eaten, but none of its bones were to be broken.  It was customary during crucifixion to break the legs of the person after a few hours to hasten their death.  Jesus, Our Passover Lamb, did not have his legs broken, although the other two men did.  This was because He was already dead.

The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration. The priest would blow the shophar, (a ram’s horn) at 3:00pm. This was the signal to all the sacrificial lamb was to be slain.  We read in Luke 23, “it was now the sixth hour, (noon) and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour (3:00pm), for the sun stopped shining.”  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father into thy hands, commit my spirit.”  Then he said, “it is finished.’  It was 3:00 pm.   At the same time, the veil in the Temple was split from the top to the bottom representing a removal of separation between God and man.  Fifty days later on the Day of Pentecost, on the anniversary of the giving of the Law, God left the earthly temple to inhabit all those who call on the name of Jesus through His Holy Spirit.

The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on Friday at sunset. They would eat unleavened bread for 7 days. Paul says get rid of the old unleavened bread, that you may be a new batch without leaven, for we are new creatures in Christ, that is who we really are. We are to keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread not for seven days, but for all our days. We must purge out the old leavened bread with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  Today, Jews still celebrate The Passover Dinner, which is called the Seder. They retell the story of the Exodus of the Jews out of Egypt.  Yet they cannot see the Lamb of God in the story, as Paul writes in 2 Cor. 3:  “  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts, but whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus was celebrating the Passover Meal with his disciples. It was here Jesus declared the Passover Meal represented Himself and that He was instituting a New Covenant, which had been foretold by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. (Jeremiah 33:31-33; Ezekiel 11: 19-12; and Isaiah 42:6)

This celebration of this New Covenant is the Lord’s Supper, the communion in the Christian Church. Jesus took the unleavened bread after the dinner and broke it and said, “This is my body broken for you.”  He then took the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption and said this is the new covenant ‘in this His blood, poured out for you.”  It is through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we are declared clean before God, allowing us who have accepted His pardon to commune with Him, both now and forever more.

Paul says ‘let us keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread by living a life dedicated to the Lord Jesus and pursuing holiness daily.  Unleavened bread is the daily bread for the believer of sincerity and truth. Leavened bread represents the bread of deceit, the bread of wickedness and malice.

Paul says we are not to keep company with a professed Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.  Notice this if for anyone who calls himself a Christian.

Paul says with such a person, do not even eat – or keep company.  Expel the wicked man from among you. This is done until the person repents and is restored to fellowship.  If done properly God can use it to convict and restore an erring believer. If, however, they do not repent and return, John said those who went out and did not return were never part of us.

Paul is careful to note we are not to judge the lost, God will judge them.

We look around us today and we see a culture which looks like Sodom and Gomorrah. But I wonder if we also looked around us, we would see we are more like Lot, living a life of compromise. And the Lord is asking us- is there anyone else with you?