This morning I was reading though the first half of 1 Corinthians (part of my goal of reading through the NT each quarter of the year). I came across some notes I had scribbled in the margin of 1 Cor 5 some time ago on the nature of the church.
1 Corinthians 5 is Paul’s instruction to the church regarding a sexually immoral member of the church – a man was boasting about having his father’s wife! Paul tells the church that the man is to “be removed from among you,” that the church is to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved,” and that they should not associate with the sexually immoral person (in the church, not the world).
This chapter shows how precious the church is in three ways. First, the church as they body of Christ is so precious it is to be protected from defilement. Paul say that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” just as a little immorality that is allowed to persist will pollute the whole body. The church was to protect itself from despoilment, much like one would want to protect a clean well. If the well gets polluted it is not longer useful and life-giving.
Second, the church is shown to be precious in that being put out of the church constitutes the greatest form of discipline. In the OT, the height of discipline in Israel was the death penalty. Excommunication is the NT equivalent in the New Israel, the church. In our house, electronics are precious and one of the greatest punishments we hand down is banishment from all screens. We wouldn’t take away, say, vegetables, because they aren’t precious to our kids. The church banishes teh immoral brother from something that is important, something that ought to be precious. (Bizarre isn’t it, how many self-excommunicate by neglecting the body and failing to participate in the life of the church).
Third, the church is shown to be precious in that it is a safe haven from Satan. To kick someone out of the church is to remove them from the safe haven of the Kingdom’s embassy and throw them out into the world, which is Satan’s domain.
Do our attitudes towards the church reflect God’s?