The Church can exist in a world of sin, but it cannot prosper when a world of sin is brought into the Church. A ship in the water is fine, but water in the ship can be disastrous. The members of the Corinthian Church were busy in promoting divisions over human leadership, and boasting of their achievements. Yet in their very midst they tolerated sin of the vilest order. Paul's blistering words of rebuke should be studied and heeded by our 20th Century churches.
"It is reported commonly that
there is fornication among you
. . . " I Cor. 5:1. One of the Corinthian Christians was deeply
involved in sin with his stepmother. This type of fornication was so immoral
that there was no name for it among the Gentiles.
Do not be deceived, any Christian can sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." I John 1:8,10. If we boast of our holiness and our freedom from sin, we become an easy mark for the devil. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fail." I Cor. 10:12.
Here is why it is easy for the Christian to sin. (1) He still has the flesh. If there was no devil, the flesh would still crave sin. Read Romans 7. "Dearly beloved . . . abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." I Peter 2:11. ". . . Have no confidence in the flesh." Phil. 3:3. The flesh cannot be trusted. (2) He is still in the world with all of its temptations. The world is no friend of God and no friend of the Christian. (3) The devil is still running loose. He is not chained, but is the prince of the power of the air and the god of this world. He is the tempter. According to the scriptures, he has "wiles," "snares," and "devices." He has great power and is not afraid to use any of his weapons to lure a Christian into sin.
The Christian should recognize his own sin, confess it, repent of it, and forsake it. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John I.:9. If this is not done, the Christian will soon feel the chastening of the Lord. Read Hebrews 12: 5-11
God has provided a way of escape so that the Christian need not go into sin. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." I Cor. 10:13 Walk with God, avoid the very appearance of evil, seek His face in prayer, read and obey His Word, and you will find the key to victory over sin.
"Unto the church of God which is at Corinth it is reported commonly that there is fornication among you . . . " I Cor. 1:2-a, 5:1-a. Since a church is made up of individual members, sin in the individual constitutes sin in the church. The "church of God . . . at Corinth" was a local visible New Testament Church. The Bible does not teach a universal invisible church, in fact there is no such thing today. In I Cor. 12:12-31 the local church with its various members is compared to a human body with its various parts. Every part of the human body has a use and function. Even so, every member of a Church has a place of work and service that is needful. Disease or infection in one part of the human body has an adverse affect on the rest of the body. Even so, sin in one member of the Church has an adverse effect upon every member. "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it . . . Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." I Cor. 12:26-a, 27
One drop of contaminated water will contaminate a whole reservoir of pure water, but one drop of pure water will not purify a reservoir of contaminated water. One deadly cancer cell can be disastrous to an entire body of healthy cells. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." I Cor. 5:6 The Church at Corinth had a member who was openly involved in immorality. The Church had not mourned over this, nor had they taken any action at all.
This is the great problem in many churches today. Sin is tolerated. Sin is condoned. Sometimes sin is even promoted in the Church. Preachers, deacons, and prominent members are commonly reported to be guilty of fornication and adultery, and nothing is done about it. The Bible standards for the ministry and church officers are ignored in many quarters today. No wonder the world has lost all respect for the Church. No wonder God withdraws His blessing. Eventually Ichabod is written over the door of another Church. "The glory Is departed." I Sam. 4:21 Then that Church has to resort to worldly carnal methods to keep going.
God wants His Church to be doctrinally pure, and morally pure. In Joshua 7, we see how the sin of Achan brought defeat to the entire nation of Israel. When this sin was judged, then God restored the blessing.
Does a Church have the scriptural authority to deal with doctrinal error and immorality in the congregation? THE ANSWER IS YES!! The Church not only has the authority to do this, but it has the COMMAND of God to do so. Yet, we find many today who object to any form of discipline being exercised in the Church. Failure to exercise discipline against those guilty of doctrinal heresy has resulted in most of the major denominations being taken over by the modernists. If a Church fails to discipline those who are guilty of open immorality, they seal their own doom. The Church loses its testimony and the Spirit of God is grieved.
Sin in general and sins in particular should be preached against from the pulpit regularly. If this is done in the right manner, it will keep many Christians from going into sin. What a pity that so many preachers are afraid to preach against sin.
Paul's instruction to the Corinthian Church is plain. Here is what he told the Church to do: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." I Cor. 5:4, 5, 13-b. In other words, the man was to be turned out of the Church. He could no longer be in fellowship with the Church. This did not doom his soul, but it would purge or remove sin from the Church body.
1. Immorality as is explained in I Cor. 5:1-13.
2. False doctrine cannot be tolerated by a Church. See I Tim. 6:1-5; I Tim. 1: 19-20; and II Tim. 2:16-18. "From such withdraw thyself." I Tim. 6:5-b
3. A disorderly walk. "Now we command you brethren, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly . . . For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working net at all, but are busybodies . . . And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." II Thess. 3:6, 11, 14, 15
4. Divisions contrary to Bible doctrine. Rom. 16:17, 18; Titus 3:10; Acts 20:28-32
5. Unrepentant attitude over sin. Matt. 18:15-20 " . . . if he neglect to hear the Church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Matt. 18:17
Church discipline has fallen into ill repute, because it has many times been practiced in an unscriptural manner. Harshness, bitterness, and hatred should have no place in Church discipline. If such business is conducted in a spirit of anger and emotion, it will probably do more harm than good. Church members should be mourning, and praying if others are guilty of sin.
1. Church discipline should be carried out in a scriptural manner. Spirituality, humility, and meekness should be manifested by those who are taking action. Read Gal. 6:1 and Matt. 18:15-20.
2. A firm and uncompromising stand is essential. "Rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith." Titus 11:13 "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." I Tim. 5:20
3. Love for the erring brother must be manifested. "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." II Thess. 3:15
4. There should be full forgiveness for those who repent and confess. "... If he repent, forgive him." Luke 17:3
1. Church discipline is commanded in the word of God. We should obey God.
2. It will remove the defilement of sin. "Purge out therefore the old leaven." I Cor. 5:7-a Proper Church discipline will maintain the purity and power of the Church, and thus retain the blessing of God.
3. It will restrain others. "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." I Tim. 5:20
4. It is always hoped that it will bring about the repentance and restoration of the erring brother. It seems quite certain that the immoral man of I Cor. 5, later repented and was restored to fellowship in the Church. Read II Cor. 2:4-11
The Bible does not teach open communion. Every one that loves Jesus is not invited to the Lord's table. The Lord's Supper is a Church ordinance. The Church was organized before the institution of the Lord's Supper. Unsaved nor unbaptized people are never invited to the Lord's table. The order in Matt. 28:19 is: (1) Salvation (2) Baptism (3) Observing of all things, this would of course include the Lord's Supper. The order in Acts 2:41,42 is: (1) Salvation (2) Baptism (3) Fellowship (4) Breaking of bread.
The command to the Church at Corinth was: "Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." I Cor. 11:2. The Lord's Supper is the ordinance under discussion in I Cor. 11.
"When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you . . . there must be also heresies among you....... When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper." I Cor. 11:18, 19, 20. Notice the phrase in verse 20, "...this is not to eat the Lord's Supper." The literal meaning of this phrase is: "Ye cannot eat the Lord's Supper.'' In the midst of division, heresies, and disorder such as is described in I Cor. 11:17-34, it is impossible to eat the Lord's Supper until these disorders are corrected in the Church.
"Now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; WITH SUCH AN ONE NO NOT TO EAT." I Cor. 5:11. This makes it quite plain that "any man that is called a brother" cannot live in sin and be invited to the Lord's Supper. This scripture deals with the present state of the man, not his past state. Many who are now good and faithful Christians, once lived in the vilest of sins. "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are, justified." I Cor. 6:11.
The only place that the Lord's Supper can scripturally be observed, is in a local New Testament Baptist Church. Only the members of that local Church should partake of it. :Every person who partakes of the Lord's Supper should be a saved, baptized member of that particular Church. The Church as a body has no way of knowing about the qualifications of those who are not members of that local church. . . . "do not ye judge them that are within?" I Cor. 5:12.
The Bible says, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." I Cor. 11:28. If a man will do this, then all will be well. But if he refuses to examine and judge himself, then the Church body has every right to exclude him from the Church and from the Lord's Supper, until he repents and confesses.
1. Sin in the Child of God, should be confessed and forsaken. This will save the Child of God from chastisement.
2. Sin in the Church of God, should be recognized as a threat to the health and welfare of the entire local Church body.
3. The Church has the authority to deal with sin in its membership. Members who persist in living in sin should be excluded from the membership of the Church, until such time that they confess and repent of their sin.
4. Church members who are living in sin, should not be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper by the Church.
A proper attitude toward Church discipline will not make Pharisees out of the Christians. It will not make spies and snoopers out of the pastor and other Church officers. It will not cause an outbreak of gossip-fever among the members. When a Christian gets pleasure or satisfaction in talking about the sin of fellow Christians, it is proof positive that their heart is not right with God. When we see a Christian in sin, we ought to have a broken heart about it.
The testimony of independent, fundamental Baptist Churches is rapidly being destroyed because of a failure to practice Church discipline. In these last days of apostasy, may Churches be awakened to the awful danger from within.