This is another article in the series on assembly principles.
Father and son are discussing local church truth. They have considered that the local church is looked upon as House of God. The father tells him that the purpose for Paul’s writing the first epistle to Timothy was, “That thou mayest know how it is necessary to behave in the House of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (l Tim 3:14-15). Immediately, the son sees that there is a standard of behavior required of those who are a part of that house and asks if the verse in Psalm 93:5, “Holiness becometh Thine house, 0 God” has relevance to us today.
The father suggests that while the ways of God in His dealings with men may change from one dispensation to another, His character remains the same. If His character remains the same, and indeed one of the divine titles in Hebrews is, “Thou art the Same” (1:12), then the standard for personal holiness would not be different. Peter cited Leviticus 11:44 when he wrote, “Be ye holy for 1 am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
The father now turns to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and shows that the assembly is seen there as an inner temple of God. As a result, if one defiles the temple of God, God will defile the defiler. The son is beginning to have his question answered as he sees that holiness must characterize the house of God today.
Every behavior is a behavior linked to the house of God. As they continue with the discussion, the father shows that there must be doctrinal purity, holiness in what we believe, and moral purity, holiness in the way we behave. Discipline in the assembly is really a consequence of the need for holiness in the house of God. The father suggests that they study the topic of discipline under the headings: The Persons to be Disciplined, The Purposes of Discipline, The Principles in Discipline and The Procedures in Discipline.
The father reminds his son of the great changes in the mores of western society in the last three decades. He tells him that it is essential that one does not let himself be poured into the mold of the world’s thinking. That thinking permeates the media, the educational system and society as a whole, with the result that we have a generation without absolutes, without a standard, without a God to Whom it is answerable. There is a society where the temptations and opportunities for impurity are far greater than they were when he himself was a teenager, and so the father stresses that the standard for behavior must be taken from the Word of God and never from the world of the godless. The Christian must not think in terms of a “New Morality” – it is not morality, and it is not new!
They turn to Galatians 6:1 so as to ensure that they will study the topic not just educationally, and not without a recognition of the fact that they each have the flesh within, and so they read, “…considering thyself lest thou also be tempted”. Based on his experience, the father advises the son that sin takes place when desire meets opportunity and to “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). With an attitude of “fear and trembling”, they turn to 1 Corinthians 5.
The Persons to be Disciplined
In the Corinthian assembly, they had permitted immorality to go not only unjudged but also un-mourned. They were told that if they had mourned the fact that sin of this nature existed in the church, that God would have taken the person away in a divine act of judgment (5:2). They lacked an appreciation for the holiness of the house of God! They lacked an understanding of the heinous character of sin! They did not understand that when sin of this nature is committed that the sinning one must be put away from the assembly; the leaven must be removed.
As they turn to 1 Corinthians 5, the father shows the son a catalogue of sins so serious that they require excommunication from the House of God because “holiness becometh His House”. “If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat” (5:11). These are those of whom he wrote in 5:7, “Purge out therefore the old leaven”. The son wants to know what is meant by each sin because of his recognition that he has the flesh within and he wants to avoid the sins into which other believers have unfortunately fallen.
The father tells him that fornication comes from the Greek word ‘pornos’ and refers to all forms of illicit sexual relationships and would include premarital intercourse, extramarital intercourse, homosexuality, and bestiality. It could be defined as “any joining of bodies outside the marriage relationship.”
Because the father wants him to have a proper view of marriage, he reminds him from Hebrews 13:4 that “marriage is honorable in all things and the marriage bed is undefiled,” but that all other relationships will be judged by God.
The son asks if one act makes a person a “fornicator” and is told that this is the case, because it is a union, and would require confession to the elderhood and a putting away from the church until repentance and recovery had taken place.
Because we live in a society that has made sexuality a god, the father has spent more time on this one than he will on the others. However, he tells the son that the thought behind the root word for ‘covetous’ is desiring to have more to the extent that one takes advantage of another person. A person who has been guilty of stealing would have to be put away from the company as would a person who participates in legalized gambling. So would the person who “covets his neighbor’s wife”, or who, being married, tries to set up a relationship with a woman other than his wife, whether or not the second woman is married.
He tells him that the sin of idolatry would include religious associations with that which is controlled by the god of this world, such as spiritism and the occult, as in 1 Corinthians 10. The idolatrous associations in the Old Testament normally included immorality. They come to the word ‘railer’, and to be sure that they are accurate they check a number of ‘helps’ and find that it refers to a person who is guilty of persistently destroying the reputation of another person. He is guilty of character assassination.
They learn that drunkenness refers not to an individual act where a person, who may have an alcohol problem prior to conversion, has a fall but rather to a course of self indulgence from which there is not recovery or repentance.
Extortion is exacting more than is due in a business relationship. It is the attitude of avarice, of taking advantage of the other. It would include, but not be limited to, any acts of fraud.
The son has seen that when a person is guilty of any of the above sins, he must be put away from the assembly. He understands that the one who has sinned is not put out of the Church which is His Body for the chain of relationship between Christ and His Own cannot be broken. However, the thread of fellowship is fragile and is broken by sin.
“With such a one no not to eat”. The son is puzzled. He sees that it is not limited to the Lord’s Supper for it reads, “…not to keep company”. He concludes that it includes all forms of social intercourse. But what if it is a member of the family? The father tells him that within the family, when we eat together, we are expressing relationship, not fellowship, and so the same stipulations would not apply.
They have finished reading I Corinthians 5. The son remembers that his original question dealt with holiness in the House of God in this dispensation. He has reached a conclusion but in the process has learned that when a believer sins he affects the entire assembly. This is not a new thought, for he knew that when Achan had sinned, God told Joshua, “Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:1-26). He has learned that the real preservative for Achan would have been the fear of God, which his father explains as not being the fear of God hurting me but rather of God being hurt by me.
What else has he learned? He has learned that there is a standard of holy behavior in the local church consistent with the character of God for it is His house. He has learned that sin defiles not only the individual but also the company. He has learned that in the local assembly, judgment has been committed to men, and theirs is the responsibility to judge those that are within, for God judges them that are without. He has learned that we should never look down on the person who has sinned as if we could not be guilty of that sin. He who thinks that way, says the father, does not know his own heart.
They have dealt only with moral failure. The father shows him from I Tim 1:18-20, that where serious doctrinal error is held and taught, the offender must be put away from the local church. The son concludes that what we believe is critical as well as the way we behave. Doctrinal error, the father says, such as the charismatic error, error concerning the Person of Christ, or a denial of eternal punishment, would have to be judged.
He has many unanswered questions, such as the way in which discipline is to be carried out, what other less serious forms of discipline are there, what should be the attitude of the assembly toward the one who has sinned. Some of these will be taken up, promises the father, in the next session, when they will look at the Purposes, the Principles, and the Procedures for assembly discipline.
Gathered to Thy Name, Lord Jesus,
Losing sight of all but Thee,
O what joy Thy presence gives us,
Calling up our hearts to Thee.
Loved with love that knows no measure
Save the Father’s love to Thee,
Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure
All the Father’s thoughts of Thee.