God’s Word on Church Discipline (1 Corinthians 5:2)

“And you are arrogant. Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”
– 1 Corinthians 5:2

Okay. So based on verse one, where Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit, calls out the church for tolerating sexual sin, sexual immorality in their midst, unrepentant sexual sin, sexual immorality. Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 5:2, “Let him who has done this, be removed from among you.” So basically, and we’ll see this in a couple different ways in this chapter, but remove this person from the church. So let’s think about why that would be. Why would you remove someone from the church? Well, someone being in the church, means that the church is saying, “This is a follower of Jesus.” So if somebody is a member of the church and that church is saying, “This person is a follower of Jesus,” basically saying that to a watching world.

Tolerating unrepentant sin in the church is arrogance. Let’s ask God to help us to do the hard and necessary work when it comes to church discipline like 1 Corinthians 5:2 instructs us to.

Do you want to see what a follower of Jesus looks like? Look at the members of this church and this is a member. And so what you have is somebody who is in the church and the church is basically saying, “This is a follower of Jesus, but they’re living in unrepentant sexual sin.”

And if they won’t repent of sin, they won’t turn from sin when confronted, and we don’t know all the details here, but we remember Jesus’s instructions for approaching someone who is unrepentant in sin in Matthew 18, go to them alone. Take a couple of people along with you. Then take the church with you to call them back, and if they won’t come back to Christ, turn from sin, then remove them from the church. Treat them as you would a Gentile or a tax collector as the words in Matthew 18 but the picture is you’re basically saying this person is not giving evidence that they’re a follower of Christ.

Addressing Arrogance

Not that you have to earn your way to Christ by any means, but if someone has trusted in Jesus for salvation as Lord of their life, then there will be a desire to follow Christ. If they have no desire to follow Christ, then they’re not a follower of Christ, it’s kind of that simple. So remove them from…

Now we’ll talk about that more as we pray through some other verses, but let’s pause here because at that point, that sounds like judgmental arrogance, doesn’t it? Who are you to say somebody is not a follower of Christ? Who are you to remove somebody from the church? That sounds pretty arrogant, but that’s what’s so interesting about this verse because that’s the exact opposite of what God is saying. God says to this church, “You are arrogant. Ought you not rather to mourn, let him who has done this be removed from among you.”

God is saying that tolerating unrepentant sin in the church, that is arrogance. That’s pride. You should be weeping in humility over sin in your midst and doing everything you can to address it. This is where we realize we have a very backward upside down picture of pride and humility. We think it’s humble just to say, “Oh hey, that sin is their problem, so that’s humility. Pride would be like addressing someone in their sin and maybe even removing from the church, that feels arrogant.”

Showing Humility

God says the exact opposite. He said, “Humility. Would you be weeping over that person’s sin, going to them, calling them back to Christ, and if necessary, taking this step that Jesus has told us to take, Matthew 18 and removing him from the church. That’s humility. That’s trusting God. Instead, you’re being prideful. You’re just sitting back and letting that person continue in sin, seems like they’re fine with Christ as a result and you are lying. You are disobeying God. You are dishonoring God in the Church. That’s arrogance.” So to not remove someone in this kind of picture is arrogance.

Oh God, we need you to change the way we think. We think so different from you and we need your help. God, we need your help to see sin in our own lives and in other’s lives as the deadly spiritual force that it is, and to mourn over it and to pursue purity in every way in our lives and for one another’s sake. God, we pray for humility to mourn over sin and humility to address sin, unrepentant sin in the church. And God help us, help us, forgive us for our arrogance. Forgive us for not paying attention to these things.

Forgive us for turning a blind eye to sin, unrepentant sin in our midst.

God, forgive us for our arrogance before you and one another. Change our thinking and our living, change our churches we pray. So few churches do what you are telling the church at Corinth to do here in 1 Corinthians 5. We pray that you would make us the church that you desire for us to be. Reform our thinking about humility. Make us a humble people before you, and help us to do this hard work, but good work that you are calling us to do. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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