“God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.”
(1 Corinthians 5:13)
That just could not be any clearer. I was talking not long ago with some church leaders in another country, and we were talking about church discipline and the point of excommunication. And one of the pastors just kind of said, “I just don’t think Jesus is telling us to remove anybody from the church.” And it was kind of an awkward moment because we’d been talking about that some. And then I just put the room of pastors to first Corinthians chapter five. We read this passage and this verse where it ends, “Purge the evil person from among you,” and I said, “So, what do we think that means?” And a long pause around the room, and pastor after pastor said, “I think it means we remove someone from the church.” And that one pastor who had raised the question said, “I think it does mean that.”
Church discipline is not natural to us. Let us ask God for grace that we will play our part in His church being built according to His Word.
This is where we realize I think a couple of things. One, what Jesus is instructing us to do in his word in Matthew 18 and now here in first Corinthians chapter five is not natural to us, goes against the grain of the way we might think, and therefore is challenging to us. That’s one. Two, I think we would have to realize that many churches, either that we’re a part of now or that we’ve been a part of in the past, have not actually done this, have not actually done what God says in his word to do in first Corinthians chapter five. Now, there’s all kinds of complications in doing this, challenges, and we’ve seen those at any church that has walked through this process has experienced some of those challenges. But I guess that’s where we’ve got asked the question. Based on what we’ve already seen in first Corinthians chapter three and praying through first Corinthians, are we going to build God’s church according to his word and his ways or our thoughts and our opinions? And God has made it clear.
In first Corinthians chapter five, there comes a point where you purge the evil person from among you. You remove someone who is unrepentant in sin from among you. This needs to happen, according to God. We need to pray. God help us. We just confess right now that many of our churches have not done this and are even resistant to doing this, or just don’t know how to do this. God, we pray for your wisdom, and we pray for your perspective. We pray for an understanding of your church and our lives in it. Help us to see that we, each of us who’s praying right now, we are responsible for caring for our brothers and sisters around us in the church. And if they’re living in sin, walking off a cliff, we’re responsible in love for going and pulling them back. God, please help us to pull them back.
We pray for greater purity in your church, greater experience of your grace, greater enjoyment of the life that you’ve called us to live as your church, as we do church according to your instructions, not our ideas. Please may it be so, oh God, in the church I pastor, in every church represented in those who are praying this right now. Help us to display your holiness, work to pull people back to you, and guard, promote, and increase the purity of your church for our good and your glory. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.