Jump Start # 2133
1 Corinthians 5:5 “I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Read our verse today. An immediate response might be, “Well, that doesn’t sound very nice.” Discipline isn’t. It sad when it has to be done and it’s even worse when it’s not done. Far too many places observe the “Passover” when it comes to breaking fellowship and discipline. It’s messy. People do not understand it. Some get upset. So, far too often, nothing is done. Members float in and out as they want. Some are walking deeply in the world, getting drunk often and nothing ever being said. Some have left and gone to modern churches to worship, yet they are still considered members at the old place.
The circumstances in Corinth were ugly. A member was involved immorally with his father’s wife. This was so obviously wrong that even the Gentiles knew better. Yet, there he is and worse, the church knew about it. Nothing was being said and nothing was being done. And, this immoral Christian wasn’t stopping. So, the Holy Spirit devotes an entire section, a whole chapter, to this subject. Paul leads the way in showing the Corinthian church what they ought to be doing.
Discipline is a form of punishment. It’s called that in Thessalonians. Here, Paul was handing this one over to Satan, with the hopes and intentions that his soul would be saved. Fellowship was to be removed. Notice the language:
- Remove (v. 2)
- Clean out (v. 7)
- Deliver to Satan (v. 5)
- Remove the wicked man (v. 13)
- Not even to eat with such a one (v. 11)
By breaking fellowship, the purpose was to get this man to see how serious his situation was and to get him to come back to Christ. Fellowship among brethren is strained and should be broken after that fellowship has been broken with God. What good are rules, laws and commandments, if they are not enforced. There are consequences to breaking the laws of the land. There are work policies that are enforced to keep ethics and integrity above board. There are consequences at home when a child breaks the rules. Should there not also be consequences among us if we no longer walk with Christ?
There are many forms of disciple, breaking fellowship is not the first. The word of God convicts us. This is why the preacher Timothy was told to reprove, rebuke and exhort. “Stepping on our toes,” is how some view preaching. But our toes are stepped on to remind us and help us walk righteously with the Lord.
The voice of brethren is another form of discipline. When others warn us, talk to us, and try to get us to see the wrong that we are doing, this is yet another way to correct us. Many would think that this is mean. But what’s really mean is to let someone drift back to Satan’s arms and nothing is done, or worse, the atmosphere of everything is fine is maintained.
When a Christian goes back to the world, the world becomes a bit darker. The family suffers. Heaven loses a citizen. The church suffers. Someone loses their soul. To do nothing, is counter-evangelism. We are not only seeking the lost, but we want to keep the saved saved. In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he wrote, “you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life…” That word ‘unruly’ means ‘out of step.’ You’ve seen marching bands or the military marching. Everyone is on the same step. Right foot, left foot, right foot. But here is a guy who is on the wrong foot. When everyone is on the right, he’s on the left. He is out of step. Now, it’s not that he’s uncoordinated and he’s doing his best. No, he’s out of step on purpose. He wants to be different. He thinks, “No one can tell me what foot to walk on.” Because he refuses to go along with what the Bible teaches, he’s out of step, he’ll suffer the consequences, including discipline.
Discipline is never to be done to “get rid” of people. It should never be held over someone’s head as a threat. You always love the person who is out of step. You want them to get back in step with everyone else, and especially the Lord. You will never give up on them. You will never stop thinking about them. You will do all that you can, even to the difficulties of stopping social activities, just to get a person to realize how serious all of this is. Things are different, and what made them different was the person’s choice to leave Christ and embrace sin.
Time needs to be given so the person can understand what’s wrong. Be patient. Pray. Try to engage the person in conversations. But after a while, if he refuses to return, then fellowship must be broken. This is done both as a church and as individuals. This is why Paul said not even to eat with such a one. Social interaction has been interrupted because of this person’s refusal to leave sin. This is not a permanent sentence, nor a life long stigma. Repent, get back to doing what is right, get back in step with Jesus and there ought to be a grand celebration, just like when the prodigal came home.
It seems to me that all of this would come across much more genuine and loving, if it was done face to face. With tears in your eyes, asking the person what more could be done to help them get back to the Lord. Remind them of their commitment. Remind them of why he was first baptized. Offer to study with him. Offer to continue to meet with him. This is so much better than a cold letter sitting in a mail box. Sometimes that may be the only way, but the breaking of fellowship ought to break our hearts.
No one is above the law with God. There should never be two standards. The kids of preachers and elders should receive no more, nor any less, than the rest of the kids in the congregation. We are all the same in this.
God wants you in Heaven. He wants you in Heaven so much that He sent the best of Heaven, Jesus. He wants you in Heaven so much, that when you quit walking with Him, He commands His children to break fellowship with you. He wants to grab your attention. He wants you to see how serious this is. He wants you back and walking with Him.
You don’t hear much about these things anymore. Less, you don’t see many churches practicing this. Because something is hard and uncomfortable should not keep us from doing what we have to do.
God loves you and He wants you in Heaven.