Taking Action Against Unrepentance
One of the believers in Corinth was sleeping with his stepmother. That was bad enough but Paul points out that the church leaders had not taken any action. Indeed, they were proud of their liberal attitude and had allowed the man's behaviour to continue unchecked.
The man thought that he was not doing anything wrong and was not repentant. The church leaders were not repentant of their tolerance and the church members were led to believe that God approved. Paul was very direct. The leaders should have excluded the unrepentant man from the fellowship (as there was no criticism of the woman we assume she was not a believer). But by their failure to correct the man, the leaders implicitly taught that such behaviour was acceptable to God, and so they became false teachers. The church had reached a crisis.
Paul knew that as the local leadership had failed to act, he had no option but to pass judgement and command the church to exclude the man from the fellowship. That would remove him from the special protection God gives to His church, and would put him at risk of whatever Satan might inflict on him. The purpose was not to punish but to draw the man's attention to his sin, and its effect on the church and the witness of the gospel – and so urge him to repent. All spiritual discipline is intended to be restorative. It is not to atone for sin (Christ alone has done that – 1 John 2:1-2), but it is to bring people to repentance and forgiveness (1 John 1:9), so that fellowship and service can be restored.
This episode in Corinth should be a wake-up call to Christians and churches today which have been lulled into accepting what God condemns as being normal. Although the world goes through phases of distorting the truth, God has not changed and neither should the church. God is not vindictive but is passionate about restoring His people to holiness. Let us apply the principle to ourselves first. King David said, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24). Then if we have leadership responsibility in the church, let us urge repentance, being willing to exercise discipline if necessary.
© Dr Paul Adams