What does it mean to be accountable before God for another person’s soul? It means, I am responsible for the final salvation of each member of this church. And if you are member, you are responsible for my final salvation. The last thing I should do is to be content that a great number of people come to LBC and I barely know the names of most people, so even though you have been coming for a few months, you could be sleeping around, but I would have no way of knowing because who cares? I am just happy that you come. Then, you could be attending church your entire life and then you would stand before God on Judgment Day and you would hear those words, I never knew you. If that happens, esp. for one of our members, the leaders of this church are going to be held accountable by God because we didn’t speak truth to warn you of the coming judgment while you were with us.
Matt 18:17 is the third attempt. The person in sin didn’t listen to the private meeting. Then, he didn’t listen to a meeting with 2 or 3 witnesses. The third and last attempt is to the church, or the assembled members of a church who have committed to one another. Now, instead of 2 or 3 members of this church, all 24 members of this church would be trying to plead with this brother or sister to repent. If at that point, the person still refuses to repent, then the command is clear–treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. In other words, treat him like you would a non-Christian. Meaning, you’re happy that they are here and listening to a Sunday sermon, but at the same time, you exclude them from the inner fellowship reserved for Christians.
You might say, hey, wait a minute. Who are you to say, this person is a Christian and this person is not? That’s not what the verse is telling us to do. Only God can look into a person’s heart and know whether or not he or she is a born-again Christian. All we can do as a Christian toward one another is to say, I can no longer vouch for you and affirm that you are a Christian.
Because, what does it mean to be a Christian? It is to bear fruit. Fruit is the only assurance that we have that we are saved. And at the very least, if there is no apparent fruit because we all go through seasons of dryness, there should be a repentant heart at the very least. The fruit of repentance. That is one mark of a Christian. Christians are not expected to be perfect, but if the Holy Spirit is in us and sin is pointed out and it’s clearly in the Bible, there should be repentance.
Imagine having a gathering of your friends, those who committed to you and who love you, imagine an entire church pleading with you to repent. And you say, nah, I don’t want to. That’s not a casual thing. That is a determined stance. This is not a person who falls or who slips up. This is not a person who makes a mistake. This is someone who is determined enough to oppose an entire church, to set out in rebellion. Sin is a serious matter and not heeding the advice of all the members of a church who love you, that’s a serious matter.
You might say, but we all sin. All sin falls short of the glory of God. Yes, that’s true, but we have to recognize that some sins are more serious and more destructive in this life than others. Here in chapter 5 as well as in chapter 6, sexual sin is in that category of sins that are more serious than others because engaging in these types of sins involves the shredding of your soul and the soul of the other. If they refuse to listen to the church, then treat them like a pagan and tax collector. Jesus started this. Paul is simply reflecting what Jesus taught.
Why should we practice church discipline? That the sinful nature may be destroyed. The aspect of the man that is drawn to destruction must be destroyed. If the person loves God and loves the people of God, then he will experience heartbreak by being out in the world. The world has a way of breaking you down when you are in sin. That’s what needs to happen here. Let the person pursue sensuality to the fullest degree and eventually, he will need to get sick of it. Practice church discipline for his own good. Rescue that man from his sinful way of life.
But that’s not the only reason. Now this is a distinction that we need to make. Judgment is different from discipline. We have a hard time understanding discipline. Discipline – as kids, we experienced our parents disciplining us in a fit of rage. They lost their temper. Discipline was carried out with outrage or even hatred. So we have a negative view of discipline. That’s a problem – discipline can be misconstrued. Therefore, the positive tools–encouragement, instruction and admonition–
should take precedent over the negative.
Judgment is a paying back of what you owe. The sentence is going to match what you did. That’s judgment or justice. It’s looking backward and paying back what they deserve. Discipline is the opposite – it’s a looking forward and focuses on giving the person what he or she needs to change. Judgment – looking back and paying back. Discipline – looking forward and giving whatever is necessary for change.
When my boys get in trouble, there is an element of both. There is judgment. If they did wrong, their punishment will match the severity of what they did. If they forgot to turn off the light in their room for the 100th time, then there will be a minor punishment. If they lie, the punishment will be much more severe. But that’s not where it ends. I discipline my boys and those are teaching moments to give them what they need for change. Because I want them to learn a lesson. It’s not enough to simply avoid punishment. If that’s their aim, they won’t grow in character. The goal of discipline is learning and gathering tools necessary for change so that instinctively they won’t act the same way the next time. Instead of I shouldn’t lie, I shouldn’t lie, I better not lie because I don’t want to get into trouble, instead of that, telling the truth from the beginning even though it is painful because it’s the right thing to do. That’s the difference between judgment and discipline. I’ve equipped them to make the right choice the next time.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?
Why does Paul shift metaphors and mention yeast and dough right after saying, hand this man over to Satan? Yeast was expensive in ancient Israel so what households did in those days to save money was to keep a piece of bread from the previous week’s loaf and they kneeded that old piece into the fresh batch of dough. But if you did that week after week, by the end of the year, the concentration of yeast was so strong that you would have to start over with a new pinch of yeast and a fresh batch of dough and then the cycle would begin again.
The Feast of Passover was when Jewish households would go through their entire house and throw away every trace of yeast from the previous year. It was like spring cleaning so that no yeast would remain in the house. Paul uses this metaphor to describe what is going on in this church. Obviously, what did this man did is public knowledge. Like yeast, it had spread throughout the dough. Everyone knew about it. Yet, they said, ah, who cares? That’s his business. That kind of mentality is damaging to the community. That’s not the kind of church Paul expects us to be.
Yeast is a fungus. It spoils, it rots, it has a fermenting presence. That’s what sin does if left untreated. It infects the entire dough, or in this case, the entire church. It was no accident that Jesus died on Passover. He was our Passover Lamb so that sin would be no more.
7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
That phrase–as you really are–stuck out to me. This captures the tension that we experience as believers, the tension between already but not yet. We are already a new batch without yeast. We are already a new creation. We have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. We have been freed from sin and its power over us. That is who you really are. Already, we have Christ. Already, we have been forgiven. Already, we have been given the Holy Spirit as a deposit, a down payment. That’s one side. But there is also the other side, the “not yet.” We’re not quite there. Some days, we fall. Some days, our sinful nature overwhelms us. Some days, we are defeated by old habits and old addictions. So we are saved, already, but we are not fully saved. We still have to be sanctified in this life as we move toward our final salvation. Already but not yet.
That is why we need the church. We need help to make it to the end. You and I are too weak on our own. We are too prone to blindness. We need each other.
A church that practices discipline among its members are doing it for the good of the individual, that’s first and foremost. Church discipline can help turn them away from their path of destruction so it has an immediate benefit for the person undergoing discipline. But second, church discipline is good for the group.
There’s an enormous difference between a Christian church and a country club. A country club exists to offer a service. Like golf. You join because you want to play golf. A Christian church is not a country club. We are here first to glorify God and second to save people, starting with our own members whom we are teaching to obey everything in Scripture and branching out to the world.
Take the Corinthian church. If they were not obeying everything in Scripture and instead they were clearly ignoring the most obvious teachings in the Bible–i.e. sexual immorality–then it makes the community feel false and funny. It happens in some youth groups. Some guys and girls are hitting the sheets after service, this other guy is out selling drugs–and you see this and wonder, what is this, this is like a super phony parody. You have a bunch of youth kids who are pretending like they are all into God on Sunday mornings, but there is no trace of Christ in their lives Monday through Saturday. That sense is unavoidable unless you practice church discipline. Yet, many churches do not practice it. This teaching is ignored. Church discipline, that’s so 1st century. That wouldn’t sit well today in our congregations. I guess God missed that one.
At LBC, we do practice it. Here, we try our best to be a biblically based church. We go with what God says. We are serious about following God. That’s why starting last year, we began a membership class because membership is important for us. In membership, we are committing to one another and saying, I am going to keep everyone in this group accountable to what it says in the Bible.
We are not going to nitpick, we are not going to spy on people, we are not here to police people. But in flagrant cases like this one where the person is willfully and determined to go against the Word of God, we have a responsibility to warn and to take a stand. Because when a person has been warned once, twice and then a third time by the entire church, this is no small thing. If such a person decides to go against the people of God on a flagrant case of sin, that person is hardened, his attitude is how dare you judge me, what are you looking at it, mind your own business? He’s bold and brazen in his sin. This is when you have to take your stand.
8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
We have to be a people of sincerity and truth. If half of the people in this congregation are living like the devil outside of these walls, that’s not sincere nor true. That’s hypocritical and false. As a church, we want to be sincere and true.
We are not saying, don’t sleep around. There are plenty of people in the world who live that way, go there. Go have a party. But don’t do it within the church as a professing Christian.
We need to guard the holiness of the church. With that said, we have to read v9-10.
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
Paul is being sarcastic here. We are all sinners and we live in a world drenched in sin. If the Bible is asking me not to associate with sexually immoral people, then I guess I have to live in a monastery atop some mountain. This is the mistake of the fundamentalists. Stay away from everyone who is into sin. We can’t allow our holy eyes to behold sin. That’s being self-righteous. We need to be in contact with people who are into all kinds of sin. Why should that bother me? Does sin threaten my Christian walk?
This is talking about associating with blatant, unrepentant sin committed by someone within the church. Do not associate with a so called brother. For his sake. And for the sake of the church.