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Oct 15, 2023

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul turns to another issue in the church in Corinth.  It is the tolerance of a particularly heinous and public sin.  Some man in the fellowship had been carrying on with a cohabiting and sexual relationship with his step-mother.  Such a relationship, Paul says, "is not even tolerated among the pagans" (1 Cor 5:1). 

The problem was not only the sin itself, but the Corinthians' acceptance of it in one of the members of the church.  This was having a corrupting effect on the fellowship.  Paul's exhortation was for the church to remove the man from their fellowship and this meant to cut off all interaction with him (1 Cor 5:2,11).

This is an example of the difficult action of church discipline, which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 18.  If there is no repentance for a particular sin, then the guilty person is to be treated "as a Gentile and a tax collector" (Mt 18:17) … which means that social interaction is prohibited following a congregational decision.  The purpose for this difficult action is not to punish the person taken by some sin, but to promote purity within the church and to restore the sinful person to righteous living.

The New Testament gives some examples of sins for which such discipline should be administered: sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:1-8); stirring up division (Rom 16:17,18; Titus 3:9-11); rebellion (2 Thes 3:14,15); doctrinal heresy (2 Jn 9,10; Rev 2:14,20).

This passage teaches us, among other lessons, that Christianity is designed to be a corporate experience and not simply an individual experience.