Sermon: “Excommunication from the Church” (1 Corinthians 5:1–5)
Listen to the Sermon:
Hear now the word of the Lord from 1 Corinthians 5:1-5:
 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, 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, with the power of our 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. (ESV)
This is the Word of our God that he has given to us in love. May the Lord bless the reading and preaching of His Word this morning in our midst.
I mentioned earlier that it is Father’s Day today and so you’ve probably given a little bit of thought to fatherhood and to fathers, and to fathering this week. I myself, with my children, went out as a father and we did some things that I would put in the fun part of fatherhood. We got donuts one morning, we got ice cream another afternoon, eventually on Friday I went out with my kids to baseball practice.
The seven year old and five year old are enrolled in a baseball league where they don’t play games. They’re just learning the fundamentals of catching and throwing and fielding and hitting. I figured at seven years old and five years old, I probably have one, maybe two years, where I’m still better than they are. So, I’m taking this opportunity to help with the coaching. I’m helping the coach and I’m just having a blast. That’s the fun part of fatherhood, put that in the fun area of fatherhood.
There’s also the part of fatherhood that is rewarding. Seeing children grow and learn. To teach them, to instruct them, to see the lights come on as they learn to love the Lord their God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength and love their neighbor at themselves. Whether that is someone at the church or their little brother across the car seat. Whatever it is to learn, to see those things happen and to see children grow in those areas is in relatively rewarding.
But as fathers we also know that there’s not only the fun category, not only the rewarding category, but the not-so-fun category. There are times that discipline is necessary and it’s not fun; it’s hard, it’s painful, it tears you up inside. I didn’t believe my father when he said that it hurt him more than it hurt me, but now I understand what he was talking about and it’s true. It does hurt dad more than it hurts the disciplined child in the midst of discipline.
Well in the same way that discipline is needed, a father’s discipline is also needed in the church. As a pastor there are fun things we get to do. I love picnics like the one we’re about to do, picnics are a lot of fun. Weddings are fun, baptisms are fun, getting to meet new babies right after they’ve been born, that’s fun.
Then there’s the rewarding part of pastoral ministry; teaching and preaching God’s word, seeing the lights come on, seeing people grow in maturity and faith, in holiness (that’s an exciting thing), ministering the Lord’s supper and seeing people grow week by week as they come to the table, that’s rewarding.
There’s also the not-so-fun part of pastoral ministry. How do we do this in the church? Why do we have to discipline in the church? I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that discipline tears us up inside and if you look at the verse that comes right before our passage you can see some of this angst in Paul’s own pastoral heart. In 1 Corinthians 4:21 he’s writing to them and saying, “do you wish shall I come to you with a rod”, that is a rod of fatherly discipline or “with love in the spirit of gentleness”? I want to do the fun stuff when I come to you. I want this to be a time of fellowship and enjoy time together, but if necessary, this has to involve discipline. When discipline is needed discipline must happen. Why is this the case? Why do we have to do this? Paul going to deal with a case of discipline here in the text that we are studying this morning.
Our big idea as we study this passage is this: The Lord Jesus commands discipline to sanctify his holy church and to save hard-hearted sinners.
We’re going to see this in three sections:
- The Sanctity of Christ’s Holy Church (1 Cor. 5:1)
- The Sorrow of Harmful Sin (1 Cor. 5:2)
- The Salvation of Hard-Hearted Sinners (1 Cor. 5:3–5)
1. The Sanctity of Christ’s Holy Church (1 Cor. 5:1)
Let’s start in first one where we see the sanctity of Christ’s holy church. It’s important as we think about this text, in this passage, and we understand something about sanctity. Sanctity is a word that just means holiness and it is the background and driving theme of this passage. It is what is under the surface of Paul’s shock and scandalized heart as he sees what is happening in Christ’s holy church in Corinth. But we see here, what Paul says in verse 1, is there’s something going on that’s detracting from the holiness of Christ’s holy church. He says that it’s actually reported among you that there is sexual immorality among you. Even a type that is not tolerated among pagans, a word that means nations, a word that the New Testament is most commonly translated as Gentiles. It’s not even tolerated among the Gentiles.
Here’s what’s going on, a man has his father’s wife. By the word “has” that may mean something like marriage or it may simply mean, and it means at least this, an ongoing sexual relationship between this man and his father’s wife. Now this is not the man’s mother. There’s a word for mother in Greek, Paul describes it here as the man’s father’s wife. By using this phrase he’s talking about the man’s stepmother. The biological father of this man has remarried a different woman and eventually this man has engaged in some kind of sexual relationship with his father’s wife, his stepmother. Now the problem with this is not necessarily adultery, we’re not sure if the father is still alive or not, but an issue of incest. It is a terrifying, horrible thing and Paul says that this isn’t something that is even tolerated among the pagans, among the Gentiles. Yet it is happening in the church of Jesus Christ. Paul has a problem with this because the Bible has a problem with this. If you look at the Old Testament, if you look at Leviticus chapter 18; perhaps you’re in a Bible reading plan that’s plugging through the entire Bible, starting at Genesis and if you went through Leviticus and plowed right through and right about in the middle of Leviticus you come across Leviticus 18. It’s is a long chapter, an awkward and embarrassing chapter that list all the ways in which God wants to regulate the sexual purity and holiness of his people. In the midst of that, you find the language that Paul is using here in 1 Corinthians 5. In Leviticus 18: 8 we read “you shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife,” the same phrase is used in both places, “it is your father’s nakedness”.
So, Paul says you’ve got to study the scriptures. The scripture said this is not permissible, this is not holy, this is a scandal in the church. The reason this is so horrifying in the church of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Christ died to sanctify a holy church, to make his church holy and this undercuts the holiness of Christ’s church. Paul’s problem is not that he’s a prude, not that he thinks it’s not proper among polite company. It’s not an issue of an “ick-factor”, this issue has to do nothing with Paul and his preferences. It has to do with the holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to show you this issue of holiness is something that Paul is pursuing throughout the letter with the 1 Corinthians. Look back at 1 Corinthians 1:2, in the first verse Paul introduces himself and the brother Sosthenes. In verse two he talks about the church of God who is in Corinth. There he described it in this way, to those sanctified, literally made holy, in Christ Jesus. Then he turns around and says it a different way, he says you’re called to be saints, you’re called to be holy ones together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. Paul is saying you have an identity of those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus. You have been set aside by the blood of Jesus, by the power of Jesus, by the salvation of Jesus, as holy in him. But also, you have a calling then. To live out a calling that guides every step you take, every move you make, and it is that you are to live out what it means to be holy ones. Now Paul is hearing these reports of scandal and immorality in the church and it is threatening the sanctity of the holy nature of the church at Corinth.
Now before we move on, we have to ask a question. We have to ask the question, namely to consider the fact that these are Gentile Christians. In fact, in some translations, the King James Version for example, it says that it’s not tolerated even among the Gentiles. These are Gentile Christians and yet Paul is holding them to the standard of the Old Testament, the old covenant Jewish laws and standards of holiness. Now if these are Gentile Christians and if we read in so many places in the New Testament that the law no longer applies to Gentile Christians, then what’s going on here, how should we sort of navigate this? What should we make of this? You probably heard this before, perhaps if you haven’t this is important to understand it bears repeating, even if you have heard this. When we look at the Old Testament, Leviticus 18 or whatever, we come across a lot of different kinds of laws.
Some of those laws are ceremonial laws that deal with the worship of God’s old covenant people. The priests, the sacrifices, the temples, the holy festivals that God had appointed for his old covenant people. The purpose of the ceremonial laws was to foreshadow, point forward to, and to prepare the way for Jesus Christ to come as the ultimate final high priest of his people. When Jesus came all of those laws were no longer necessarily. They were fulfilled in Christ, accomplished in Christ and set aside by Christ as the ultimate high priest who took his office as our perpetual high priest, whoever lives to make intercession for us still to this very day.
Additionally, there are civil laws that we see in the Old Testament laws that governed the civil society, an old covenant Old Testament Israel. Things like property rights, things like how to conduct business, laws that regulated you shouldn’t murder and here’s what happened in case of a murder. The same kind of laws that America has and that our state has, and our city has, because those laws were given to a particular people at a particular time. What they were also doing, like the ceremonial laws, they were pointing forward to the coming of Christ. Christ not as priest, but Christ as king. And since Jesus Christ has come and he has taken his office as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, those laws are fulfilled in Christ and they are set aside. They may be influential in the way we think about how to govern our societies today, but they are not binding on us in the way that they were binding on Old Testament Israelites.
But then we come to a third category of laws. They are called the moral laws. The morality that we are called to live is summarized in the Ten Commandments. These moral laws have an ongoing binding nature on Christians. In fact, when we come to the New Testament, and here’s a prime example of this, we see the old covenant laws are not set aside. In fact, they’re reinstated and put forward again in front of God’s people. And in some cases, they are strengthened beyond what the text of the Old Testament actually says. The spirit of the Old Testament always held them to the highest possible standards, that we see clearly revealed in the New Testament. But sometimes the New Testament is clearer about how significant, how high, how lofty these laws are in the life of believers. But when Jesus came into the world, he also fulfilled the moral law. He lived it perfectly. None of us have kept the moral law, we have all stumbled at all of the Ten Commandments. Jesus kept the Ten Commandments and all of the laws and all of the implications in those perfectly, he fulfilled them. And then also Jesus was cursed and judged and condemned in our place as propitiation, as a substitute for our sins. In all the ways that we have fallen short, he fulfills not only what was required of the law, but also the condemnation against us for failing to keep the moral law. Jesus did this not to set it aside, not as though it weren’t important anymore, he did this to sort of brush off dust off and put the moral law in its proper place in our lives.
When we come to these standards of sexual immorality, what Paul is saying is, understand that it’s not by keeping these laws that you were going to be saved, in fact you cannot be saved by them. The only way you can be saved is through Jesus Christ, who perfectly obeyed the law and who was condemned for your failure to keep the law. You cannot be saved by the law, but instead you are saved for the law. That is you are saved because the law gives you a pattern, a picture of what holy living, holy conduct, looks like. You see by nature, intuitively we are sinners. Our intuition and our thoughts are marred, since we don’t know what it looks like to live a holy life. We look around us and see the brokenness and the fallenness of this world and we can’t figure it out for ourselves. We need Jesus as our ultimate prophet to tell us by his Word, which this is his Word, what it means to live a holy life. We are not saved by keeping the law, but we are saved for the good works that God has prepared beforehand in Christ that we should walk in them. You’re only saved by faith in Jesus Christ and yet you are saved to live this holy life. So, when Paul looks at the Corinthian church and sees that the conduct of the Old Testament moral law is not being observed, he’s saying, “You guys you used to be Gentile pagans, but now you are no longer Gentiles. You are a part of the Covenant people of God and you’re behaving in a way that is frowned upon even amongst the Gentile the pagans. You’re not at all living up to what you are supposed to be as the holy people of God.” There’s a serious sin here that is threatening the sanctity of Christ’s holy church at Corinth. And so, the question is what are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to respond, how are we supposed to respond to the sin our midst?
2. The Sorrow of Harmful Sin (1 Cor. 5:2)
Well, that brings us to the second verse where we see the sorrow of harmful sin. Paul says in verse two, “You are arrogant, you are puffed up,” and then he says that all of you “ought rather to mourn.” Shouldn’t you be sorrowful about this, shouldn’t you be in morning about this? Your reaction is that you’re proud and arrogant and puffed up, not because of this probably, but in spite of the sin in your midst. You all think you are doing pretty well; you think you’re doing pretty well painting new heights ass Christians. You’re living the dream and yet there’s this serious sin and you’ve missed it and you’re doing nothing about it. Ought you not rather to mourn?
I mentioned a little bit ago baseball. I’m helping the actual coach, who knows something about the sport, to coach these five to seven year olds, including my children. Some of this is bringing back my own baseball training. I didn’t get very far, I only played in the time where kids usually couldn’t hit to the outfield. Because of my limited talent, I was placed in the outfield where most of the balls didn’t actually go. But as an outfielder I had to learn something about how to play, just in case one of the kids hit that far. One of the parts of my training that I remember is the first step is of ultimate, ultimate critical importance. When you’re fielding a pop-
fly out in your direction, you see what’s intuitive, what’s natural, what you think you want to do when you see this ball coming towards you is you want to take a step forward. The problem is if you take a step forward and you’re wrong and it goes behind you, it’s very difficult to correct a move backwards. You won’t be able to make up as much ground moving backwards and you’ll probably miss catching the pop-fly, as I did more times than I care to admit. On the other hand, if you train yourself to do what is difficult, what’s counter-intuitive, to take your first step backwards so that you can assess the situation. Maybe it’s going over you and you just made it one step closer to that ball behind you. Or maybe it’s in front of you and that’s okay because you can actually make up a lot more ground moving forward then you can moving backwards. That first step is of critical importance.
Paul says your first step is to ignore the situation, you’ve just ignored this all together. There’s a game going on and you’ve missed it. You’ve got pop-flies falling all around you, and you’re just covering your eyes, and covering your ears, and oblivious to the fact you’ve got to be alert. The first step you should take, Paul says, is to mourn. You need to take a step back and appreciate what’s going on in your midst and to recognize that this sin in your midst is a scandal, it’s a disgrace, Satan is winning in this case. It should drive you to sorrow and mourning for the disgrace that your church is bearing. Ought you not rather to mourn.
I want to say, before I move on to the third and final section, let me say a word to those who are dealing with conviction of sin. Maybe conviction of sin over sexual sins in your life and in your past. You come to a passage like this where sexual sin is highlighted and it may feel like a ton of bricks of condemnation against you. You look at this, when you hear this kind of condemnation, it might make you angry, it might make you fearful, it might make you feel like you need to run and hide in shame. Understand God and his Word does condemn sexual sins, they are an affront to his holiness. They undercut, they harm the holiness of Jesus Christ and his church. That’s not the final word that God gives to us. God tells us in the Bible that God loves us so much that he didn’t leave us, he didn’t even condemn us and walk away. Rather God loved us so much that he sent his only son Jesus Christ into the world to be condemned in your place. To bear your shame for your sin, to bleed on the cross, and suffer under God’s wrath against what you have done, so that you can be freed. We need to hear the condemnation of the law so that we may know that we need a savior. Then we need to hear the good news of the gospel to know that God has provided a much greater, much more powerful savior than any of our sins can stand in the face of. Your sins are great, but your savior is greater. Have you trusted Jesus Christ to take away your sin? Have you trusted Christ to cleanse you with his blood, to raise you up to a new resurrected life that you could start living today? Have you trusted Christ to take away the filthy rags of your sin and to clothe you with the beautiful white robes of his righteousness? Have you trusted Christ to not only make you not guilty and righteous before the throne of almighty God? To set you apart by the blood of Jesus as holy, as sanctified as his saint. You’ve got to pray, pray right now even as you’re sitting there. Confess to God your sins, let him know that you get it. You hear God’s Word, that God is displeased with your own holiness. Confess that and then tell God that you want to be forgiven because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. Hear now the promise of the gospel from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” All those who look to Jesus Christ in faith. If you’re doing that today, if you’re turning to Jesus today please come talk. Please come talk to me or one of the other elders. We want to talk to you about what it means to live a holy, sanctified set apart life as you follow Jesus.
But this is a case where there is someone in the body of Christ, in the church of Jesus Christ, who at one point made some profession that they had indeed followed Jesus. At one point they gave every indication that they were following Christ, but now is caught sin. What do you do? What do you do in such cases? Paul is calling them to mourn, to feel sorrowful over the harmful sin in their midst. But notice what he says in verse two, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” There’s a step, there’s a process and it has to do with church discipline. Specifically, the active church discipline of excommunication, of removing a member of the body of Christ, from the visible church, outside, separated from the membership of the visible church.
3. The Salvation of Hard-Hearted Sinners (1 Cor. 5:3–5)
This is where we come to our third point, the salvation of the hard-hearted sinner. Now you’re going to look at this you’re going to say this has nothing to do with salvation, this is about someone who apparently isn’t saved, someone who apparently doesn’t know Jesus. This is about someone who’s been kicked out of the church, excommunicated from the church. What does this have to do with salvation? What we’re going to see, in fact, is that this passage and everywhere we are taught, or we see the Bible talk about excommunication, the goal is never for that to be final. But always for that act of church discipline to be part of bringing the lost wandering wayward sinners back into the fold of Jesus Christ. So, let’s look at what Paul says here, that salvation of hard-hearted sinners is not going to be initially the case, but ultimately that’s the goal.
In verse three Paul writes, “though absent in body”. Paul is saying I’m not there with you bodily he says, “I’m present in spirit”, but in some way of Paul is spiritually present with this church. He says and as if present, as if I was standing in your midst, “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” I’ve already pronounced judgment, I’ve already judged this person, the trial has happened, and he has been found guilty for this sin. That’s the decree, that’s the decision that Paul gives here. So then in verse four he calls them to be assembled together. Now look closely at what he says because it’s important. He says when you’re assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Stop right there.
Why does Paul want them to be assembled? It’s not because the church as a whole is going to play a part in the judging this offender. Notice Paul has already pronounced judgment. The trial is over the sinner has already been found guilty. The reason for the church to come together, to assemble together, is not for every person to be involved in the judging of the sinner. Okay that’s not the point here instead the point is for two reasons. Number one, the benefits of the church. Elsewhere, in 1 Timothy 5:20, Paul writes this, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in fear.” When this happens, when the elders of the church have to take that final step of excommunication and call the church together to execute this decision and announce that this decision has been made. This is not a time for holding up our noses, this is not a time for a self-righteousness. This is a time to fear, a time of great sorrow, a time of recognizing that I could be in that place. If it were up to left up to me, in the hardness of my heart apart from the grace of God, I would be making the same decision to walk away from Christ. I would be hardened against the gospel. And it’s a time for self-evaluation, for humility, for repentance of keeping short accounts with God. Saying God, I’ve been flirting with this or I’ve been dealing with that. I’ve got to put that behind me, or I will end up in that exact same place. It says that all those in the church may fear for the benefit of the church.
But the second reason is that it’s for the accountability of the officers. It’s an accountability of the officers. The church as a whole doesn’t have a part in the trial, but that the church has to be there to see that it’s happening and to give approval and give consent to what’s happening. John Calvin writes this in his Institutes, “Paul’s course of action for excommunicating a man is the lawful one for the elders of churches today. Provided the elders do not do it by themselves alone but with the knowledge and approval of the church. In this way the multitude of the people does not decide the action but observes as witness and guardian so that nothing may be done according to the whim of a few.” Paul is saying I want you to know this, you’ve known this is happening in your midst. You’ve seen this is happening, you need to know what’s happening and why it’s happening. And that’s why you need to be assembled as a church for this action be announced. So that’s why they’re assembling for this pronouncement of judgment to be read in their missed.
What are they doing? Well that’s the most terrifying part is in verse 5. Paul is saying you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. But then notice the purpose. This is why we are saying the section is described at the salvation of the hard-hearted sinners. Look at what he says, “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Paul is differentiating between the flesh and the spirit and Paul did this for the reason. Back in chapter three Paul was talking about lives who are characterized by the flesh, people who are characterized by the flesh. If you look at 3:2-3, he says, “even now you’re not ready for you are still of the flesh. For while there’s jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh?” Characterized by the flesh and behaving only in a human way. The idea of the flesh’s living according to our sinful human impulses, according to the flesh but the contrast is to live according to the spiritual. In 3:1 he said, “but I brothers could not address you as spiritual people”, people who can spiritually discerned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified is good news. There’s a contrast between the flesh and the spirit and Paul is saying we are trying here to destroy the flesh, to destroy the hardness of heart, destroy that sin; so that what is spiritual in this person can be saved in the day of the Lord, when Jesus Christ returns. Earlier in 1:6 this is called “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
So, what’s happening here? In all church discipline, and Jesus gives us the classic text on church discipline in Matthew 18, the idea is that everywhere in the church there’s this constant of going to the sinner to try to reclaim the sinner. First of all, we’re all called to keep watch over ourselves individually. To rebuke ourselves wherever we see ourselves falling into sin. But when we lose sight of this and someone else sees it. Maybe you see this in the life of someone else, you’re to go to that person in order to tell them of their faults, so that they can repent and if they repent Jesus said fantastic, you’ve regained your brother. But if that person doesn’t listen then you’re supposed to go with two or three witnesses. Go to that person and say we’re all seeing this, you’ve got to repent, you’ve got to turn and if you they repent that’s fantastic. But if not, you’re supposed to tell it to the church. Again, not the church assembled as a whole but to the officers, the elders of the church who administer the discipline of the church on behalf of the church. If they don’t listen to the church then the sinner is to be treated as a Gentile and a tax collector, completely cut off from the church.
Here’s what happens. If the sinner really doesn’t know Jesus and has never known Jesus. If all there is flesh there, this will actually be a relief of the burdens that person has been facing. They haven’t wanted to follow the rules of Jesus Christ. They haven’t wanted to be confirmed to the law of God’s holy word, so this is actually a relief. They will go back, and we will never see them again.
But on the other hand, if the sinner really has trusted in Christ, but is significantly backsliding. Or maybe it is through this that God opens the sinner’s eyes to the goodness of the gospel. The whole point in this is that the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit in this person’s life will be cultivated and nurtured. As they are put outside the communion of the visible church, they’ll say my goodness what have I done? This is a terrible idea, I have to repent, whatever it takes to get back to Jesus. And it is by this process that our Lord Jesus softens the hard-hearted sinner’s heart, to lead that sinner back to salvation. And when it does it’s not a time to shame the sinner, to rub their noses in it. It’s a time of joy! Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to bring one wandering wayward sheep back and says, “just so I tell you there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” It’s for joy, it’s for the sake of joy and the body of Christ.
So, what do we do with this? This is a tough text, it’s a very tough, difficult text. Let me give you three applications with a special focus on fathers for Father’s Day.
Number one, we’re all called to seek the sanctity of Christ’s holy church. Everyone last one of us to seek the sanctity of Christ’s holy church. We’re called to pursue the peace, unity and purity of Christ’s church. We must care deeply about the holiness of the church. We must cultivate that by feeding our perception that the glory of the Lord Jesus is at stake. In the way that we conduct ourselves and the way that anyone in our communion conducts him or herself.
Fathers this is true for you too. You are called the seek the holiness of your children. It’s a wonderful joyful thing to have fun times with your children. It’s really exciting to see your children grow and it’s rewarding to see them growing in maturity. But you’re called to seek their holiness. You have one job ultimately, to seek the holiness of your children and that means that sometimes you must use discipline. Loving discipline, certainly not abusive discipline, but discipline that’s designed not to be your child’s best friend, not to sort of avoid the discomfort of the situation, sort of ignore it. But discipline that seeks the holiness of your children. Seek the sanctity of the church and fathers seek the sanctity of your children.
Number two, seek sorrow over the harmfulness of sin. Now I mentioned that illustration earlier if the pop-fly, and I think it’s helpful here not because I think much of baseball, I hardly give it any thought at all. But in the midst of baseball, again when a pop-fly comes to you, you have to actually train yourself. I had no talent, so I had to just drink up coaching and the coaching they told me was, “Jacob you have to take your first step backwards”. I think that’s helpful when you come to a case where children have to be disciplined, take a step back. What you need to do is to assess the situation, to truly recognized it in the light of God’s Word. To see it for what it is. If your first step is to rush forward in anger and rush forward to try to control the situation, you’re going to over discipline, over correct, you’re going to be harmful to your children. If your first step is to just turn around and run out of the ballpark because you don’t want anything to do with it, remember there are worse things to do than discipline your children. If not disciplining your children, your children will pay the price; if you don’t set boundaries, if you don’t hold them accountable, if you don’t consistently discipline them into holiness towards Christ. But also, if you just freeze and ignore it, it’s not going to do any good. You’re going to teach your children to tolerate sin. But if you take a first step back and you see sin for what it is. You see it’s harmful, then you’ll see that is destroying your children, you’ll see that it’s going to cause your children to suffer, you’re going to see that ultimately soon sin will separate your children from God. When you take your first step back to assess it for what it is and when your heart is taking that first step of stepping back and being led towards mourning for what is happening to your children, sorrow for what’s happening in your children. Then your discipline is going to have the right sound, the right feel, the right heart. the right spirit. When your first step is to take a step back, to mourn what’s happening in front of you, then you’ll discipline rightly. Discipline from sorrow over sin.
The third thing, the third application, is to seek the salvation of sinners. Who do you know who’s previously professed faith in Christ, but has wandered away? Who do you know, for whatever reason, is wandering or drifting? We’ve got to be a church that pursues people. A church that doesn’t just close our eyes, that doesn’t just ignore it. Sometimes I see people say I’ve seen it happen, what do I do? Matthew 18, go to that person, call that person, go find that person and tell that person you love them, and you want this person to come back from their sin. Pray for such people. Seek to serve them in whatever way is necessary. Pursue the joy that comes from the repentance of even one sinner. When you do this, you reflect the heart of your Lord. Jesus said that he came into this world, the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. And when you seek the salvation of sinners, even reclaiming that by being part of the discipline. Going to your brother when your brother sins against you and going to them and trying to reclaim your brother. Try to win back your brother. You reflect the heart of your savior for you, glorify the holiness of Jesus Christ. You make him look very good. By seeking the salvation of sinners, you reflect the glory, honor and joy of your Lord. May this be our hearts as we seek to love and shepherd one another and as we too are shepherded by one another in the church.
Let us pray. Father we ask that you discipline us as your children. We know that discipline isn’t pleasant. No one likes it, but Father we need it. Left to ourselves we would wander away from you, our good loving kind heavenly Father. Because you’re such a good father you sent your only son, the only begotten son Jesus Christ, to die for us, to be cursed for us, to be punished in our place for our sins, to be the propitiation for what we have done, the atoning sacrifice. Father we pray that as we embrace this, by faith, that you will lead us to love Jesus our Lord all the more and be passionate but about the holiness of your church. We pray this for Christ’s glory and for our good. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.