Sunday Main 12-02-12

Freed to Love XVII (Living Love through Church Discipline).mp3

Stir it up! – PDF

 Key Texts: I Cor 1-5


Church discipline is something no church wants to deal with, but it is necessary for the safety of the flock and for the eventual reconciliation of the one in sin.

In chapters 1-4 of 1 Corinthians, Paul lays a foundation for the entire letter and the confrontation of sin in the Corinthian church in particular.

In these chapters Paul addresses:

  1. The gospel is NOT in word but in POWER.
  2. God does not appeal to man from their perspective, but comes as a stumbling block tot he Jews and as foolishness to the Gentiles.
  3. The sanctity of the body as the temple of God.
  4. The need to remove the offending Christian from the assembly in order to protect the sheepfold and to drive the unrepentant Christian back to Christ.
  5. The need for agreement within the body in matters of discipline.
  6. The power of Christ to frustrate the sinning Christian with “unavoidable distress” to bring them to the end of themselves.

Of note are a two major points of importance:

First, is found in I Cor. 3:16,17,

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

The phrase “You are the temple of God” could be translated in at least two ways…

  1. You as individual people are each God’s temple.
  2. You as a church are God’s temple.

While both are demonstrably true if viewed as simple statements, only one way is accurate in these verse and that makes all the difference in where Paul is heading in the next verse.

The words, “You are” is in the 2nd person plural present active indicative (mood) meaning that “you are” is to be understood as “all of you”. So in this verse, Paul is referring to the entire church at Corinth is the temple of God.

This would mean that if there is an individual among them who is bringing a defiling influence into the assembly, God will destroy that person for that sake of the sanctity and purity of the church as a whole. Which is why the modern concept of “seeker freindly” churches is such a travesty. It is a departure from the purpose and function of the church. One of the names for the local assembly is ekklesia which means “called out ones”. The church is supposed to be a “safe place” (thus the metaphorical used of “sheepfold” for an assembly) for those called out to and committed to Christ to gather for mutual encouragement towards godliness, being fed the Word of God and be led by those God has called and placed as His under-shepherds. It then logically follows that if someone, even within the flock, begins to have a defiling influence – it must be dealt with, because it corrupts the entire purpose and function of our sacred gatherings. So it is that Paul later says in chapter 5, that these people are like yeast to dough – a little of their influence can defile the whole loaf.

The word “destroy” is o’λεθρος (ólethros) and means to cause unavoidable distress – it does not mean to annihilate. An antonym for this Greek word is pleasure. So, God will intervene and cause unavoidable distress and misery in and upon the unrepentant Christian who is assembling with true-hearted believers.

Secondly, Paul’s approach to this problem was not entirely unique to the new covenant in that most of the same points are made by Jesus Himself in Matt. 18:18-20. See the comparison below…

“For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” ~ 1Cor. 5:3-5

“Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” ~ Mat 18:18-20

Sadly, this later passage which mentions being in agreement, has been exploited by many to be used as a method of spiritual manipulation and coercion. However, if one properly interprets the passage this would be impossible. Surprisingly the single word “again” is the key which makes abuse of this passage far more difficult.

By itself in English, the word “again” simply suggests that Jesus is repeating Himself. However, if the reader is careful in their reading, they will discover that He does not repeat Himself, so they conclude that He is simply moving on to another topic. However in the Greek, the word “again” is a continuative particle, connecting circumstances which refer to the same subject such as the words “once more“;  “again I say” or “furthermore“. So, it is clear that Jesus is simply continuing with the same thought of binding and loosening.

Now, a word on what Jesus meant by “Binding and Loosening”. Well, these were legal terms and meant the same as they would today in that context. It means to declare something as legal (and therefore BINDING) or unlawful (and therefore loosened – or not required). So in this context Jesus was talking about the sanctity of the communion of the brethren. If one started reading at the beginning of His thought which was back in Matt. 18:15, this would be clear. Jesus was stating that it takes no more than two of God’s people to address a matter of sin between the brethren. If they gathered together in Christ’s Name, which means, “as representing all that He is”, and so petition God in heaven by way of declaring someone lawful or unlawful in that assembly, God will hear and God will back the prayer.

Now the dangerous notion that by “anything they ask” He meant that it could include God forcing a non-repentant person to repent or a non-Christian to turn to Christ or to obtain wealth or prestige is simply a horrific distortion of this passage! If read in context, the passage means something like this – “anything they ask as touching discipline or judgement within the earth bound church and is in keeping with Jesus’ name – meaning all that He is”  – this would be the obvious understanding of the passage. IT cannot be stressed enough that what they ask MUST represent Him in His ways not the “asker” and their ways. The intention of all judgement is separation. For the non-believer, the separation is from God, for the believer the intended separation is from their sinful conduct. In the case of what Paul both said and did, it separates the unrepentant believer from the physical assembly of God’s people. This was INTENDED to cause shame, which might further influence them to repent and seek reconciliation. God is ALWAYS for the reconciliation of all people – especially His children!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!