Discipline That Saves

Church discipline can save your soul. This is the truth that we see at the end of 1 Cor. 5:5. The first few verses of this chapter form one of the key texts that we have for understanding discipline, and it completely turns our natural way of thinking upside down as he tells us to do two things as part of our discipline: first, mourn, and second, remove the person from the Church. God uses these two things to bring about the salvation of a soul in captivity to sin.

Paul is shocked to find an appalling case of sexual sin in the church, not because he expects people to be perfect, but because he knows the sin-killing power of the gospel. He is even more surprised, however, at the prideful, unashamed response of the Corinthians to this shocking sin. Their pride is displayed by the fact that they have the wrong attitude and have not taken the right action.

Their wrong attitude is displayed by the fact that they are celebrating this man. They are proud that their church is the most gracious church around, because they tolerate the biggest sins! But this is not spiritual maturity. This is not grace or Christian freedom. This is simply further testimony that they are in chains, enslaved to perverse desires.

And so Paul tells them to fix their attitude. Instead of being arrogant and proud, you should be on your knees weeping, mourning for the soul of this man. Failing to mourn displays arrogance and pride. What a great sin we are committing when we fail to mourn over those among us who are being ripped apart by sin! If you do not mourn, the love of God is not in you, so fix your attitude and mourn. Don’t wait for your heart to report on your feelings, tell your heart what it ought to feel.

A heart that has been changed by the grace of Jesus Christ is a heart that is quick to mourn for others trapped in sin. We mourn because we love them – God has put His love for them in our hearts. But we also mourn in order to save them. When we mourn, we find hope in the promise that God is not deaf to our mourning, but listens to our cries. Only God can change a sinful heart, and turn a soul around, and nothing makes Him want to do this more than the tears of His people.

The second thing that Paul instructs us to do is to remove that person from the Church, communicating to them that they are no longer part of the body of Christ. Their sin has separated them from God! When the Church removes a member, she is honoring Christ and protecting the other members (see verse 6), but most importantly, she is trying to save the soul of the sinner.

God knows that spending time under the power of the devil is the surest way to teach someone the folly of sin. And so Paul instructs the Church, when she is gathered as the Church, to deliver the sinner over to Satan, so that when they are broken and humbled, they will turn back to Christ, the tender shepherd, the good physician, one whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light. When sin has exhausted them, run them down, and destroyed them, then they will be ready to see Christ for who He really is – a loving savior who delivers sinners from their sin.

This is how discipline saves sinners. As we mourn on their behalf, and by Christ’s power hand them over to Satan, God listens to our cries, Satan reduces them to nothing, and then, in the Lord’s timing, He restores them and saves them. And so if we love them, and if we have faith in Christ, we will mourn, and we will remove them from our midst, trusting in God to save their spirit in the day of the Lord.

Posted on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by CJ Bowen