The Corinthian’s Restoration
For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves. – 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 HCSB
A man in the Corinthian church was sleeping with his father’s wife and the whole community knew about it. The church, instead of sorrowfully dealing with the incestuous relationship with the strict vigor required by a holy and righteous God, had arrogantly prided themselves on their “grace” and “understanding”.
Paul warned them that if they excused and made room for sin, it would grow and infect the whole church. What amazes me is that Paul, the “apostle of grace”, in directing their behavior, quoted a principle of biblical law that in every instance was accompanied by capital punishment!
People often feel that they are extending love by “forgiving” and “restoring” sinners. I put those words in quotes because there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of the scriptural meaning of these terms.
What some well-meaning people fail to realize is that by not confronting the sin and administering the proper healing regimen, they end up exacerbating the sinner’s plight and infecting others to boot! Imagine determining that someone was infected with a terrible contagious disease that threatened not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones and deciding to simply smile and pat their hands!
Didn’t Paul compare the church to a body? If a member of my body becomes infected and threatens my life, I must do something. Wouldn’t it be better to amputate a limb than lose the entire body?
We don’t know how long the situation described in 1 Corinthians had gone on, but it must have been for quite a while. The news of their shame had reached Paul in Ephesus in a day when news had to travel on foot. Apparently, the church’s initial approach was not working!
Once the steps were taken to publicly rebuke the man’s sin and shun him, the social ostracizing did its work and he repented. But, in normal human fashion, the church went too far the other way and was too slow to restore him. Paul again had to warn them to forgive and comfort the man, lest his sorrow overwhelm him.
So, we must confront sin boldly. We must remove it from our midst and have no tolerance for it. But we must maintain the good of the sinner in our minds and seek to do what is best, not only for the congregation but also for the sinner. Though church discipline may seem harsh, in the long run it is only when we obey ALL of the Scriptures that we can truly help the sinner. The goal of church discipline must be health – not comfort.
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