After spending the last eight weeks (June — July) looking at Paul’s instructions on sex, singleness, marriage, divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 5–7, we pulled back the lens yesterday to see how these three chapters inform our understanding of church discipline. As Jonathan Leeman argues in The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, “local church membership and discipline . . . define God’s love for the world” (17).
In our sermon, we too considered from the text of 1 Corinthians how a church displays love through church discipline. If this sounds like a contradiction in terms, please listen to or read the sermon and read this article on objections to church discipline.
(If you are still not convinced, order Leeman’s book and a set of steak knives. The fusion of holy love and church life is a feast to consider, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is not a milky doctrine but true meat for the maturing disciple).
An Outline from Sunday’s Sermon
Here is the outline from Sunday’s message. Some of these points were excised in the audio, but can be found in the sermon notes.
- A Loving Church . . . begins with the gospel, holds fast to the gospel, and leads others to the gospel (6:9–11).
- A Loving Church . . . is not surprised by the grossness of sin (5:1)
- A Loving Church . . . mourns over sin (5:2)
- A Loving Church . . . disciplines (5:2, 5, 7, 11, 13)
- A Loving Church . . . seeks the salvation of the “guilty party” in church discipline (5:5)
- A Loving Church . . . draws boundaries to protect the sheep & purge evil (5:12–13)
- A Loving Church . . . also goes to trial to bring peace to its members (6:1–11)
- A Loving Church . . . applies the gospel to sexual sin (6:12–7:40)
- A Loving Church . . . engages / exposes / confronts culture (6:12)
- A Loving Church . . . condemns porneia and calls for holiness (6:12–21)
- A Loving Church . . . affirms the goodness of sex (7:1–5)
- A Loving Church . . . affirms the goodness of singleness (7:6–9)
- A Loving Church . . . affirms the goodness of marriage (7:10–15)
- A Loving Church . . . disciplines those who seek divorce
- A Loving Church . . . disciples those who are suffering divorce
These questions are keyed to Sunday’s sermon and are written to help facilitate discussion on the points of application gleaned from 1 Corinthians 5–7. (This message was not technically exegetical, but “proverbial.” It stood on the exegetical messages from the last 8 weeks).
- What is our typical cultural understanding of love? Give examples (e.g., popular songs, shows, or movies) of mis-formed ideas of love. How do they (wrongly) inform our views of love?
- In what ways does Scripture renew our mind and transform our understanding of God’s love? Why is the cross of Christ so necessary for rightly balancing grace and truth, love and justice?
- Read Matthew 18:15–20. Why is ignoring sin unloving? Why is it important to read this passage in the context of the whole chapter? What might happen if one emphasizes church discipline apart from Jesus’ two parables?
- Read 1 Corinthians 5:1–13. What is the goal of church discipline? For the erring member? For the church? For the lost outside the church? What is the effect of not pursuing church discipline?
- Read 1 Corinthians 6:1–11. What are the nature of “trivial cases”? Are they really trivial? How do verses 1–8 relate to church discipline? Why is it necessary to keep the gospel in view at every stage of church discipline?
- Read 1 Corinthians 7:10–15. What place does the church have in marriage counseling? How can we assist a marriage that is on the brink of divorce?
- Read Matthew 7:1–5, Galatians 6:1–2, James 5:19–20, and/or Jude 22–23. What do these contribute to our understanding that discipline is loving?
For Further Study
- The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande
- Jonathan Leeman has written a number of helpful books on church discipline: big book, little book, littlest book
- The Excommunicated Member Who Thanked Me by Bob Thune
- Church Discipline: Principles and Reasons by Justin Taylor
- More Than Worth It: Costs and Benefits of Church Discipline by Wyman Richardson
- Love Disciplines: Addressing Five Objections to Church Discipline by David Schrock
Soli Deo Gloria, ds