Thursday, August 21, 2014
“Purer in Christ”
You’re listening to The New You, the daily broadcast for people who have been made new by the blood of Christ. I’m Robert Hatfield, and here is today’s Scripture:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5:1-2, 4-5).
We’ve been focusing this week upon purity: purity of heart, purity of the body, and purity of speech. Today, though, we need to focus upon keeping the church pure. You know, this is often a neglected subject. I can understand why because it isn’t a very pleasant one.
In 1 Corinthians 5, we read of a brother in Christ who had turned back to sin. He was committing sexual immorality. Now that is obviously a problem in and of itself, but the problem was deeper than that. The other Christians at Corinth was simply tolerating that behavior. It seems that no one said anything to the erring Christian about it. In so doing, Paul says that they were jeopardizing the purity of the church in Corinth!
Several points as we examine the subject of church purity (sometimes referred to as church discipline). First, we will see the command. Second, the erring. Third, the purpose. Then, the procedure. Fifth, the pain, and, finally, the product.
First, notice the command. Paul says “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:4-5). This is definitely a command! Other passages in the New Testament, like 2 Thes. 3:6, 14; 1 Tim. 5:20; and Titus 3:10-11 also command this action for unfaithfulness in the church.
Second, we see the erring. Paul instructs the Corinthian brethren to identify the erring, or unfaithful, Christian and to help him to be restored. As God’s people, we have a responsibility to each other. James 5:19-20 says that we are to help each other if one of us “wanders from the truth.” Galatians 6:1-2 teaches that we are to seek to restore one another if a brother or sister is “overtaken in a trespass.” That is how we “bear one another’s burdens.”
In the third place, look at the purpose. Why were they to do this? It wasn’t to kick that Christian out of the church, that’s for sure! The Lord adds you to His church (Acts 2:47), and it’s not up to anyone to kick anyone else out of it! Instead, God’s plan for church purity has a three-fold purpose: to bring the wayward back (1 Cor. 5:5); to deter others from living in sin (1 Tim. 5:20); and to gauge the obedience of the church (2 Cor. 2:9).
Fourth, notice the procedure. How is this to be done? While we don’t have a specific mandated way that this is to be accomplished, we do have several passages that guide us. First, notice the scenario between two brothers in Matthew 18:15-17. This is where Jesus talked about going to the brother privately, then taken two or three witnesses if he won’t hear you, then taking it before the assembly. One thing we need to understand is this: church discipline is to be public. When things get to this point, we’ve tried everything else. We have attempted to reach out to the erring brother or sister. We have tried to give them time to repent and to turn again to the Lord, but they have refused. Now we must take it before the church. Again, remember why we do it: to try to cause them to repent and to keep the church pure.
Fifth, the pain. This process hurts. No one likes to exercise discipline and no one enjoys to be disciplined. You know what? It hurt in New Testament times, too. In 2 Corinthians, after the discipline has been exercised, Paul notes that he wrote the first letter out of “much affliction and anguish of heart … with many tears” (2 Cor. 2:4). The pain is definitely there. It’s real. But sometimes pain is necessary, isn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about restoring souls here. We’re talking about helping fallen Christians to see the error of their ways and to return home! What’s more important: some discomfort here or eternal punishment in hell? We’re sensitive to the pain, but we must proceed. God’s way is always best.
Finally, look at the product. This is what God’s plan for church purity is all about. Some people look at this plan and they say, “That’s a bit harsh” or, “God doesn’t expect us to do that today.” Listen: God does expect us to do this today. We’re talking about the church, the bride of Christ. We’re talking about the souls of men and women – brothers and sisters in Jesus! When Paul writes the letter that we have now called 2 Corinthians, he is happy to report that the brother on whom discipline was exercised has now come home! He says, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (2 Cor. 7:9). That’s great news! That’s the desired product of exercising this discipline.
Let’s wrap it up: Do we trust God enough to believe that His way is best? God knows how to discipline His children (just read Hebrews 12). Sure, there are going to be people who absolutely refuse to change, but that won’t be because God gave up on them. That will be because they were unwilling to repent of sin and return to God. But here’s what I know for a fact: God’s way is always best.
Memory Verse: The church will be pure if we will remember this verse from the psalms:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).
Sometime today: Read Matthew 5:14-16 and consider your influence on other people. That’s tomorrow’s topic for The New You.
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This is The New You, I’m Robert Hatfield, and I hope you have a great day!