The Problem With Immoral Church Members; Page 3 of 11 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
have judged already,
Paul had considered the matter, and now his mind was made up; he knew what to do about it. When he said he was present in spirit, he does not mean simply that he was thinking of them and the sordid details pertaining to this individual and he knew the situation within the church, since he possesses the gift of the discernment of spirits, which it is very likely the apostles in general possessed on extraordinary occasions. He had already seen this matter so clearly, that he had determined the sort of punishment which should be inflicted for this crime.
From here to the end of verse 5 we have a trial, presided over by Paul, where he passes judgment on this sinner as if he was present with them.
as though I were present,
Ideally, he would have been in Corinth to pass judgment personally and to repair the damage to this Church that the affair had caused. But since that was not possible, this letter would have to do, because it contained his judgment after having complete knowledge of the incident. What he instructs them to do in the letter is exactly the same thing he would say to them if he were there.
concerning him that hath so done this deed;
We have here the apostle’s instructions to them on how they should now proceed with this scandalous sinner. He would have him excommunicated and delivered to Satan (v. 3-5); as absent in body, yet present in spirit, he had judged already as if he had been present; that is, he had, by revelation and the miraculous gift of discerning bestowed on him by the Holy Spirit, perfect knowledge of the case, and having all the facts of the case he had come to the following decision, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. He says this to let them know that, although he was at a distance, he did not pass an unrighteous sentence, or judge the man without having as complete an understanding of the case as if he had been on the spot. Note, those who want to appear as righteous judges to the world, will be sure to inform them that they do not pass sentence without having all the evidence. The apostle adds him that hath so done this deed. The actions of this man were not only heinously evil in itself, and horrible to the heathens, but there were some particular circumstances that greatly aggravated the offence. He had committed this evil in such a way that the shame of it was made worse. Perhaps he was a minister, a teacher, or an important man among them. This would bring the church and their profession even more criticism. Note, in dealing with scandalous sinners, not only are they to be charged with the crime, but the aggravating circumstances it creates.
What the apostle determined to do with this wicked man is expressed in verse 5 (to deliver him to Satan) which should be connected with this verse; the whole fourth verse should be read as a parenthesis.
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Not in the name of the Lord, or in the name of Jesus, but in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When the Son of God is called by this name it alludes to his character. For instance, John 17.6 speaks about rank, Hebrews 1.4 speaks of His power, John 17.11, 12 speaks of His authority, and the same is true of this present verse.
• I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6; KJV)
• Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. (Heb 1:4; KJV)
• And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:11-12; KJV)
In this verse, the Lord Jesus is associated with both the gathering together of the Saints in the assembly, and with the delivery of the guilty person unto Satan. Paul is instructing the church at Corinth to call a meeting—and personally, I think the suggestion is that they immediately call a special meeting to deal with this matter.
In what follows, Paul will describe an official church meeting at which the offender was delt with in accordance with divine instructions. Public sin must be publicly judged and condemned. For our Lord’s
instructions about discipline see Matthew 18.15-20—“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. The sin of this man was not going to be “swept under the rug”; because, after all, it was known far and wide even among the unsaved who were outside the church.
The solemn act of excommunication must be in the name, that is, by the authority of the Lord; who is the head of the Church; and under whose authority every act is to be performed.
when ye are gathered together,
The act is to be administered in front of the whole church—“Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many” (2 Cor 2:6; KJV). Inflicted of many means literally, “by the majority.” This shows that the whole church took action, and implies that there were dissenters. The command of Paul was endorsed by the action of the church. Therefore, the decision of the officers of a congregation should always be submitted for approval.
We are allowed to be witnesses of this wonderful operation as it is described in the Word of God, and to acknowledge the justice of God in it, and like the Corinthian believers, we might fear and take warning because of it: In the case of this bold sinner, the church was to gather together and expel him. Note the strong words that Paul used to instruct them: “taken away from among you” (1 Co 5.2), “deliver such a one unto Satan” (1 Co 5.5), “purge out” (1 C0 5.7), and “put away” (1 Co 5.13). Paul did not suggest that they handle the offender gently. Of course, we assume that first the spiritual leaders of the church sought to restore the man to their fellowship.
“In verses 3–5 we have an interesting indication of the manner in which discipline was administered in the early church. The congregation would be called together, with an apostle presiding if available, and the person accused would be arraigned before them. After the evidence had been heard, and the accused had said what he had to say in defense of himself, the judgment of the congregation would be pronounced by the president. Paul, though absent in person, yet pictures himself present and presiding in spirit, and he leaves them in no doubt concerning the verdict which ought to be pronounced: the offense should be condemned and the offender excommunicated.”
and my spirit,
By this he means that although he was absent in body, he would be present in spirit; and that the extraordinary gift of the Spirit of God bestowed on him would be visibly exercised upon this man who stands before them all, as if Paul himself was in the midst of them; and this would not occur by any power of his own, but by the authority and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither Paul’s capacity nor his authority to judge, or his power to execute his judgment, depended on his bodily presence. He was present in spirit. This does not mean simply that he was present in mind, thinking of them and interested in their welfare; but it was a presence of knowledge, authority, and power. Paul will give his opinion in the form of a command in the next verse, but a majority of the congregation must concur, and then they were to proceed to exercise discipline by his authority.
with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
This statement indicates that the apostle Paul, in his capacity of the anointed minister of the Lord Jesus Christ is endowed with special authority in such a matter; but the one essential idea was that it must be done both on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and also by His power. (Notice that the verse begins, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and ends with “the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
Paul was the founder of this church, and he was used by God to bring these people into the knowledge of Salvation. He had the authority to send the urgent declaration that this matter must be settled immediately—but only in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ—and not simply on the authority of the local church.