1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 37
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|We’ve looked at the painful act of church discipline. We looked at the crucifying effect of church discipline. Now we’re going to look at the particular focus of church discipline. Church discipline’s focus is on believers, not unbelievers. We share the Gospel with unbelievers, we pray for them, but we don’t discipline them. We discipline those of our own body, the body of believers.|
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
The Particular Focus of Church Discipline
I’ve learned a lot about cooking. Thanks to the ladies in my church. I found out that yeast does not go into cakes or biscuits. So, the moral to that story is, don’t let me do the cooking. You cook, and I’ll eat it. I told a story about my mama baking a cake. It was rising, so I thought there had to be yeast in it. Yeast causes things to rise, doesn’t it? Anyway, I’ve learned a lot.
You ask, “What do you mean, yeast? Where does that come up in 1 Corinthians 5?” Well, look at verse 6. Paul is illustrating why sin has got to be removed, not only from an individual life, but from the church. When it’s habitual in someone’s life, it must be removed, because it’s very dangerous and it’s very deadly if it remains. He uses the illustration of leaven and what it does.
In verse 6 he says, “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” He says a little leaven, micro, a little tiny bit of leaven. Now, yeast is that which causes the fermentation in dough which causes it to rise. I also discovered that yeast feeds on sugar. Did you know that? And also it feeds on the gluten that’s in flour. And the more it feeds, the higher it rises. The interesting thing is, it’s hollow on the inside.
Have you been to a restaurant and you’ve gotten one of those yeast rolls. Don’t tell me it’s not in there. And they look so good. They smell so good. And they are so good. You take your knife and cut it in half and butter it and what happens? It’s empty on the inside. It’s like there’s just nothing but air on the inside. The yeast has caused it to rise, but there’s nothing on the inside.
What does the apostle Paul say about the church there at Corinth? He said, “You’re arrogant.” What is the word for arrogant? Phusioo, which means what? You’re a spiritual air bag. Leaven has caused you to rise up; and people look at you and think you really love Jesus. But on the inside there’s nothing to back up your walk.
By the way, I found out something else. Do you know what the substance is that causes yeast not to activate? It’s salt. Now, if you have a creative mind, and you want to illustrate something, have fun with that one. What did Jesus say for us to be in the world? Salt and light. And the more we live godly lives, the more we cause leaven not to be able to function as it needs to function. So it’s a beautiful picture, obviously, of the Holy Spirit of God that we understand how sin works, whether in an individual’s life or in the body of believers.
Church discipline is our subject that we are dealing with. Now, if sin is not dealt with in a person’s life, if it’s habitual in any way, then what happens is, it has a destructive effect. It’s very much like cancer that silently works inside of someone’s body. If you don’t know it’s there, or if you do know it’s there and you don’t deal with it, while you think you’re doing fine, it’s tearing away, eating away at tissue and organs in your body. That’s the way it is. It can destroy a church.
I was over in North Carolina, and the pastor I was working with told me, “Wayne, do you know how many pastors leave or are caused and forced to leave the ministry every month?” And I said, “I have absolutely no idea.” He said, “I just read a survey that came out in a magazine. One hundred fifty pastors a month are forced out of churches of one denomination or another nationwide.” Now you figure this up on a daily basis. And you say, “Well, it’s because pastors aren’t living godly before God.” That is true in so many instances, but I want to tell you something. There’s another side to that. There are churches that won’t deal with sin. And when pastors come in and preach on it, they run him off. So it works both ways. Sin not dealt with in an individual’s life will destroy a church.
And I want to tell you it will also destroy a family. If you’re not dealing with sin in your own individual life, you don’t realize right now the damage it’s doing to your home. It’s like that leaven. It’s in there and it’s beginning to fester, and if you don’t deal with it, it’s going to destroy. It can destroy relationships of any kind.
We must understand the seriousness of why church discipline is even brought up in 1 Corinthians 5. The situation Paul has been singling out is in verse 1. It’s an immoral man who’s committing incest. Look at 1 Corinthians 5:1. He says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles [Now what is this kind of immorality?], that someone has his father’s wife.” It’s the sin of incest. And they have allowed it to go on. The fact that it’s reported signifies that everybody knows about it. In fact, everyone is talking about it on the street. All of Corinth knew that they were tolerating this man’s habitual sin within the church.
The apostle Paul says, “Since you won’t judge him, I will.” He orders them in a public assembly to remove him from their midst. That’s in the first part of chapter 5. He tells us why church discipline is so important in verses 6-8. Look at verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 5. He says, “Clean out the old leaven [The word for “old” means that which is longstanding. In the context, this man needs to be removed from their midst] that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
What does he mean by new lump? Qualitatively new? No. This is a different word, neos. It means new in relation to time. It means that you’ll have a new testimony to the people of Corinth. In other words, up until now they don’t respect them. Paul’s trying to tell them that. They have absolutely no respect whatsoever. They know that you tolerate sin and even though you don’t associate with them, they know that you tolerate sin in your midst. However, if you want a brand new look to them, if you want to have a witness amongst the lost people of Corinth, then you remove this man. And it will send a message to them and you can have a fresh testimony among them. They were in great need of revival and repentance. This is what Paul’s saying. Deal with this man, and you’ll set a standard once again in the body. You’ll send a message to this world that we’re attached to Christ and leaven has no place in our lives.
Well, the apostle Paul takes them back to the Old Testament and reminds them of an Old Testament feast. Right before Passover there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover was the feast to celebrate what happened in Egypt when they were in captivity and they had to slay the lamb and put the blood over the door. Then they had to eat of the lamb. The death angel came and because of the blood on the door they were spared. Each one partook of the lamb, and God set them free. That’s what the Passover was. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they had to get all of the leaven out of the house.
Paul takes them back to that mind-set in verse 8 of 1 Corinthians 5. He said, “Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In saying that, he says, “You know, they only celebrated it once a year to remember their deliverance from Egypt.”
But then he puts the “celebrate” here in that verse in the present tense. He says, “Whereas they celebrated it once a year, we celebrate it every day. Daily we get the leaven out of our life. And as we’re willing to get the leaven out of our life, then we can celebrate Christ being our deliverance, Christ being our victory, Christ being our sacrifice. But you can’t celebrate victory until you’re willing to deal with the leaven, the sin, that’s in your life.” It’s a beautiful picture of a Christian dealing with leaven. We all have it. It can be as subtle as an attitude, but it’s still leaven and it must be dealt with and be put under the blood of Jesus. We must be cleansed of it so that we can continue to celebrate our victory over the penalty of sin and the power of sin day by day in our life.
Well, let us celebrate the feast. Let us continually be celebrating the feast. He goes on to say that we celebrate it “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” That’s the life that we now live. If you hold us up before Him, you can see right through us, because whatever was there to mar what you might see has been dealt with under the blood. We are transparent. God is using us. We’re sincere and real, which is really the basic meaning of the word “truth,” absolutely genuine and real. That’s the way we live. And if we live that way, then we have a testimony to the lost world.
We’ve looked at the painful act of church discipline. We looked at the crucifying effect of church discipline in verses 6-8, as we’ve just reviewed. Now we’re going to look at the particular focus of church discipline. Church discipline does not deal with lost people; you deal with believers. Have you noticed in your Scriptures that he didn’t say anything about disciplining the woman who was involved? He only said to discipline the man who was involved. Does that tell you something? It probably tells us that she wasn’t a believer, and he was living with this unbeliever. But he professed to be a believer and would not repent; therefore, they had to deal with him. Church discipline’s focus is on believers, not unbelievers. We share the Gospel with unbelievers, we pray for them, but we don’t discipline them. We discipline those of our own body, the body of believers.
Look at verses 9-13: “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”
A lost letter
That finishes up chapter 5. Let’s back up. Three things I want you to see. First of all, the apostle Paul deals with a lost letter. In other words, there’s an epistle that he wrote to the church at Corinth years before, evidently, that has been lost. We don’t know anything about that letter except what Paul tells us. Verse 9 says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people.” You know, it bothers some people that we don’t have that letter. I’ve heard people say, “Well, that just makes me not have faith in the Word of God. We don’t have all of the Word of God.” Personally, I think that’s hogwash to think that way. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Do you realize, if you say that, your logic is, you’re telling the world that you don’t understand the providence of God nor do you understand the sovereignty of God? It’s very simple. If God would have wanted us to have it, we would have it and it would have been found. But, evidently, God didn’t want us to have it, so we don’t have it. So don’t worry about it. It must not be needed. It’s amazing the simple logic when we deal with certain passages like this.
But then the scholars have to step in and so confuse all of us that we don’t know what we’re arguing about. I went to a banquet that was down at the Trade Center. The pro-lifers met together and had a wonderful speaker from Washington, one of the greatest speakers I have ever heard. She was talking about how they put her on to debate the pro-choice people. She said, “The only debate I’ve ever been in was whether I was going to have chicken or hamburger for supper. I didn’t know what to do. All of these academic intellectuals debate this issue.” They put her on there. I guess they thought they’d make a fool out of her. Well, it backfired. Because of her simplicity, because of not trying to confuse the issue, she just went at it from the real basis of how we’d all deal with it.
They got in there and said, “First of all, this thing inside of a woman at conception is really not a child. It’s not a life. It’s a tissue.” She said, “Well, good. If it’s not a life then we don’t have a problem, because you don’t have to kill it.” They said, “No, no. It’s a life, but it’s not a human life.” She said, “Well, good. We still don’t have a problem. If it’s not a human life, just let it grow. Maybe it’s a parrot.”
As I listened to her I thought to myself, if people would come to Scripture on that kind of basis, the simplicity of the sovereignty of God, the providence of God, ought to solve the problem. But some people have to write books on where is that letter. And to me that’s just a waste of sweat. Why in the world bother with it? If we don’t have it, we don’t need it.
But there was another letter that he had written. It’s interesting to me. In that letter he was doing the very same thing he’s doing in this letter. They don’t learn very quickly, do they? He was trying to tell them then not to associate with immoral people, as he’s trying to tell them now not to associate with immoral people. The letter was lost, but still he was using the same teaching. Now the word “to associate” there comes from the word that means to mingle or to mix. The little word sun in front of it, that little word in front of it causes us to understand it. We’re not to mingle and to mix, but we’re to be with people who are sinful people. We’re acquaintances with them; however, we’re not to socialize with them. We’re not to mingle and mix with them. Why? Because if somebody is habitually sinful, then the leaven in his life can affect our life. That’s exactly what Paul has just said. You don’t mingle with them or socialize with them. However, if they’re lost, you pray for them and you witness to them. But you don’t socialize, you don’t mix, you don’t mingle with them. That’s what the word means. It’s important for us to note that.
Paul, of course, is pointing again to the fact, if you associate with people who are practicing immorality, it’s going to get on you. In other words, it’s going to affect you.
I don’t know why people can’t see that, even in dating relationships when young people start dating. You say, “Well, I know this boy is not a Christian, but I just want to win him to Jesus.” They make the stupid mistake of thinking that emotional means can accomplish a spiritual end. It almost never does. There may be one or two exceptions, but the rule is, if that’s a habitual practice of their life, get away from that person. Do not mix with them. Do not fellowship with them because, the way they’re going, the leaven in their life is going to affect your life.
So the apostle Paul tells them of a lost letter that already had warned them of not associating with immoral people. That’s been his whole context of chapter 5. Over in Colossians you find other letters that are lost and we don’t have. God, evidently, didn’t want us to have them. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God [In other words, if I don’t know where they are, it doesn’t matter. It belongs to Him.] but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Now, that ought to solve it for everybody right there. The secret things, the things that are hidden, the things that we don’t know, they’re God’s, and that’s His business. But the things that are revealed belong to us forever that we might be obedient to the things God has shown us.
A lack of understanding
Okay, so the first thing then, is a lost letter. But the second thing he deals with is a lack of understanding. Evidently, when they got that first letter, they either intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood it. The Corinthians evidently didn’t understand his command in his last letter when he said not to associate with immoral people. Do you know what they looked at that as? It appears they thought he meant the lost people of the world, the immoral lost people of the world. But Paul was actually writing to say, “No, the immoral people in the church is really what I had in mind.” They said, “Hey, we don’t associate with the world because they’re immoral and lost and covetous and swindlers, and we’re separated away from them.”
Remember he said, “You’re boasting and you’re arrogant.” What were they boasting in? I think this was their testimony. This is what they’re saying to people. “Look at us. We’re living separate lives.” But the problem was, they weren’t dealing with sin in their own life. They refused, in their arrogance, to associate with any person who was immoral. Witness to them, yes; but don’t mix with them. We’re supposed to witness to them. But they took it to the limit. They didn’t have any contact with them at all. They just backed away as if that’s what it meant to be separate from immoral people.
I’ll tell you what, folks. Separation is good, but the key is to let Jesus Christ separate you. When you start separating yourself and patting yourself on the back for the separation, that’s nothing more than legalism. Your testimony is what you’re not doing. But the problem is, you’re not dealing with what you are doing, the sin in your own camp, the sin in your life, the sin within the church.
It reminds me of Romans 1:18-32. The apostle Paul dealt with the rebellious Gentile world and said, “Look at them.” He talked about how openly pagan they were. But then in chapter 2 he switches. Look at Romans 2:1, just to take you back and remember what we’re dealing with here. There are a lot of people who come across as being separated from the sinful people of the world, but they’re the meanest people you’ve ever been around in your life. They’ve got sin in their life. They’re judgmental. They really don’t have a testimony. They think they do, but they’re spiritual air bags. That’s all they are.
Look over in Romans 2:1. “Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Who’s the “you” there? If you’ll drop down to verse 17, he says, “But if you bear the name Jew.” He makes a shift here. In chapter 1 you’ve got the pagan Gentile, but in chapter 2 through 3:20, you’ve got the religious Jewish people. He says, hypocrites, you’re standing there pointing at those Gentiles and their sins. You’re not willing to deal with your own sins. “Thou that judgest doest the same thing.”
This is what was going on in Corinth. They were boasting. They were arrogant. “We don’t associate with the immoral people of the world.” Well, whoop-di-do! What about your own sin? Are you dealing with that? I want to tell you something. Anytime you see a person walking with God, they’ll never come across as to their conviction. They’ll come across with humility. They’ll come across as a person who always is willing and open to deal with sin in their life. They realize that maybe they can’t see it, and somebody can. This braggadocios, arrogant type of thing, that’s nothing more than pure legalism. That’s all it is. People love that kind of stuff, folks.
I know a man who works in a video store. He was telling me one night, “Wayne, many of the people who come in here and rent these movies, I know where they go to church. They won’t walk into a movie theater, but they’re the first ones in here to rent all that stuff.” Now, I’m not saying that it’s right, wrong, or indifferent. I’m just trying to tell you something. If you think your testimony is not going to movie theaters and you are not willing to deal with your own personal individual lives, it kills everything you’re saying.
That’s exactly what Paul’s telling them. Spiritual air bags. You’re arrogant. You talk about what you’re not doing. But you’re not dealing with what you are doing. That’s the whole bottom line.
Do you know anybody like that? Have you looked in the mirror lately and seen anybody like that? How quickly we love to point the finger at somebody else. I want to tell you, folks, if we’re not dealing with the sin in our own life, forget pointing the finger at anybody. That’s where discipline steps in. If we’re not willing to deal with it corporately, it’s obvious we’re not dealing with it individually.
Well, in verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 5 he says, “I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world.” Verse 11 goes on to say, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – [now listen to this] not even to eat with such a one.”
Now the literal translation in verse 10 out of the Greek, to me, is clearer than the New American Standard. The literal says, “Not entirely the immoral people of the world or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world.”
What Paul is saying is, “You’ve got to be associated with them.” You go to work with these people. They’re people next door to you. Some of them are kin to you. Some are even married to them. It’s not like you can’t associate with them, because we are forced into that association. For a person to say that he’s not going to have any kind of fellowship at all with people who are immoral in the world, Paul says, you’d have to leave the planet. He says, “You’d have to go out of this world.” It doesn’t work that way. They’re all around you. But the key is, you don’t socialize, as we’ve talked about a while ago. We’re in the world, but not of the world. We’re not isolated from them, we’re insulated from them. As we attach ourselves to Christ, He becomes our witness through that.
Paul doesn’t just single out the immoral people of the world or the church. He singles out some others, too. He makes a little longer list. By the way, isn’t if funny how quickly we love to jump on somebody who’s immoral, but we forget about the other sins that are also told to be dealt with? Look at what he says in verse 10. He uses the word “covetous.” Now, you’d never know covetousness was in some people’s lives unless it was flagrant, and he had obviously talked about that. Every time he mentions one of these sins it means a habitual pattern of life. All of us fall in these traps from time to time. We’re talking about somebody who’s obsessed with it, somebody who’s driven by it. The covetous person would defraud you in a minute to get what you have because he wants what you have. He’s not satisfied with what he has. He’s never satisfied with what he has. So he’ll lie, deceive and do whatever’s necessary to get what he wants. That’s the person you don’t associate or mix with, because that kind of lifestyle could become yours.
The word “swindler” means to seize. It’s one who secretly steals from another. The word picture is of a wolf that preys upon other animals. That’s the kind of mind-set. Somebody always preying on somebody to see if he can get a buck out of them or to swindle them in some way.
Do you know anybody like that? Do you know anybody who, when they walk up to you at church, immediately sees you as a candidate for making more money out of your life? Look out! That person will use you to get gain because he’s not satisfied with what he has.
The word “idolaters” comes from two words. One means idol and one means a servant or a worshipper of an idol. This is Corinth, remember? You have to flip a coin. I think I’ll worship an idol. Well, which one are you going to worship? There were so many of them you’d just have to flip a coin. He says, “Don’t you dare associate with these people who are serving these idols. Witness to them, pray for them, yes; but don’t you mingle with them. Don’t you socialize with them, because what they’re doing is going to get on you before it’s over with.” They’re a servant or a worshipper of an idol.
Paul’s point is very clear. He says, “I wasn’t referring to the world. You ought to know that. That ought to be common sense to anybody. I was talking about in the church.” In verse 11 he says, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother.” The word there means somebody who’s named as a brother, so it’s somebody obviously everybody would know as a Christian.
He adds two more. One of the ones he adds is “a drunkard.” The other one is “a reviler.” I want to talk about that word just for a second. Do you know what a reviler is? A synonym of that is the word blaspheme. Do you know what it means to blaspheme or to revile? It means to go behind somebody’s back with a rumor or a lie and tear down their reputation to somebody else. If a person habitually does that, you’d better disassociate yourself from them. Go to them, discipline them, and if they won’t repent, remove them from the midst.
It’s not just the immoral. Oh, no. It’s also the covetous, the swindlers, the extortioners, and also these revilers and drunkards. It’s amazing to me how we have categorized sin and the big bad five are over here, but the better ones are over here. We colored them. They’re not black sins, they’re gray sins. The apostle Paul says that you’d better be nailing every one of them. Isn’t it interesting how far we’ve come from dead-center as to what we’re supposed to be today?
People today say, “Come on, man.” You see, we all fall into that sin at times, but we repent of it, hopefully. But if a person doesn’t, it becomes habitual and that person becomes cancerous in the body and must be dealt with through church discipline. That’s what Paul says. He said, “You ought to have known not to do that in the world. I’m talking about in the church. You people will deal with the people in the world, but you won’t even deal with the people who are in your own backyard.” They were boasting that they did not associate with the immoral people of the world while at the same time they were not willing to disassociate with the immoral man in their own church or even deal with it in their own lives.
Do you know what’s killed us in America? It’s the same thing that’s killed them in Corinth, Christians. Wasn’t it Gandhi of India who said, “I would have become a Christian had it not been for Christians.” Folks, I’m telling you. We have no standards. A man who points in every direction points in no direction. That’s what Paul is saying. You can talk about their sin all you want to, but until you’re willing to deal with your own sin and the sin within the body which you represent, then you have no testimony to others. What you’re saying to them is you tolerate that sin in your midst.
There are a lot of denominations these days. I go to a lot of the different denominations, and I’ve talked to a lot of people of different backgrounds. I’m learning a lot. I did not know how many denominations didn’t believe in church membership. Do you realize a lot of people love to attend churches forever? They love to come and get all they can glean from it but have no responsibility to it. Do you know what Tennessee law says? If you’re not a member of a local church body, then they cannot practice church discipline upon your life. It’s already been tested in court. A person can be accused of slander. It’s already happened. So people say, “This is great! I’ll just attend and attend, because I don’t believe in church membership. Therefore, if I ever have sin in my life, they can’t touch me. I’ll sue them if they do it.” That’s the attitude a lot of people have.
Do you know what we see church membership as? Church membership means accountability. When you join a church, you’re telling that church, “I want to live holy before God. I want to come alongside you to hold you accountable and I want you to come alongside me to hold me accountable so that when we stand before God one day, the work that God has done through us will withstand the test of fire.” That’s what it means to become a member of a church.
In today’s culture, you can’t even practice step three and four of church discipline if you’re not a member. We’ve already seen that. Folks, listen to me. Think about that. The people who don’t believe in church membership tell me, “Well, we’re all the body of Christ.” Yes, we are. That’s right. That’s sort of an ambiguous term, isn’t it? So you live out in the middle of nowhere, drop in a church whenever you want to drop in, sins in your life and you don’t deal with it. Nobody’s going to confront you, because nobody knows it’s even there. You’re not accountable to anybody. Isn’t that convenient Christianity?
Folks, I say that from my heart. At this church we may miss a particular sin. If we miss it, we’ll go back and deal with it if we have to. We’ve done it for years. I want to tell you. That doesn’t grow great bigger and bigger churches. If you’ll watch it over the years, you’ll start seeing people say, “Ummm!” Kind of like when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead. The visitation program the next week was really a killer. “Hey, would you like to join our church? I see you visited a couple of weeks ago.” “Uhhh, are you that church where these two people died?” “Yeah. Would you like to join?” “No, I don’t think so. I just changed my whole denomination. I’m moving somewhere else.” It’s amazing, folks, how people love to just coast with no accountability. Church membership is accountability.
Look at Nehemiah 9. Do you remember what Nehemiah was all about? Remember that? They were rebuilding the walls of their witness. It was a sham. Wasn’t it? They went back to build those walls again, and that was the walls of their witness and their testimony before others. I want to show you what they did in chapter 9 of Nehemiah. That’s exactly what Paul’s talking about. Nehemiah 9:1 reads, “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dirt upon them.” That was a symbol of humility dealing with sin. Verse 2 goes on, “And the descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners [that word means pagans; that was the Gentile world at that time] and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.”
Separation from the world, yes, that’s important in the right sense. But, my friend, if it separates you from the world at the expense of not being separated from sin and sinners within the body of Christ, you have no testimony to anyone. They not only separated themselves from the world, but they confessed their own sins and the sin of their fathers.
A look at the judge
Well, the third thing I want you to see is a look at the judge. You may be asking, “If church discipline doesn’t deal with the lost, who’s going to deal with them?” Relax. God’s got it well in hand. I want to see something else about the two judges that believers who are unrepentant actually have. Look at this. Verses 12-13 says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”
Paul is saying to them, “I’m an apostle. I’ve been given authority by God over the churches, not over the lost world. I’ve been given a commission to preach to them, but not to judge them, not to make decisions based on this kind of thing. I have been given authority over the people of God.”
Remember, the particular focus of church discipline is not the lost, it’s the saved. He asks the question, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” He answers his question by asking another one. He says, “Do you not judge those who are within the church?” In other words, he’s saying, “Wait a minute! You said that I wrote you in that letter and told you to do that. Now what are you doing? Do I judge lost people? Do you see me judge them? Let me ask you another question. Do you judge the people within the church? You don’t?” That’s the whole idea.
Well, as he answers his own question. He says the unfaithful believer actually has two judges. I’m grateful for this, personally. If you’re in the body of Christ, you have two judges. Now, if you’re a lost person, you have one and He will definitely judge you. But as an unrepentant believer you have two judges. Look over in verses 30-32 of chapter 11. Actually, these are not in order. I want to show you the second one first. In 1 Corinthians 11:30-32, this is all to do with church discipline. He says, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” What? They’re dead, absolutely dead. The word “sleep” there means dead.
So he’s saying, “Hey, why are you dead?” Look at verse 31. “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we should not be judged [or have to be judged].” Verse 32 continues, “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord in order that we may not be condemned along with the world.” Paul says God gets involved in this process. He becomes the one who causes this person to be dealt with once he’s removed from your midst, once he’s judged.
The other judge he alludes to here is the body of believers themselves. I don’t know about you. I’d rather you deal with me on that thing than to be in the hands of a living God. Hebrews says that it’s a fearsome thing to be in the hands of a living God. We have disciplined several in our church. My prayer is that God continues to do whatever He has to do to bring them to physical torment or whatever else to bring them back to the cross. Why? Because we’re going to see Him one day. That’s what this is all about: So that we can come back to living holy lives. The first judge is the church. Isn’t that wonderful? The second judge is God Himself. The unrepentant sinner has two judges; the lost person only has one. When I say unrepentant sinner, I mean the believer, one who won’t get his life right. He has two judges. But the sinner out in the world has one, and God will definitely judge him.
Paul concludes the subject with another clear statement: “But those who are outside, God judges.” Then he quotes from the Old Testament, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” We’ve had a lot of people turn us down to serve as elders because they don’t want to deal with all this stuff. I don’t like to deal with it. But when you have to deal with it, it’s hard.
But there’s one thing we can do, and that is to practice the act of church discipline. How do you do it? With grieving. He said to mourn. You do it in the name of Jesus. You do it in the power of Jesus. God says it works, because once we as the judge make that decision, God as the judge takes over. That person who’s been disciplined walks off and says, “Yeah, that gave me my sin. That’s what I want.” God says, “You want it, man? I’m going to give it to you.” I want to tell you. It gets worse and worse and worse. Do you know why? Because we’ve forgotten what we’ve been saved from. To go back into it is not just dumb, it’s stupid, because the wages of sin is what? Death. We’re not going to lose our salvation. But, buddy, we’ve got some painful days ahead of us.
I’m kind of glad to finish these verses on church discipline. This book doesn’t get any better. If you’re looking for a verse to pick you up and encourage you, well, you’re not going to find a whole lot of those in 1 Corinthians. He’s going to skin us all alive. He takes you right to the cross. If you want to get right and live right with God, you’ll study. It’s just been amazing what it’s done in my life.
Remember this. He says, “Don’t even eat with them. Don’t even eat with them if they’re habitual sinners within the church. Remove them. Isolate yourself from them. And do not even eat with them. Don’t even go out and have a meal with them.” Remember that, folks. We start feeling bad about feeling that way. Grieve for them; pray for them; but do what God says to do and He’ll take it from there. Don’t worry. He’s the divine surgeon and knows exactly how to handle the situation.