Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Chuch tolerance or Church discipline

This comes as a response to the reading at the beginning of the week in 1 Corinthians 5-6

One of the buzz words in the culture we live in today is that of tolerance. This teaches that everyone has the right to their own view of the truth. As long as their view doesn't violate or impose on me then we should all be able to CO-EXIST (the sign you see on the back of many cars.) Though this may be the theme of the day in our society, the apostle Paul has a bit different take when it comes to tolerance in the church. At the beginning of this week the reading assignment was 1 Corinthian 5 and 6. Every time I read Corinthians I think about the modern day church.

In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul is dealing with a situation involving a sexual relationship between a man and his stepmother. It is the church's tolerance of this sin in which they have a mock humility that has the apostle Paul so upset. Paul says though I am not with you physically I am with you in the Spirit. And then goes on to say that church discipline must be invoked and this man is to be cast out of the church. He even goes further, the apostle Paul says that they are to turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Why does the apostle Paul deal so strongly with this kind of sin issue? And then he tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:6. I like the way my New Living Translation reads on this "Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be affected? You might say this about 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul is not tolerant of sin that isn't dealt with in the body of Christ. As a matter of fact he goes on to say what I think may surprise many Christians today. Paul tells us not to judge those outside the church because God will judge them. However, please read carefully, keep this in context but do not be ignorant of this next statement, Bert paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 5:12 "WE ARE TO JUDGE THOSE WITHIN THE CHURCH." By the way the word judge in this sentence is a verb and is the Greek word "krino."

The meaning of this word is as follows. The verb is written in the present tense which means continually and ongoing.
1) to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
2) to approve, esteem, to prefer
3) to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
4) to determine, resolve, decree
5) to judge
a) to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
1) to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one's case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
b) to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
1) of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
6) to rule, govern
a) to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
7) to contend together, of warriors and combatants
a) to dispute
b) in a forensic sense
1) to go to law, have suit at law


Do you know what this was called in the early days of our church history? This is known as church discipline! And unfortunately it ranks in at least the top 3 problems today that the evangelical church faces and it may be in the top 2. I was part of an intense discussion in a seminary class in which the subject came to church discipline. The professor who was a wonderful and godly man and said that we in the American evangelical church have lost this Biblical mandate. And what he meant was we apparently have lost the ability as a church to enforce it within the evangelical culture in which we live.

I have been part of several church discipline procedures as senior pastor of a small church. In no case did it result in the person being restored to the body of Christ but instead they left only to assemble in another church. In one case there was a clear admission to an affair to the point of a divorce of present spouse and remarriage. I was told while meeting with this individual that we were all about truth and yet had no grace. Another church being aware totally of the situation brought this person into fellowship and no discipline was enforced. Let me ask you a question. How does church A discipline members effectively if church B down the road doesn't believe in the discipline of its church members?

In my study of this issue there seems to be no immediate solution especially when you live in a city that has over 800 different churches. However we still need to understand, embrace and live out the Scriptures in this area. My point in this email is that we need to be aware of the tolerance in our culture that so easily works its way within the church. And yes according to 1 Corinthians 5 with this kind of context before us, Christians are to judge those within the body of Christ. There is a way to do this properly and Paul will also speak of that in Galatians. But I want you to see clearly what 1 Corinthians 5 is teaching. The ultimate purpose of this kind of judgment is to restore the member back into fellowship unto the glory of God. Or as you can see in this Chapter, ask God to remove them from planet earth so they will not continue to do damage within the church body. May we be aware that a tolerance within culture may be just the thing that produces a wildfire of sin within the members of a church body. Isn't that the application warning that we should take from what Paul is writing to the Corinthian church?

blessings,