1 Corinthians 5: A Balanced Church, a Biblical Church
April 6, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The great challenge: how can a church be both a friend for sinners and discipline Christians who unrepentantly continue in public and flagrant sin? Despite its challenge – and the great need for wisdom from God sought in humble prayer in community of godly leaders – it is a necessary challenge to face. And we should want to be a part of a church that on the one hand will disciple us and on the other hand reach those who are not yet saved. We are to be a light to the nations, salt of the earth. Paul has two principles here.
First, don’t misunderstand the gospel of grace to mean that flagrant, unrepentant sin is to be tolerated in the community of the church. The situation in Corinth was of a serious and sexual nature. Paul calls on them to exercise discipline and excommunication. Churches tend to fall into two equal opposite errors with regard to church discipline. Some do not practice it at all for fear of being unloving. Others practice it so much that they become hypocritical and graceless. In essence, they become the very thing that discipline is meant to protect us against: a community that is legalistically wrong, rather than immorally wrong. But both are wrong. Church discipline is intensive discipleship. It’s getting into the ER, or Accident and Emergency. It’s the paramedics. Something serious has gone wrong, and we need to step in and help — with grace and humility. The spiritual among us should help – and not ignore the patient bleeding out, but get in and serve even in the more difficult of cases. And they can be very difficult, hard and brutal. So we must watch ourselves, those who serve in this spiritual ER, that we do not become tempted too – either to despair at the hardness of the work, or (if the work is unsuccessful) to do the very things that we have been trying to heal the patient of. Sometimes doctors catch the diseases of their patients. So those who watch over others must watch over their own soul too.
Second, but what this does not mean is any lack of missional engagement and neighbor love for those outside the church. What is paramount is that those who claim to follow Christ live up to what it means to follow Christ. But, as Lloyd-Jones put it, it is heresy to expect a non-Christian to behave like a Christian. Only the regenerate can act as a Christian must act. And so for those who have not yet come to know Christ, we do not ask them to keep our rules or live up to our standards. Why should they? What we do is invite them to meet Jesus. Let Jesus, in discipleship, through his Word, gradually work out with them what it means to follow him. After all, all of us have areas that Jesus is still working on. The point is to invite the unbeliever into a personal encounter with Jesus, to receive the gift of his grace.
On the one hand discipleship (even ER-like discipline). On the other hand, gracious loving missional evangelism. A balanced church, a biblical church.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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