Dear Cornerstone brothers and sisters,
I hope that you are having a wonderful week. The Apostle Paul tells us that we have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20). And of course, that price is the nothing less than the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s blood was the price that set us free from our slavery to sin. Jesus came to earth to redeem us – to set us free – free to worship Him and to live for his glory. In essence, we have been set free to do the very things for which we were created – rightly worship our Creator. Remember this week the great cost of your salvation – the shed blood of the Lord of glory!
I look forward to seeing you and to worshipping with you this Lord’s Day!
A few reminders:
* tonight we’ll be gathering at the Barnes’ home for dinner and prayer. Please RSVP if you can make it.
* be on the lookout for upcoming men’s and women’s events that will be gearing up as the summer winds down and Fall is around the corner!
* registration for our Fall conference is now open. go here to register: www.csopc.org/conference.
* this week’s devotional is a reflection on the important but often neglected issue of church discipline.
From the Pastor’s Desk
1 Corinthians 5:6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
The Apostle Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians to the believers living in the city of Corinth. The church in Corinth was facing a number of serious pastoral issues to which Paul was responding (e.g. division in the church, wrong views of marriage, matters of Christian freedom, worship, etc). One such issue that Paul addresses in chapter 5 is that of sexual immorality in the church. Vv. 1-2 state the problem, and vv. 3-8 relate Paul’s response. And Paul’s response, simply put, is that the church should discipline the unrepentant offender. There are two purposes of church discipline described by Paul that we need to consider.
The first is what we might term an ‘individual’ purpose. In v. 3 Paul, speaking with apostolic authority, says he has “already pronounced judgment on the one [who sinned].” Therefore, the Corinthian church is to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” In other words, the offender is to be excommunicated from the body of the church and is to be regarded as an unbeliever. The unrepentant offender, no longer a part of the corporate body of believers, is now solely a resident of the world – a world temporarily under the control of Satan (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2-3). But what is the purpose of this discipline for the offender? Paul tell us: “… so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (v. 5b). Thus, ultimately church discipline is restorative; the prayer of the church is that the sinner’s conscience would be pierced, he would repent, and be restored to the fellowship of believers.
The second purpose of church discipline is a ‘corporate’ purpose (vv. 6-8). The Corinthian church’s failure to disciple in this situation demonstrated a lack of concern for holiness and thereby was damaging their testimony to the world. Therefore, Paul states this ‘corporate’ purpose in v. 7, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump.” Paul is using leaven to symbolize evil that, if left unchecked, will spread to infect and affect the whole. Just as the Israelites had to cleanse their homes from every trace of leaven under the Old Covenant (Ex 23:15), so the Corinthians church is to cleanse itself from known and heinous sin. To summarize, the corporate purpose of church discipline concerns the holiness of the body of Christ. The church is a people holy unto the Lord!!
There are two further points that need to be stressed relating to discipline in the church. First, the context in which discipline is exercised must always be one of grace and reflective of the character of Christ! Twice over in v. 4 Paul mentions the Lord Jesus Christ – the church is assembled ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ … and with the power of the Lord Jesus.’ Grace, patience, humility, and love are to permeate all that the church is and does, including – especially so – in the exercising of church discipline (cf. Matt 18:15-20).
And second, church discipline of this sort (public and formal) is reserved for uniquely public and heinous sin (I would argue the situation in Corinth, v. 1, qualifies as such). For as Peter tells us, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; also see 1 Corinthians 13 for the type of longsuffering and persevering love that is to characterize believers). Moreover, we should not consider church discipline as a strictly negative and formal procedure. Rather, church discipline begins with the preaching of the word. The Lord ‘disciples’ us by his Spirit through his word as the Spirit convicts us of our sin and shows us more of Christ!
Dear brothers and sisters, church discipline – a topic rarely addressed and practiced in the church today – is an essential mark of a true church of Jesus Christ. Ultimately its purpose is for the benefit of the individual and the testimony of the church. But the process begins – albeit informally – whenever the word is faithfully preached and read, the Spirit is present, and Christ is proclaimed! May we pray that this mark of the church be faithfully, wisely, humbly, and lovingly restored in the church today!
Have a good rest of the week and God bless,