Difficult Discipline

I Corinthians 5:1-13

Two preachers were on the roadside with a sign that read,
“The End is Near – turn around now before it’s too late”. A
passing driver yelled “leave us alone you religious nuts”.
Then the preachers heard a loud splash. One preacher said
to the other, “Do you think we should have just said “Bridge

Today we are going to look at the 5th chapter of I Corinthians.
In the last chapter Paul reminded the believers at Corinth that he
was their spiritual father. He cares about them deeply and desires
them to grow spiritually. In this chapter he guides them through
the difficult process of Church discipline.

Church discipline is not a group of “pious policemen” out to
catch a criminal. Rather, it is a group of brokenhearted
brothers and sisters seeking to restore an erring member of
the family.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 586.

It’s with that attitude that we should approach our text for this

I Corinthians 5:1-8

The problem – one of the members of the church was sleeping
with his stepmother.

Paul calls this sexual immorality, the Greek word is Porneia and it
refers to all extra-marital and unnatural intercourse.
It is always negative in the Bible.
In Corinth however, it was openly accepted.

Rather than condemning the blatant sin of one of its members,
the church was proud of being tolerant of this behavior.

Paul writes that this type of sexual sin is not even tolerated
among the pagans. That’s quite an indictment.

They should have recalled the OT law in Leviticus 20:11 “If a
man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s
nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their
blood is upon them.”

Mourn Over Sin

Paul exhorts the church to mourn rather than celebrate sin.

After David sinned with Bathsheba, Nathan rebuked him by telling
him a story about a poor man who had one lamb who lived next to
a rich man who had many flocks and herds. A traveler came to
visit the rich man and he was unwilling to take from his own flock
to prepare a meal for his guest. He stole the poor man’s only
lamb and prepared it for his guest. David was angry and told
Nathan the rich man deserved to die. Nathan told him he was the
same as the rich man in the story because of what he did with
Urriah’s wife. David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the

Psalm 51 records David’s repentance, he asks God to wash him
thoroughly from his iniquity and to cleanse him from his sin.
He writes “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right
spirit within me.”

That’s the attitude the church should have towards sin.

The church at Corinth had no plans to deal with the persistent sin
of this man, so Paul offers his recommendation.

Remove the Unrepentant Sinner from the Membership.

Paul is clear that it is the responsibility of the church body while
the church is assembled in the name of Jesus.

Many churches either fail to exercise church discipline or do it
incorrectly. Despite it being unpleasant, it is necessary.
God is holy and His church must be protected.

Although painful and challenging, church discipline is required
when a member is blatantly living in sin.

The church should not willfully tolerate sinful behavior, nor should
she be proud of it. Sadly, still today there are churches that
celebrate sinful behavior and even allow leaders who are openly
living in sin to continue to lead.
Solomon said it best. There is nothing new under the sun. The
same problems that plagued the Corinthian church also plague
the 21st century church.

I Timothy 5:20 “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them
in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

Jesus taught about church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18:

Go and tell him his fault you and him alone
If he listens you have gained your brother
If he doesn’t listen, take one or two others with you
If he refuses to listen, tell it to the church
If he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile
and tax collector.

The purpose of church discipline is to encourage repentance
and restoration of the individual.

Paul calls for the church to deliver the man to Satan for the
destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day
of the Lord.

This may sound harsh, but you have to understand that Paul’s
goal is for man’s sinful nature to be destroyed, to bring his focus
back to holiness.
He’s concerned about his spirit, not his flesh.

Paul then writes about how leaven affects the whole lump of
dough. Leaven is a symbol of sin.
He even refers to it as the leaven of malice and evil.
A member living in sin will corrupt the entire church if left to
remain in sin.

The church must remove the things of the world and replace them
with sincerity and truth.

I Corinthians 5:9-13

Believers Judge Believers, God Judges the World

Paul states that in his previous letter he told them not to associate
with sexually immoral people. If they did that they would not be
able to be in the world, because the world is full of this type of
people. In fact, Jesus spent His ministry going to the lost people
of the world.

What he is saying in this letter is that he wants them to avoid
those who claim to be brothers in Christ but are sexually immoral,
greedy, idolaters, revilers, drunkers or swindlers.
If the church finds people such as these, they are to be judged by
the church. It’s the job of the church to ensure believers are living
for the Lord.

It’s not the church’s job to judge or condemn the world.
The Lord will judge the world.
The church must be faithful to practice church discipline when it is


Sexual Immorality isn’t something that only impacts unbelievers.
Unfortunately sexual indiscretions have become all too common in
the church. No denomination is exempt from it.

The church must be diligent to help its members stay pure
and live God honoring lives.
The church must be faithful to discipline its members if they
fall into a pattern of sin.