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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
1 Corinthians 5

 

 

Verses 1-13

Lecture 12

Discipline In The Church Of God

1 Corinthians 4:17-21; 1Co_5:1-13

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (4:17-5:13)

We have already noticed that this first epistle to the Corinthians is the charter of the church and that it brings before us certain divinely-given rules and regulations for the ordering of the local churches of God here on earth. This portion deals with the question of the discipline of an open offender against holiness and righteousness. The church is the house of God. When I use that word, I do not mean a building. God had one house made of stone and mortar, the temple at Jerusalem. He has never owned another. His present house is made of living stones, men and women built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. This is the house of God, the assembly of God, which is the church of the living God in this present age of grace; and holiness becomes God’s house. He dwells in His church, that is, in the assembly of His saints, and therefore it must be a holy assembly. That is why again and again in the New Testament we are exhorted to absolute separation from the world and its ways.

Sometimes when those who watch for your souls seek to be very careful regarding worldliness and carnality and unholy things cropping out in the church of God, they are looked upon as censorious and harsh and possibly unkind, because they try to deal with matters of this character, and people fall back on a Scripture like this, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). In these verses our Lord is speaking of the motives of the heart. You have no right to judge my motives; I have no right to judge your motives. If I see one put a ten-dollar bill in the offering basket and I say to myself, “Oh, yes, he is just trying to be ostentatious, he did not give that out of real love for Christ,” I am wrong, for I am judging one’s motive, and I have no right to do that. This may apply to a thousand things. But the church of God is called upon to judge concerning the unrighteous behavior of any of its members. Verse 12 of chapter 5 says, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” The world outside goes on its way and the church of God has no jurisdiction there.

The church of God is responsible as to the character of its fellowship, and it is responsible as to those who sit down together at the table of the Lord and are linked up in Christian service. Where there is failure, the individual who fails is responsible before God. It is a serious thing to profess to live the life that should characterize members of the church of God. Ours is a high and holy calling, and if we lower the standard, we are not only dishonoring Christ individually, but we are giving the wrong testimony to the world.

The story is told of a man who wanted to hire a coachman. He lived in a mountainous region and the road to his home ran along a precipice. A number of men applied for the position. He said to one of them, “Tell me, are you an adept at handling fractious horses?”

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“Can you drive a six-horse team?”

“Yes.”

“How near can you drive to the edge of the cliff without going over?”

“I have a steady hand and my eye is pretty true; I can get within a foot of it and not go over.”

“You step outside,” said the man, and he called another and asked him the same questions.

He said, “I am an expert in handling horses; I can drive right along the edge and not go over.”

“Step outside,” and he called another and asked the questions.

“If you want a man to drive on the edge of the precipice,” said this man, “you do not want me. When I drive, I keep as far away from the edge as I can.”

“You are the man I want. I will take you.”

Christian, be careful of the edge of the precipice. Do not get near it, for the first thing you know you will go over, and this will mean not only the ruin of your own testimony, but the sad thing is, you are liable to drag others over with you. Keep away from the edge, and do not resent it if those who watch for your souls as those who must give account try to impress upon you the solemnity of these things.

The apostle Paul had heard serious things concerning certain internal conditions in the church at Corinth, but he had been hindered from getting to them, and certain persons in the church who were carnally minded themselves and who knew that the apostle’s coming would probably mean rebuking them for their worldly behavior were saying, “Paul is really afraid to come to Corinth, he knows he hasn’t the influence he once had.” But he says, “No, I am not afraid to come. Some of you are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power.” In other words, when he should come (and he was speaking with apostolic authority), there were some things he was going to look into very carefully. He would find out whether the power of God was working in their lives or whether it was just bravado and conceit that led them to justify themselves. There is a tremendous lot of pretence among professing Christians: pretending to a piety that they do not possess, pretending to a devotedness that is not genuine. He would know not only the talk of their lips but would inquire into the behavior that characterized them. “For the kingdom of God is not in word,” is not merely lip profession, “but in power,” it is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life.

The apostle says, “I want to come to you, but do you want me to come with a rod”-a rod of discipline? Did they want him to come as the representative of the Lord to chastise them for their bad behavior, or to come in the spirit of meekness so that they and he might sit down together over the Word of God and enjoy the precious things of Christ? If they desired him to come in this last way, there were some things to be settled first, and he told them what they were. “In the first place, it is reported commonly”-this was not merely a matter of some individual’s gossip, it was widely known-”that you are tolerating one of the vilest forms of immorality that has ever been heard of even among the heathen Gentiles; it is known that one of your members actually has taken his father’s wife (not of course his mother, but his stepmother) as his own wife. This is an abomination in the sight of God, but you have not recognized the wickedness of it. You have rather prided yourselves on the breadth and liberality that would enable you to go on with a thing like that. You are puffed up when you ought to be brokenhearted.” “Ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” Even if they felt that they did not know how to handle a thing like this, they could have been down before God with breaking hearts crying to Him to undertake for them, and He would have intervened and taken the wicked man from among them. But since he had received the evil report, as the representative of the Lord Jesus Christ he was going to tell them how to handle the situation, and in so doing he gave instruction concerning the handling of similar questions all down through the centuries.

“For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already.” In other words, because we are all one in the Lord I have looked into this matter already, I have discerned, I have investigated and have the facts concerning him that has done this deed. This is the verdict, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power [or authority] of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan.” What does that mean? John says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19), or, “in the wicked one.” This man was in the circle of those who are “of God.” Somebody might say, “The way to help him is to keep him in the circle, let him sit down with you at the Communion table; do not be hard on him, try to win him back, throw your arms of love about him and sympathize with him.” The unrepentant man will be more hardened in his iniquity if you do that. Put him outside in the Devil’s domain, let him know that he has forfeited all title to a place with the people of God-that he has been put back into the world where Satan rules. That is what he means when he says, “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” What has caused all this trouble? The activity of the flesh. Very well, put him out in that sphere where he will find out that “it is an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord his God.” When he finds himself abhorred by men and women who love Christ, when he finds his sin is a stench in the nostrils of Christian people, he may break before God. If, in spite of his sin, he has really been born again, he will break. If he has been a false professor, he will plunge deeper and deeper into evil things.

“Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” We do not like to carry out extreme commands like these, but this is the Word of God, and the greatest kindness that the people of God can do to a man who is deliberately going on in willful sin is to refuse Christian fellowship to him. As long as you treat him as a brother he will only be puffed up in his ungodly ways and it will be harder to reach him. But if you obey the Word, God will work toward his recovery and restoration.

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” Housewives know that. What is the nature of leaven? You have a great pan of dough and insert a little leaven, and if you leave it all night, the whole thing runs over on the table by morning. Very well, you allow one wicked man to go unrebuked and undealt with after the wickedness has been fully manifested, and the thing will go on like an infection working, working, working to the ruin of others and to the harm of the entire testimony.

The church of God is largely afraid to exercise discipline today, but where this is carried out in obedience to the Word of God the church is kept in a condition where God can work. The apostle was not acting upon mere hearsay, there was definite evidence as to the guilt of this man. The church of God is not to jump to conclusions. We are not to believe every scandal that people try to circulate. We have a rule, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17). If he will not hear the church, he has to be put under discipline. If one knows of definite wickedness, he should go first to the guilty person and try to set it right. If he does not succeed, he is then to take another witness, but if he will not hear them, they are to take it to the church of God and be prepared to back up everything.

“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.” Before God the whole body is looked upon as unleavened, for “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” We are men and women who began with the blood of the cross. Like Israel in Egypt, when sheltered by the Passover, they were to put all leaven away. Leaven is the type of wickedness.

Leaven is mentioned in Galatians 5:9: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” There he is speaking of evil and unsound teaching which permeates and leavens the assembly of God. “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us,” and if we have been redeemed by the precious blood it is incumbent upon us to recognize our responsibility to keep the feast, the feast of communion and fellowship with Him, not with old leaven, that is, the corruption of the old nature, nor with malice. Is there a child of God who is still tolerating un-judged malice in the heart? “Neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Our God looks for reality. It is not enough to say, “ Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?…and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22). The great thing is for all who have been redeemed by His precious blood to manifest subjection to the Lord in the life.

In the concluding verses the apostle stresses the treatment that should be meted out to evildoers who have gotten into the church. You cannot discipline the world. He says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters.” If you should try to regulate all immorality in the world, you would have a tremendous job upon your hands, but here is the point: if a man who calls himself a brother is an immoral man or a covetous man-what is that? Does he couple covetousness with fornication? “The love of money is a root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), and covetousness, reaching out and grasping for wealth, is just as vile a thing in God’s sight as indulgence in unholy lust in other lines.

“If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer.” What is a railer? It is a person who has a tongue loose at both ends and on a pivot in the middle, a vicious talker, an evil speaker, one who can destroy the reputation of another just as the murderer drives a dagger into the heart and destroys a life. A railer is a wicked person in the sight of God. “Oh,” somebody says, “I don’t mean any harm, but I am so careless with my tongue.” What would you think of one who goes around with a machine gun and keeps firing away on this side and that, and someone says, “What are you doing?” “Oh,” he replies, “I don’t mean any harm, but I am so careless with this machine gun.” A character assassin is as wicked in the sight of God as one who would take another’s life.

“Or a drunkard.” No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. You young people in these vicious days in which we live, if you never want to be a drunkard, do not fall in with the current idea of thinking it is fashionable for everybody to drink a little bit. No man ever became a drunkard who was not first a moderate drinker. Somebody may say, “I do not believe in that; I can take a little and it does me no harm.” But it may do your brother harm, and Paul said, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Here is God’s standard. “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”

An extortioner is one who squeezes the poor. Maybe he tries to cover up his sin in this way: he squeezes the poor and makes an extra thousand dollars, and then on Sunday comes down to the church and says, “I want to give you a hundred dollars for missions.” God says, “Keep your dirty money, you got it in the wrong way.” God wants holy money to use in holy service. An extortioner is a wicked person and God says, “With such an one no not to eat.” You are not to sit down to the table with such an one. That would cut down our dinner parties considerably, and I take it that he also includes the Lord’s table. People should be warned to stay away from the Lord’s table if living as depicted here.

“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” Outside in the world God judges, He will deal with them in due time, but He calls upon the church of God to maintain careful discipline over its members for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. His good name is at stake. People say, “What! Is that one of your Christians? Does that person belong to Christ and do thus and so?” That is one reason why the church of God is responsible to maintain holiness as it goes on through the world.

And now the concluding word: “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Of course there is a great deal of other instruction in Scripture for discipline, as in the case of a brother overtaken in a fault, and the Word says, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Every effort should first be made to restore the wanderer, but if he will not be restored, if he persists in his sin, if he goes on defying the discipline of the church of God, then the time comes when the Word has to be acted on: “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

Perhaps some of you feel like saying what one of the Hopi Indians said to me one time after I had tried to put before them the responsibility of a Christian. They had a rather peculiar name for me; it was, “The Man with the Iron Voice”; and he said, “Man with the Iron Voice, you have made the way very hard today. I thought I was saved by grace alone, but now it looks as though I have to walk to heaven on the edge of a razor.” We are saved by grace alone, but we are called to walk in holiness, and while we have no ability to do it ourselves, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in every believer and He is the power of the new life. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, and we will be enabled thus to honor the Lord Jesus Christ by holy, unworldly, devoted, godly lives.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/1-corinthians-5.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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