I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “Put away from yourselves the evil person.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
If They Are Named A Brother
The New Testament church is a unique organization that adheres to a strict set of directives given by God. In a world that is not comfortable with absolutes and commandment keeping, the modern church is reluctant to adhere to the teaching of the pattern established by the first disciples. Reading of the early church and how they dealt with problems arising within local congregations, students of scripture quickly realize there are some tough decisions that must be made. Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is filled with strong language exhorting the saints to establish some clear teachings among the brethren setting a pattern for generations to come. There was a serious problem at Corinth where a man had his father’s wife of such a nature the apostle remarks this is not even named among the Gentiles. The church ignored the blatant and wicked union of this man demanding an immediate response from the apostle of Christ. Paul demands the church take punitive action against the situation not to destroy the church but to save it. The purpose was to save the souls of those involved and bring glory to the church. As the apostle explains what the church must do, he commands them to refuse fellowship or company with the one who is called a brother who remains in his sinful state. It was clear in the writings of Paul that he instructed the church not to keep company with sexually immoral people. As the apostle explained the Lord did not suggest His people become hermits living apart from the world in a monastic fashion but to purge from their midst as pertaining to the church those who refused to submit to the will of God. Christians must live in the world working and carrying on the affairs of the world which means they will be in constant contact with ungodly and wicked hearts. His point was to establish within the body of Christ the need to keep the purity of the body in the love of Christ.
There is an important lesson from Paul’s letter to Corinth that still must be followed today. The bride of Christ must be kept as pure as possible and to allow sin to dwell in the midst of God’s people does not bring glory to the Lord. God demands his people not to keep company with anyone named a brother (by inference a sister) who is in a covenant relationship with God refusing to submit to the will of God. Those who are outside the church will be governed by a loving and merciful Lord. For the individuals within a local congregation, the apostle enjoins they be refused fellowship in accepting their state of life as being in an unrighteous and unholy part with the world. The key is to whom this discipline must be administered: those who are brethren. Every congregation has a God-given responsibility to maintain the purity of the church and part of this includes the punitive discipline of those saints that are in rebellion to the commandments of God. All men struggle with sin and the apostle is not suggesting no company can be kept with anyone. The man in Corinth was in an unscriptural relationship that would destroy his soul before judgment and the church was doing nothing to save him. To their shame, the Corinthian church was puffed up to ignore such a matter. They were commanded to take an action that would establish the purity of the word of God, seek the salvation of the lost soul and show the world the impact of a church that seeks to follow the sovereign will of God. This was something that was to be done with a brother in Christ.
There are limitations the church has with regard to relationships. Paul illustrated there are many sexually immoral people in the world but the church has a responsibility to discipline those named a brother or sister who are in a state of digression and sin. A congregation that refuses to exercise punitive discipline is a congregation in rebellion to the word of God. What is also sad is when a congregation refuses to follow the New Testament teachings they endanger the souls of those brethren who could be saved if only the church would show the love to discipline them. There is nothing more tragic than a child of God being lost. Peter said the last state is worse than the first and it would be better for them to not know the way of truth and then to know the truth and find themselves apart from God. How sad it will be when those who could have been saved were never taught the truth by a congregation that did not follow the teaching of God to His saints. Those who are named brothers and sisters of Christ are to be treated differently than those in the world. It is the work of the church to save those outside the church and show them the way of grace, mercy, love, and truth. There is a special responsibility for the church to discipline the members of the Lord’s body to follow the path of righteousness if they are named a brother or sister.