Church Discipline

1 Cor 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

St Paul had given clear advice in the Scriptures on how to deal with professing believers who are immoral, greedy or are swindlers or idolaters and are unrepentant.  He had also taken preventive action in warning Timothy and the Corinthian church of certain so-called brothers who were causing great harm to his ministry. 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 4:14.

Ex-communication instructed by Paul was necessary to protect the Corinthian church when these sinful believers were unrepentant after exhausting confrontation of sin privately and before the church with evidence and witnesses, and sincere attempts to restore them.  But ex-communication as a last resort is not an end in itself when Paul also instructed on possible future restoration and saving their souls.

The following sermon by Pastor Steven Cole gives an excellent overview of church discipline – the right steps to confront and to restore; and the necessity of ex-communication as a last resort in protecting the church.

http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/081306M.pdf

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Thorn In The Flesh

2 Cor 12:7-9

7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Just before this Scriptural passage, Paul wrote about having the miraculous experience of being caught up to the third heaven.

It is natural human weakness to be conceited when one has great miraculous experience, visions and revelations, even Paul was not an exception.

I believe the messenger of the enemy was not a physical infirmity or disease but a real person in either a demonic being, or servants of the enemy in the church masquerading as servants of righteousness like the “super apostles”, undermining his ministry. Or someone like Alexander who did great harm to his ministry whom he had to warn Timothy and the church.

And it is important to note that God was the One who sent the messenger of the enemy to harass and humble Paul for the very purpose of training him not to be conceited.

In what way was Paul conceited ?

How did Paul plead with God to remove the harassment ?   Is it by pleading that God would bind the enemy when He was the One who sent in the first place?   How did the enemy’s messenger harass him ?

It must be so troubling a trial that Paul had to plead 3 times.  But nevertheless when the Lord told him that His grace was sufficient for him,  Paul eventually realized that a successful ministry rested on a weak servant in order for Christ’s power to manifest even more in him.

1 Cor 1:27-31

27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Lesson:

The Word of God is truly amazing for it anticipates that those who are given such surpassing gifts in the last days are likely to be conceited and this experience of Paul serves as a warning.  I see it as a comfort as well that when one encounters such trial will readily call to mind this experience of Paul and realizes God is in control and His power is made perfect in weakness and not strength in the surpassing gifts.

 

 

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How Do We Await The Return Of Our Lord ?

After sharing about the signs of the end times in the Olivet Discourse in most part of chapter 24 in the gospel of Matthew came 4 parables in close sequence – the parable of the wise and wicked servants, the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, the parable of the talents and the parable of the sheep and goats –  in which our Lord shared about the importance of faithfulness while eagerly awaiting His Second Coming.  The sheer number of 4 parables underscored how important is the message of awaiting watchfully and faithfully.

The parable of the wise and wicked servants and the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids gave contrasting attitude in awaiting His return.  The wicked servant did not believe the Master would return so soon and was slack in discharging his given responsibility and was evil in conduct as well;  while the foolish bridesmaids believed the Bridegroom would return very soon so they were careless not to bring extra oil for their lamps not expecting a delay.

Though our Lord gave frightening account of events preceding His return, He also exhorted us not to be alarmed and be troubled.  Matt 24:6.

In the parables of the wise and wicked servants, the talents and the sheep and goats, the main lesson to be learnt was to be faithfully discharging our responsibilities to care for God’s people conscientiously while we wait with an expectant heart and watchfulness.

The parables are not teaching that salvation is obtained through works.   But faithfulness in conscientious works will definitely accompany genuine faith.   The wicked servant,  the servant entrusted with one talent and the goats did not have genuine faith as evidenced by their lack of faithfulness and the utter folly of completely ignoring the commands of their Lord.   In all 4 parables, the fate of such unfaithful servants was banishment to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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