1 Cor 5:9-13, Matt 18:15-20
Who Are You to Judge?

Sermon Discussion Questions:
Read 1 Cor 5:9-13 and Matthew 18:15-20 together.

1. What is the connection between church discipline and taking God's name in vain? How does that help us when we are tempted to ignore church discipline?

2. What do you think Paul means by "do not even eat with such a one" in vs. 11? See 1 Cor 5:6-8.

3. Who are those "inside the church"? 

4. What kind of heart posture should we have before we confront a brother or sister in sin? See Matt 7:1-5

5. Share a time where someone confronted you lovingly and graciously.

No one likes a hypocrite. We are frustrated when someone claims to be for something, but their actions prove otherwise. If a politician vows to be pro-life when candidating, but then recoils from enacting legislation when in office, his constituency is frustrated. If a business claims to care for the environment, but then dumps toxic waste into the ocean, its customers are angry. When I tell my children that they can’t eat dessert for breakfast, but see me eating a brownie with my cup of coffee, they are rightly angry. We disapprove of those who tell us one thing, then do another. As does God.
To bear God’s name, meant that you were in a covenant with Yahweh, a binding agreement of love, relationship, and commitment. The Old Testament people of Israel were those who were in a covenant relationship with God, who bore His name. So, Israel were to be a people so suffused with the blessings and holiness of God that when the nations saw them, they saw what Yahweh was like. But God also warned them: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain,” (Ex 20:7). This is warning against acting in such a way that misrepresents God. It is speaking, acting, feeling, or relating to others in a way that bends and warps the picture of God’s goodness, righteousness, and holiness. It is like the representative of the coalition to stop lung cancer smoking while doing the press briefing or the advocate for the Moral Majority caught in an inappropriate relationship with a minor. The representatives’ actions are directly undermining who they represent.
And, tragically, this failure to bear God’s name marks Israel—they eventually become known for the exact same kind of idolatry and violence as the nations around them (Ez 36:16-21). But God looks forward to a day where He will make a new covenant with His people who will bear His name rightly (Ez 36:22-28). This is what Jesus came to accomplish. After His resurrection, Jesus tells His disciples to go and baptize people “into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,”—that is, to mark out and identify people who are members of this new covenant, who bear God’s name, who are in a relationship with God. This is the mission of the church.
But what happens when it appears that someone is taking the Lord’s name in vain? What happens when someone calls themselves a member of the family of God, but lives like the world? This brings us to our study of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” – 1 Cor 5:9-13
Whom Are You to Judge?
Paul wrote a letter before the one we have where he encouraged the church to not associate with sexually immoral people, but here he is clarifying a possible misunderstanding. “Not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one,” (1 Cor 5:10-11).
Here we see that the “sexually immoral” that we are not to associate with are those who “bear the name of brother” while living a life that is defined and marked by unrepentant sin—and not just sexual sin, but also greed, idolatry, reviling [abusive quarrelling], drunkenness, or swindling [cheating people out of money]—or any other persistent, unrepentant sin. Christians are not sinless, but they are not at peace with sin. They have not identified with sin—they hate it, they want to turn from it, and they are willing—imperfect though they are—to put in real effort to turn away from it. The grace that forgives us of all sin is the same grace that enables us to fight all sin. But these people Paul is describing are those who do not fight sin, who so practice these sins that they characterize and define them more than Jesus Christ does. And Paul says that if they are “bearing the name of brother” while their lifestyle rejects God, then they are lying about God, and you ought not associate with them—in fact, you shouldn’t even eat with such a one. 
Sidebar: not even to eat with such a one
What does that mean? If your spouse is put under church discipline, are you not allowed to share your dinner table with them anymore? I don’t think so. Here is what I believe Paul is referring to: (1) you don’t associate with them as a brother or sister in Christ any longer. The nature of your relationship has now changed from that of fellowship to one of evangelism. So you do not treat this person like they are a Christian. If your friend who has been put under discipline asks to meet up for lunch, you should go and meet them, but do not ask them to pray for the meal, do not use language that subtly telegraphs that they are right with God. But, unless their sin makes them a physically dangerous person to be around, we do not shun them or turn away from them. We want them to know Jesus! You want to call them to repentance and faith.
(2) Paul’s admonition to “not even eat with such a one” is referring to the meal of the Lord’s Supper. Back in verses 6-8 Paul used the illustration of the Passover meal and the cleansing out of leaven as an image of the church cleansing sin out from its midst, but verse 8 specifically calls us to “celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” (1 Cor 5:8). How do Christians celebrate the festival of the Passover today? We do this through our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It was on the night of the Passover meal that Jesus established the new covenant sign of the bread and wine, the communion meal, as the visible symbol of those who trust in Jesus’ death. So, Paul exhorts the church to not celebrate the festival with the leaven of evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth—meaning, only let those who partake of this meal be those who are sincere and true in their profession of faith.
The sacraments or ordinances of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are the visible signs and symbols which demarcate and identify who God’s new covenant people are, who bear His name, who represents Him here on earth. So, if church discipline is the church identifying someone who is taking the Lord’s name in vain—bearing the name of brother but failing to have a life the corresponds to that name—and the sacraments are the visible, external signs given to mark off and identify those who bear God’s name then that means that those who are under discipline are not permitted to partake of the sacraments.
Now, Paul is going to return to identifying whom we are to judge, and whom we are not to judge: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13).
Paul forbids us from judging “outsiders,” because God is going to judge them. This doesn’t mean we can’t make moral evaluations about what they are doing, but we cannot hold them accountable, we cannot judge them in the same way we are to judge those “inside the church.”
But then, maybe to our surprise, we are then commanded to judge. Paul says that it is those “inside the church” whom you must judge, and then he cites a refrain from the book of Deuteronomy, “Purge the evil person from among you.” This is a phrase used seven different times in the Deuteronomy, and it is always referring to capital punishment (Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21, 22, 24). If someone is found guilty of a serious crime under the Old Covenant, they would receive the death penalty. Here we see a significant discontinuity across Old to New Covenant in what maintaining the purity of the covenant community looked like (execution vs. excommunication). Yet, we do see great continuity in the same passion God has for His people who bear His name to maintain their purity, to not bear His name in vain.  
But this now leads us to ask whom are we to judge? Who is it that is on the “inside” who are accountable to the judgment of the church? It is those “inside the church.” But what does that mean? To be inside the Church certainly implies that someone is at least claiming to follow Jesus and is participating in the church in someway. Maybe, this is referring to those who simply show up on a Sunday gathering? But look at 1 Corinthians 14 with me: “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,” (1 Cor 14:23-24). Leaving the issue of tongues and prophecy aside for a moment, note the assumption that Paul makes that outsiders are present in the worship gathering, which is why the Corinthians should conduct their services in a more orderly manner. But that means that the insiders of the church are not merely the people who are present in the worship gathering, since outsiders are also present. There is some group of people inside the church who are accountable to one another in a way that someone who just attends the service is not, who have mutually affirmed each others’ profession of faith and walk of life, who have been given keys of authority over each other to call one another to repentance.
The Bible’s teaching on church discipline here is like the edge of a large stone sticking out of the ground that you attempt to lift only to realize that it is immensely larger than you realize. There is a whole network of assumptions about the Christian life that are assumed: what kind of relationships are in the church for this to be practiced? What kind of shared agreement is there about doctrine and the Christian life? What kind of responsibility is assumed that we have for each other?
This is where the doctrine of church membership comes from. Church membership is where an individual Christian submits to the oversight and accountability of the whole church, and the rest of the church agrees to oversee this individual and affirm their profession of faith. It is the individual voluntarily committing to a specific local church, to serve, love, and submit to one another, to be known by each other to the degree that if we walk away from the faith, there are other members who lovingly pursue after us and can call us back to what we ourselves agreed to. When we say that the mission of our church is to create a covenant community who worships Christ above all, this is the “covenant community” we are referring to. A community that binds itself together in love and commitment as we agree to walk out the Christian life together, exercising oversight over one another, encouraging one another, keeping one another from falling away, bearing one another’s burdens, affirming each other in the faith.
This is whom we are to judge, the other members of this church. Church discipline is the removal of someone from the membership of the church. The church is not a building or a location, so it isn’t the physical removal of someone from attending worship on the Lord’s Day. It is the removal of that person from the spiritual register, the membership of the church, and consequently their admission to the Lord’s Table.
Who Are You to Judge?
What gives the church the authority to practice church discipline? This feels like a pretty audacious thing to do. Tell someone that you don’t think they are a Christian? What if we’re wrong? Didn’t Jesus tell us: “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matt 7:1)?
Paul is deriving this teaching directly from Jesus Himself. And yes, Jesus did say Judge not, but if you keep reading what Jesus says, He also says, You will know them by their fruits, which implies some kind of judgment. When we look at Jesus condemns judging, we see that He is condemning hypocritical judging, judging someone for something that you yourself are guilty of (see Matt 7:1-5). “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,” (Matt 7:5). Notice—after we have removed the log from our own eye, then we do take the speck out of our brother’s eye!
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” (Matt 18:15-17). If a member persists in unrepentant sin, then the church is commanded by Jesus to no longer treat that person as if they are a Christian. What gives them the authority to do something like that?
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:18)
This is the second time Jesus has said this. Back in chapter 16, after Peter confesses for the first time that Jesus is in fact the Messiah and the Son of God, Jesus blesses Peter and says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” (Matt 16:19). There we saw Jesus give the keys of the kingdom to Peter, but here in chapter 18 Jesus shows us that Peter alone doesn’t wield these keys, but the whole church does (note: all of the “you’s” in verse 18 are plural). Just a reminder: the word “church” just means the congregation—not the pastors, not the elders, not the deacons, not small group leaders, not an advisory board in the church, but the whole church. Jesus is explaining why a congregation has the authority to treat someone like a Gentile and tax collector, like someone outside of the covenant community: they have been given the keys of the kingdom, a symbol of authority that can bind or loosen, just as a key locks or unlocks.
What is the “binding” and “loosening” Jesus refers to then? It is the church on earth proclaiming: Here is a genuine Christian, or Here is a false Christian. It is the mechanism that God has given the church to speak on behalf of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. A church binds someone by affirming their profession of faith and bringing them inside the church. A church loosens someone by no longer affirming their profession of faith and removing them from the church’s membership rolls.
Remember: a church is authenticating, not creating Christians. When a church admits someone into membership, they are not making that person a Christian, but recognizing them as a Christian. Similarly, when the church removes someone via discipline, they are not now making that person a non-Christian, they are recognizing that the church, in fact, made a mistake when they brought the person in as a member and that they now no longer see any credible fruit in their life that affirms their profession of faith. If you again feel a pique of What gives you the right? Continue on with what Jesus says…
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt 18:19-20)
We know that Jesus hasn’t changed the subject from the authority of the church because He opens verse 19 with the word “Again I say to you…” He is talking about the same thing! For the church to wield the keys there must be agreement and when there is, their Father in heaven will do it for them—that is stand behind their earthly use of their authority. Why does Jesus mention only two, or two or three? Because that is the smallest number of people to constitute a church. You cannot have a church of one person, but you do not need fifty people, or five hundred, or five thousand to be considered a church. No, Jesus says where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
This is theological ground for why a church has the authority to judge. When two or three, or however many members are in the church, are gathered together in his name—they are assembled as representatives of Jesus who faithfully bear His name—Jesus is then present with them, and this is why they are then permitted to speak on His behalf. How is Jesus present? Jesus is God, so in a sense, Jesus is everywhere because God is omnipresent. How is He present? It isn’t in some mystical fog or ether that hovers over the congregation but is through the members of the church coming together as the body of Christ. Where is Jesus present on earth? In His church. Just as God was uniquely present in the garden-temple of Eden, just as God was uniquely present in the temple, so too is God now uniquely present in the new temple: the church. What a powerful picture of the significance of Christians gathering, assembling together as a church! Why must you be physically present for church? Because it is the only place on earth where you will experience the covenantal presence of Jesus Christ till the New Creation is consummated.
Paul recognizes this when he tells the Corinthians back in verse 4: “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,” (1 Cor 5:4) the church is to remove the man from the church. The power of the assembling of God’s people may be dramatically displayed in the practice of church discipline, but it is ordinarily enjoyed every Lord’s Day as we gather for corporate worship.
Whom are you to judge? Those inside the church, that is, her members.
Who are you to judge? You are the church, the pillar and buttress of truth, the bride of Christ, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the temple of God, God’s field, the very body of Christ, those to whom the keys of the kingdom have been entrusted, an earthly institution given the authority to speak on behalf of heaven, to baptize and administer the Lord’s Supper, to teach with Christ’s authority, and to warn those who are headed towards destruction.
How Are You to Judge?
Positively: Bringing people into membership
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt 18:19-20)
If two of us are a church and a third person wants to join, if we examine that individual’s life and their doctrine, and we agree that he or she seems to be a genuine believer, to really be a member of the new covenant, then we can use the keys of the kingdom to bind that person into our church. The most common way churches have attempted to arrive at this kind of agreement throughout church history is by the membership voting. One of the reasons why we are voting to change our constitution and bylaws on October 8th is to let our church do this very thing. As of now, our congregation has no formal say in the admission of members, but is simply practiced by the elders. The elders believe that we currently have too much authority afforded us in this regard and want to push that authority down to the congregation.
Negatively: dismissing people from membership
When Jesus exhorts us to not judge hypocritically he compares our sin to a log, and our brother’s sin to a speck (Matt 7:3-5). This is an instructive warning: we should always be seeing our sin as the biggest before we judge someone else’s. God help us if our church becomes a place where we fail to do that.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matt 18:15)
Here we see that “church discipline” technically begins simply in the ordinary interchange of a brother confronting brother. There may be times where the body is so injured that surgery is needed, but most of the time the ordinary immune system of the body can push out the infections and common colds of sin through our mutual exhortation and encouragement and admonitions. If this fails, then you bring in two or three witnesses along with you. This is in part to demonstrate to the erring brother that multiple people see the same thing, but this is also to help the one presenting the charge see things more accurately. Maybe you believe that your brother has sinned against you when he really hasn’t and by bringing in others to see things they can help you see that you have actually misinterpreted things. The final step of church discipline is the tragic conclusion we reach only after we have exhausted every other option.
This is a structure that requires your participation, it is a trellis for the vine of your spiritual life to grow up into. It is possible to be a member of the church and remain as anonymous and distant from one another as possible, just like it is possible to be married, but not really spend much time with your spouse. But if you do lean into it, if you lean into the relationships of those you have covenanted together with, then you will experience God’s blessing of spiritual fruit in your life.